All of you who follow my column on a regular ongoing basis know that I have been focusing on goal setting, improving our strokes, along with increasing our consistency, and lowering our percentages of unforced errors. If you are a new reader, you can archive my columns at coastalbreezenews.com, and bring yourself up to speed in regards to where I am going with my column.
So, since we have conquered our short and mid term goals, and are showing great confidence in the ongoing results of our long term goal, as well as having moved up to a higher level of competition, we are now, maybe, considering competing in a tournament?
Let me make this perfectly clear; no matter how much experience we have, or what level we are competing in, tournament play is different than social play!
Okay, so now that I have scared the you-know-what out of you, take a deep breath and relax, because I am going to provide some insight on how to be tournament tough!
I will discuss the mental, emotional, strategic and physical, as well as the logistical, aspects of competing in a tournament.
Let’s begin with logistics.
I personally believe that the biggest difference in tournament play and recreational rotational play is the timing of everything. I am mainly referring to the amount of down time you have between matches and the total amount of time you have to spend at the tournament site.
Most of us are used to our regular routine of going to our local club at the same time every day, where we hook up with the same people, on the same courts. We become very comfortable and complacent with our surroundings and the time frame of which this all takes place.
However, at a tournament, we will most likely be at a different location, surrounded by different people and having to play at a variety of different times.
In addition to the timing factor, we want to be in control of the geographical logistics of the location.
You want to be comfortable in your surroundings, so arrive early and familiarize yourself with the tournament site before showing up for your first match.
Inquire about the availability of warm up/practice courts.
For me, personally, as a tournament competitor, my biggest issues were with having to sit around waiting on court availability for my match. Once I get into my competitive match mentality, I’m like a caged cat! The more I would have to sit there and think about it, the more nervous I would get! However, once I got on the court and into the game, all of the nerves and butterflies would disappear.
So how do we prevent those nerves and butterflies from getting the best of us?
Here are few suggestions that always worked for me.
- Before you even walk on the court and meet your opponents, put your game face on and get yourself an attitude going. Be nice but be serious.
- Once you are on the court, do not allow your attention to stray from your mission. Put your blinders on and keep your focus on nothing but the court and the game.
- Outside of and beyond any of the strategic successes or failures of what is occurring in your match, do not let your opponent dictate or orchestrate the proceedings.
- And it is most important to always try to maintain positive body language.
Okay, so all of the above helped and you have won your first match and you are now waiting to play in the next round. So, what do you do to pass the time?
Here are few suggestions for that.
Safety in numbers! Since you are going to be spending the whole day/entire weekend at this facility, find a location for your base camp. Get together with other players you know and have a central location where you can all hang out together in between matches.
Go watch and support your buddies compete, to keep your mind occupied with something besides your upcoming match. This will help the down time pass more quickly.
If possible, take time to get away from all the excitement and the action, to a quiet place to rest and recuperate.
Once you know the beginning time of your next match, have a scheduled time plan to prepare, which should include (if available) a warm up/practice court, a warm up and practice routine, as well as a warm up stretching routine.
Sometimes a court may open up before your scheduled match time, and the tournament officials may ask you to play ahead of your scheduled time. You don’t have to agree to play early, but if you do, request at least a 15-minute period of time to prepare for the match.
Plan your meals in regards to your anticipated match times. Your meals should be small in size and always be prepared to have something to snack on, in case your timeframe gets changed.
Most importantly, always stay well hydrated!
As for the mental and emotional aspects of competing in a tournament, unless you compete on a regular basis, you will most likely not know your opponents, which strategically speaking, I don’t like. With that said, one of the most challenging, yet rewarding things for me, was when I had to compete against one of my doubles partners or a close friend.
In regards to the physical aspect of competing in tournaments, get in shape and stay in shape! Off court conditioning and training is highly recommended if you plan on having a successful win-loss record in tournament play.
And last but not least, when transcending from social rotational play to tournament play, remember to “crawl before you walk and walk before you run.”
Begin by competing in leagues, or maybe your club member championships. Then, compete in some smaller local tournaments to get a feel of things out of your own fishbowl. After that, maybe take a weekend and travel to another city for a tournament. Who knows, you may someday end up being a U.S. Open Champion!