Why it is important and how to practice it

Much of a tennis player’s life is spent in our own heads. We dream about winning big tournaments, training hard, and turning ourselves into the best player we can be. We replay shots and points we could’ve played differently. This obsession can quickly turn negative, and we become stuck in patterns of thought that don’t serve us. But the players with this obsessive mindset can turn their mind into a tool for growth when they understand how visualization works and the positive impact it can have on their game and development. We are always practicing ‘visualization’ but we’re not always aware of it. 

So first, what is visualization? Visualization, also known as visual imagery, is creating mental pictures in your mind of an outcome that you want to achieve. These images are created by using your five senses to mentally rehearse the sport in your mind.

Why is it important? Visualization helps to prepare you to respond to a situation before it happens. It also helps you achieve your goals by conditioning your brain to see, hear, and feel the success in your mind. It helps you believe you can execute a certain shot, strategy or pattern and it helps you believe you can WIN. 

The virtual reality environment of Sense Arena allows you to actively practice visualizing specific scenarios you need or want to work on. When players put on the virtual reality headset, they are transported to the most realistic version of visualization available. In this way, it supports players to positively push themselves both emotionally and mentally while using the technology.

The Sense Arena application allows players to practice specific on court scenarios such as first serve return, approach shot, and put-away volley in specific external environments such as court surface, time of day, weather conditions, and opponent customization. This allows players to maximize their time spent thinking and visualizing shots and scenarios while at home or on the road waiting to compete. 

Sense Arena enables players to focus on the ‘Who, What, Where, and When’ of improving.

These four questions are fundamental and essential to visualization for tennis players of all levels. These questions represent the starting point of developing as players.

Who is the player on the other side of the net? 

When a player is about to compete in a tournament or at a practice match, the player will look at the draw and ask, “Who is my opponent?” This question has incredible value, and in many ways it starts there on how you will plan on how to play that upcoming match. If you have little information about the opponent, the player will focus on his or her own game and what the player does best. 

Now, if there is any knowledge of the opponent, the information can help players adapt to the opponent’s game and create a strategy based on their strengths and weaknesses. You can also visualize facing the opponent in the external conditions it will be played on (court surface, time of day, weather conditions, etc.) and envision how to bring the best out of yourself. 

What shot or skill do I need to improve to win this match? 

Being able to identify what shot or skill that needs work is a big task to be asked. Let’s imagine that the approach shot and volley is a situation you need to work on because you have a hard time to focus where you want to place your approach and then react to the volley.

You can now use an immersive environment with specific on court situations to train your focus and reaction skills to improve your approach shot and volley. With virtual reality, you can put the player in the scenario of an approach shot, to decide where to hit it and then follow with the first volley reaction and placement. 

Where on the court did my weak shots occur? 

This is another area that is key in being specific to formulate effective practices. Let’s imagine a player has a below 50% winning percentage on “points at the net.’ We know there are many different types of ‘points at the net’, so to make a blanket statement like ‘we need to work on volleys’ is not specific enough. 

After watching a match again, you recognize that the player struggles with putting away “easy volleys.” Now, we look back at the video and the player’s footwork looks good, the technique is well polished, so what could be the problem? It seems like the player loses focus at this specific moment, which could be part of thinking he or she had already won the point or it was a long point so the player could not keep the focus until the end. 

Answering the question specifically allows for you to be able to recreate that situation and put the player in that exactly same scenario. Once the player feels comfortable in that situation, Sense Arena allows you to increase difficulty, add wind, and increase the ball speed to generate progress and increase levels of self confidence.

When in the match did I miss important shots? 

Considering the score and the match momentum plays a large role in the mental side of the game and into how the player deals with different scenarios. In theory a second serve return at 0-0 is similar to a second serve return at match point 4-5 (30-40), but in the match, it is not the same and we know why. A player’s ability to deal with pressure moments and external distractions shows his or her mental toughness. 

Inside Sense Arena we first can master the repetition of a specific serve (spin, from a right or left handed player, court side, etc.), to get those repetitions and feel comfortable on focusing, anticipating and reacting to the serve. Very soon, you will have the ability to include scores to simulate specific pressure situations. This will give players a chance to be in those mental and emotional states more often which will help them overcome those mental hurdles.

Putting Your Learnings Into Practice

These questions are a great place to start, and can help players reflect on how to improve for the next match. If players can recognize and answer these four questions, they can begin to change the course of their matches. 

Before Sense Arena, players had to practice visualization by hiring mental coaches, and going through hours and hours of practice. Now, players have a more effective and convenient way to train specific scenarios and improve their mental training and visualization. 

Success on the tennis court is about learning to compete and win, but before anyone wins, they must visualize their win and train their brain to see, hear, and feel the success. Sense Arena is the best tool to help you train your visualization skills and reach the next level of success.