sports therapy 101

I used to hear my mother’s voice in my head all day long. Each time I did something stupid or even barely avoided doing something stupid, I’d hear her say, “There you go again, always doing something wrong.” It’s not her fault. My mother is 92 years old. She can barely get out of her chair let alone follow me around as I get into road rage incidents and embarrassing displays of anger. Worse than that, when I finally exorcised her voice, it was only to be replaced by the voice of an in-law or my partner’s friends. I am single, I don’t have a partner. Full proof that I have sole ownership of this voice.

Lately I’ve been trying something different. Every time I do something I’d rather not have done or imagine doing something worse, my imagination is good at disaster scenarios, I replay the situation with a different outcome. If I almost run into a cyclist and I’m so upset that I angrily yell at him, “You’re not supposed to ride on the sidewalk anyway!”, my voices will have me in jail and out of a few million dollars before I’m halfway home. Instead, I imagine that I got out of the car, asked the cyclist if he was o.k. and then earnestly explained that I can’t see him coming if he’s on the sidewalk in front of a tall building made of cement and would he please consider that next time he rides into an intersection from the sidewalk. I then reminded myself to stop at the beginning of the crosswalk before making a right turn next time and went on my way.

Same thing on a tennis court. I just hit the ball down the line and it hit the net cord. I double faulted for the third time. I mishit an overhead or swung at it and missed completely. If I fume about those bad shots then I’m consumed with the idea of hitting bad shots and I’m likely to keep producing them. That’s why it can be hard to turn the game around once we make a few errors. If, instead, I replay the shot in my mind as a perfectly hit ball sailing over the net and landing at the baseline, then I can go onto the next shot and get my mind back into the game at hand. I’ve not only resolved the past but I’ve presented myself with an image to aim for the next time I try that shot.

I’m telling you, where else can you resolve the past and learn to live in the present without paying thousands of dollars for psychotherapy or suffering through hours of boring meditation?

Practice and Competition Report: The rain has finally stopped in Southern California! After two months of injury and too many weeks of rain, I ran out to the tennis court only to forget my sports bra. It’s been that long.

Before each serve, I mentally rehearse my service stroke and I see the ball land exactly where I want it to land. As my toss kept sailing over my head and behind me, I realized that I have been leaving the service toss placement out of my mental rehearsal. I get maximum extension if I toss the ball in line with my head so I toss it above my head and a racket length in front of the baseline. To practice my service toss, I place a ball on the court one racket length in front of the my serving position. Then I serve and let the ball drop to see if I can hit the ball lying on the court.