Coaches’ Corner: Controlling Your Side of the Net

The Ivan Lendl IJTA, one of the world’s premiere tennis academies, has taken up residence in our “Coaches’ Corner” series to dish out instructional tips and on court analyses straight from the Academy’s top coaches and directors.

By Matt Cuccaro, Director of Mental Training for Ivan Lendl International Junior Tennis Academy and Dr. Adam Naylor, Consulting Mental Trainer

During a tennis match, which side of the net do you focus on? Your eyes look out, so it’s easy to concentrate on your opponent, rather than your own game. Many players discuss the importance of assessing their opponent during warm-ups. Does this do the most for your upcoming performance? While it is important to get a feel for your competition to see some potential strengths and limitations, how much does it take away from finding your own rhythm and measuring the spring in your step?

Check-in with yourself

Be aware of where your attention is and has a tendency to go. What percentage of the time are your thoughts on the wrong side of the net? How often does your mind drift? For example, does your mind say “Man, he likes to push the ball,” or “Come on, keep your feet moving?” Check in with yourself between each point to be mentally focused on your side of the court.

Lead the match

Controlling yourself allows you to control the match. Attention on the opponent leads to reactionary tennis, rather than authoritative play. Stay in charge by choosing to focus on your game plan, targets to hit and keys to solid play.

Step beyond traditional chatter

Television commentators, fellow players, coaches and even parents can be heard saying who they think is a “good” or “bad” player. For the competitive player, this is misdirected thinking and leads one to focus on the wrong side of the net. Labeling opponents only leads to unnecessary distractions, wasted energy and inconsistent play. Be sure to keep a steady attitude and tireless work ethic for optimal results.

About Matt Cuccaro, Ed.M.
Matt Cuccaro is the Director of Mental Training at Ivan Lendl International Junior Tennis Academy on Hilton Head Island, SC. Matt has a Masters of Education in Counseling/Sport Psychology from Boston University and is an active member of the Association for Applied Sport Psychology. Matt has worked with individuals in a number of sports from the junior level all the way up to world-class professional athletes.

About Adam Naylor, Ed.D., CC-AASP
Dr. Naylor brings a decade and a half of experience developing junior, collegiate, and professional tennis players to the Ivan Lendl IJTA team. Over the course of his career he has educated regional, national, and international competitors – including ATP and WTA professionals, Ivy, WCC, Big West, America East collegiate players, and ITF and USTA junior competitors. He currently leads Telos Sport Psychology Coaching and is the Director of the Boston University Athletic Enhancement Center.

Ivan Lendl IJTA exemplifies Ivan Lendl and David Lewis’ desire to give back to tennis and develop future champions through a new-era curriculum and holistic training approach. The Academy focuses on classic fundamentals, leading-edge biomechanics, strength training / fitness and mental preparation. Lendl and Lewis subscribe to a hands-on approach with students instilling dedication, focus, hard work, motivation and overall preparation.

For more information:, 888.983.6647 (888-9-TENNIS) or 843.686.1529.

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