Committed helpful actions: Committing to one task that you believe will increase your chances of development and/or success immediately before every rally or point.
It is my belief that committed helpful actions is one of, if not the most important aspect of being a mentally tough tennis player.
We might not realise it but talk of committed helpful actions already surrounds us in the tennis world. Listen to almost any pre or post-match interview with any of the pros and they will talk about these committed helpful actions.
Some will say they are committing to their game plan, some to their patterns, some to high energy and some even just to being in the moment and enjoying the battle. Some of the best interviews are after a close match, these are the real insights into committed helpful actions!
How often have we heard the phrase “I just hung around and committed to my plan and fortunately for me it paid off in the big moments.”? These guys are not superhuman beings mentally, they are simply committing to small helpful actions one point at a time!
How many of us actually do this?
It stands to logic that the player who commits most to helpful actions gives themselves the best chance of winning right? Duhh! But how many of us are purposely doing this, point by point, in matches?
My guess is not many of us! I certainly didn’t when I was playing and if I could change one thing about my distinctly average playing career, it would be to commit to a helpful action every single point!
Okay you are sold right? Commit to something helpful, have a bigger chance of winning.
But not just that, let’s take it back a level to training.
Yes, winning is great and ultimately tennis is a win or lose sport so, whether we like it or not, it is important! But how do we win more? We need to give ourselves the best opportunity in matches yes but also, and probably more importantly, we need to improve!
So, what if you committed to a helpful action based around improving before every single rally? How many aimless rallies do you hit per session when warming up? 50? 100? Maybe more! And then think about how many points you play in practice sessions where you could commit to helping yourself improve. Another 50? 100?
For numbers sake let us say its 100 combined rallies and points per session that are aimless. That is 200 per day for players with a programme of 2 sessions per day. 1000 per week. 50,000 per year.
50,000 opportunities to commit to improving per year that we are potentially missing!
Okay so what can I do to tap into this magical world of committed helpful actions?
Well there are multiple ways of doing this and applying it. Here at STA we prioritise 4 ways of having committed helpful actions and 1 strong way of applying them…
Committed Action: 1 or 2 – Own or Respect
Commit to saying 1 or 2 before every shot. 1 is owning the court, 2 is respecting the ball.
This one is used primarily in training to help with improvement. It can be used to develop tactical understanding of incoming ball or court position.
Committed Action: External Target
Commit to an external target for the next point. Eg: Watch the ball. Hit an area/zone/item.
This one is the most used among the pros in matches and relates primarily to tactical patterns.
Committed Action: Game Style
Based on score lines/passengers commit to an appropriate basic plan. Lockdown, smart aggressive or super aggressive.
This one can be used in training and in matches. Based on your identity and preferences you chose one of these game styles before every point. You can adapt these so that they are personal to you.
Committed Action: Performer
Commit to being a great performer for the next point. Eg: High Energy
This one is used often at the beginning of practice and matches where performer skills can have a big impact on the outcome and value of the following session or match.
***** Committed Action: Conditional
On top of your one helpful action, commit to a tactical, opponent based or shot specific focus. E.g. Hunt for the forehand, make your opponent move backwards or drive up on the serve.
This is a bonus one I have thrown in. Great to be used for technical focus during practice!
Committed Action Application: Key Words
Applying your committed action with one or two key words that summarise your committed action. Often used for game style or performer actions. Eg: ‘Smart Aggressive’ or ‘Energy’.
This is the strategy we use at the academy to apply them. Make your key words personal to you!
Practise, Practise, Practise
So that’s it right? I am mentally tougher now than before reading this blog and now I am going to be able to commit to this process every single point and rally, improve quicker and win more matches?
Sadly, not quite. Like any skill this requires patience, practice, determination and many hours of devotion to it. And guess when is going to be the hardest to commit to a helpful action?
Yep, at 4-4 30-30 in the third set when you have just dumped a forehand in the bottom of the net. When you are angry, frustrated or even helpless. It is in this situation that the best of the best are able to still commit to something helpful, regardless of how they feel!
Committed helpful actions, in my opinion, are the basis of being mentally tough. But like everything, there are many, many, many layers to being able to commit to these actions. For a lot of people, a much deeper understanding is required to be able to do this when it really matters.
Here at STA, along with Dr. Anthony Ross from Mentally Tough Tennis, we pride ourselves on being able to provide strategies, interventions and routines to help you make the most of these committed actions.
What small committed helpful action could you take right now to improve your mental toughness?
It could be to visit our Instagram page and get in touch about the many ways we can help you develop into a mentally tough tennis player!
Thanks for reading!
A Little Bit about Ryan:
For those of you who do not know me, I am a tennis coach at STA. At the academy I am heavily involved with developing the mental toughness of our tennis players and we are exceptionally fortunate to have a strong partnership with Dr. Anthony Ross from Mentally Tough Tennis.
Dr. Anthony is a world-renowned sports psychologist and producer of mental toughness programmes, who has influenced the work we do endlessly here at STA as well as some of the top pros in the world!
More info on Dr. Anthony and his work can be found here
Want to learn more about committed actions and mental toughness? We’ve linked up with Mentally Tough Tennis to provide a series of Mindfulness and Creative Visualisation activities designed for tennis players. Check out the online course here.