Time travel: Their most powerful advantage.
Yes. Actually, Roger Federer and Rafa Nadal, and many other professionals, are using Time Perspective training in their matches.
During my tennis coaching career, I asked my students the following questions:
- How important is the mental part of the game?
- How much of your overall training is dedicated to this aspect?
I was almost always told that the mental part of the game is huge. I was just as often told that little to no time was spent on building this aspect of the game - with a quick acknowledgment that they didn't know-how.
The mental part of the game involves time travel, or more precisely, time perspective.
Is it real?
The amount of research that has been conducted in this area is quite extensive. What we have learned and are currently learning in the field of Time Perspective is fascinating. It is most assuredly real and alive for many great athletes. Interestingly, Olympic athletes give more attention to their mental training than most other athletes. This may be due to the extreme focus needed to bring a four-year culmination of training, competing, and mental pressure to the world stage's pinnacle. And remember, both the mental and physical demands exacted on these Olympians are heavy. Even the slightest physical or mental hesitation can mean the difference between Gold or no medal.
Is it innate, or can I learn it?
Not only can you learn the power of Time Perspective training, but this could be an area of your greatest improvement. Finding coaches that excel in certain areas will be beneficial in your developmental journey:
Technical coaching in technique, proper biomechanics, and tactics.
Physical training to maximize strength, movement, flexibility, recovery.
Now, plug in Time Perspective training into your development playbook, and you will see more progress faster.
Can I apply it to my sport?
Here is the great news! You can integrate this aspect of mental training into your training right now. I will give you some tips, but first, let's talk about our old friend, the inner voice. (For some of you, it might be an incessant inner choir.) This inner monologue is usually negative in nature. It's the constant critic grilling you about that missed shot and that squandered advantage. Or, it is the inner soliloquy projecting possible outcomes of the next point or the next game. Learning to choose the Zen of a quiet and focused mind is in your grasp. Do you see yourself in the "Thought vs. Reality" checks below?
"I'm great at multitasking."
Diluted attention is never as powerful as something called "Single-Tasking"! Being in the Zone is all about staying in the present moment. You may feel you are great at multitasking and are even proud of this ability. Single-Tasking is an order of stronger magnitude. Complete and total undivided attention allows you to see with extraordinary clarity and detail. It also enhances your reaction times.
"I'm good at coaching myself."
Most people are not equipped to coach themselves, allowing mental chatter to go unchecked. You are likely reliving the past or predicting the future - meaning you are not in the present. Think of this as your body alone on the court during play, and your mind is somewhere else rather than in the moment fully directing your body.
You can clear out that mental babbling and flush those annoying distractions. Here are a couple of "Power Cues" to bring your focus back.
Power Cue No. 1
As you get set to play a point, two words can bring you to a highly focused present space. Say to yourself, "ALL IN." (Say it out loud or in your head.) Develop a phrase that works for you as your go-to mantra. This phrase is your cue to be all in the present - right here, right now. Give this precise moment your complete undivided attention. No chatter, no replays, no predictions. No more energy spent on past negative thoughts. No future thoughts are entertained. Your entire energy system is dialed in to "RIGHT NOW."
Power Cue No. 2
Where your eyes go, your mind follows. Keep your eyes on the court. This sounds intuitive, but players who lack focus and discipline allow other things to enter their field of vision. Keep your eyes confined to the court. Don't let your eyes wander out into the trees or the neighboring court or whatever may bring your attention away from the task at hand.
For over a decade, we've watched Roger and Rafa win tournament after tournament. These tennis greats can easily overpower their opponents with mental toughness. These guys seem to 'forget' the prior point and move to the next in one motion. Commentators quip they only have short-term memory. Not true, they have long-lasting focus - the incredible ability to remain absorbed in the singular task at hand in the singular present moment. They are "ALL-IN" all the time. Whether he is enjoying a comfortable lead or is down a set, it is gratifying to watch Rafa play each point as if the match depends on it. It does!
The next time you bounce the ball before a serve, use your mantra as part of your development. And mean it! Be totally and completely focused on the here and now. Single-tasking rules! Shut out the inner control freak.
I hope these tips help you "move through it"!
Team Body Helix is here to help you along your journey.