It is important to understand that repetition and the mother of learning, to create good habits and automatisms in tennis. It is also just as important to know the process of giving up bad habits that you have already formed.
Tennis is based on repetition
Players train every day to develop skills that will help them perform effectively during the competition. These skills are built on thousands of hit balls to create habits that will be executed automatically. However, not every habit is positive and when we have a negative one, we should work to change it.
If we look at the best players in the world, we can clearly see the power of habits. Roger Federer's foreground is the same all the time - the technical part is the result of an automatic habit.
Rafa Nadal's preparation for service is famous and repeated - he goes through the same steps every time the point begins. These examples show that if the right amount of repetition is done, a solid habit will be created. So our old saying "Rehearsal is the mother of learning" is useful and can be followed with confidence!
It is important to understand that habits are created both consciously and unconsciously. Of course, it is much more effective for athletes to create conscious patterns that they can control, but during the process, a lot of habits are created unconsciously. Unfortunately, most of these bad habits have a negative impact on performance. The reasons behind unhealthy athletic habits are many: from low quality practice to too many tournaments in a row, players develop skills that can limit their chances of success.
If a habit helps you play well, you should continue with it, both consciously and unconsciously. However, if a habit leads to poor performance, then you need to take the time to go through the process of changing the habit. It doesn't matter if it's a technical issue with direct or tactical awareness during the service, the habit is a habit and the approach should be the same.
Below are four steps to change habits that, if properly addressed, will have a positive impact on performance and creating an optimal routine.
1. The Unconscious habit
This is the first step that requires another person's perspective. That's why coaches are so important in player development because they provide an external perspective that players are unaware of. Players can feel and believe that everything is fine, but the other person sees the real problem from the outside - the negative habit. At this stage, players make mistakes and are not aware of them.
2. Awareness of habits that lead to poor performance
Once they understand the problem, players begin to pay attention to bad habits. They are not yet ready to control and avoid it, but at least they are aware of the situations in which the mistake happens. It helps them build their consciousness and begin to have a low impact on the process, paying attention to the mistake and trying to correct it.
3. The Conscious Good Habit
The results of the work in the second stage (the usually conscious fool) are visible in this stage. Thanks to conscious work, players are able to correct mistakes, but only when they are fully focused on the task at hand. They are able to control the new ability and do it quite consistently, but it is a conscious action that must include both physical and mental work.
4. The Unconscious Habit
The last step is the finish line of changing a bad habit into a good one. Going through the various stages, becoming aware of bad and good habits and making necessary repetitions, players begin to use the new ability even by focusing on other things. Their minds and bodies work together and do not need conscious decisions to perform given actions. This shows that the new pattern is scheduled and that the old one has died and disappeared.
As tennis players, we should always strive to achieve better performance. This can only be achieved if hard work is balanced with conscious analysis of our game. By recording our matches or having a private coach, we access the opportunity to get important feedback, which will be the basis for deciding what, when and why we should change. Next time you need to change a habit, don't be afraid of it - go through the stages and have fun on the field with automatic and efficient movements.