You don’t have to be a tennis pro or a rising star to develop your own pre-match ritual.
The proper routine can be a massive benefit to any player that’s even halfway serious about tennis.
Let’s look at what the right pregame ritual can do for you.
No matter where we are, slipping into our well-worn routine can make us feel like we’re right at home.
Whether you’re a naturally anxious player or have big matches in your future, a routine can help drastically with anxiety on the court.
When you start your routine, your body and brain will quickly recognize the pattern, making us feel comfortable and confident.
Routines provide us with a familiar way to get our bodies warmed up for the match.
That is good for us in many ways.
First, it helps keep us on track. If you didn’t have a warmup routine, you’d have to pick and choose which stretches or drills on the fly, taking us out of the moment.
Second, the body is comfortable with routines. With a warmup ritual, you’ll feel more relaxed and ready to go much sooner than if you were doing whatever stretch comes to mind.
Third, it helps us start from the same place every match. When you’re going through your routine, you’ll know if a muscle is tight or a joint is possibly sprained. You know how you should feel throughout your warmup. If you didn’t have a routine, you might not realize that something is wrong before hurting yourself during the match.
Pregame rituals have a way of extending throughout the match. Small ticks, stretches, habits, or even power phrases you like to say to yourself can all be used during the match to make you feel more comfortable.
Every time you do your ritual, you’re reinforcing the positive feelings in your body and brain. With time, you’ll be able to take a small piece of your routine and do it during the match, between points, to “reset” and find yourself back in a familiar, comfortable mental space.
How Do You Create Your Ritual?
Creating your own routine shouldn’t be too difficult if you don’t try and force it.
It can be easy to look at your favorite pro and say that you will copy that.
Instead, start with that pro, and think about WHY their routine is the way it is. If that relates to you, it may be worth trying out.
To find your own rituals and routines, start with the drills, stretches, etc., with which you are already comfortable.
What do those exercises and movements do for you? Do they stretch out your stiff muscles? Do they keep your heart from racing?
Always be curious about why certain things feel calming, and others do not.
Don’t try and force a routine right away. Instead, start off with a few rituals for your body and mind. You need to warm up each in the right way.
Then, when you’re comfortable, try adding one thing to your routine. Does it add to the experience? Does it change how you feel (better or worse)?
No matter what routine you start with, remember it’s worth practicing. And if you add a new element, practice that addition, too.
The more you practice your routine, the better it will work out for you on the court.
What are your favorite pregame rituals? Let us know in the comments.
Kalindi Dinoffer is trained in multiple aspects of mindfulness in life and in sports, sharing on her blog MindfulKalindi.com. She is also certified to teach yoga, fitness, reiki, and MFR. Kalindi also serves as VP marketing at OnCourtOffCourt.com, a leading supplier of tennis, pickleball, fitness and yoga training aids and equipment and has been published in Tennis industry Magazine and Pickleball Magazine, and has conducted workshops at conferences around the world. In her spare time, Kalindi plays tennis, pickleball and table tennis and enjoys outdoor activities such as hiking and biking and cross country skiing in the winter.