According to Webster: “focus – (noun) a central point, as of attraction, attention, or activity. (verb) to direct one’s attention or efforts.”
Here’s another one of those “things” about tennis that seems easy, in theory, to master. Unfortunately, just like keeping your eye on the ball, it’s very easy to lose focus at any time during play, and – poof! – the point is over, usually not in your favor.
So, what causes loss of focus, and what can be done to better maintain it?
The first part of the question has a multitude of answers. Lots of things, from boredom, bringing mental baggage to the court, to daydreaming, or simply not paying attention, can contribute to the loss of focus.
I think sometimes we might subconsciously forget the reason(s) we as recreational, club and league players participate in this “sport for a lifetime” – to have fun, socialize and stay fit, both physically and mentally.
The mental part, getting your brain to hone in on the ball and immerse yourself in each point, is the essence of being in focus. At the same time, shutting out the extraneous, everyday worries and cares is a great refresher for your brain, like hitting the restart button on your computer.
Then there’s the physical aspect, including fatigue, weather (heat, cold, etc.), court and equipment conditions.
I recall playing at the state mixed doubles championships on a hard court that had holes in it repaired with duct tape. Talk about a challenge to one’s focus!
The answer to how to better maintain focus also has many facets. First, concentrate on seeing the ball come off of your opponent’s strings and tracking it into your strings.
On contact, keep your head still; that’s focusing on the ball.
Stay focused in the point after sending the ball across the net by watching your opponent(s), how and where they’re moving to hit it back.
This allows you to anticipate where the ball might come back and keeps your focus to transition better to the ball coming off of their strings.
Between points, look at your strings and sight the sweet spot; tell yourself to pay attention when receiving.
When serving, don’t rush. Bounce the ball two or three times, and take a deep breath.
Concentrate on watching the ball as if you’re trying to read its logo.
As you train your brain to concentrate on staying focused you’ll transition from “Got Focus?” to “Got Focus.”
Lou Marino is a USPTA Cardio and youth tennis coach who lives and teaches in the greater Bluffton-Hilton Head Island area. firstname.lastname@example.org