While growing up in Serbia during my elementary school years, I was lucky enough to join a club in my area that had a coaching staff of the highest quality. Practices started off once a week due to my own scheduling and availability of my coach. The club had an academy and a fitness side, as well as an adult program, much like we have now at Intensity.
I was taught to play the game in a technical and tactical way. Proper mechanics and play patterns were two main components of our junior training. I must admit that I have always been an exceptional listener, an even better follower of directions and, most of all, possessed an incredible work ethic. These three skills enabled me to stay task-focused and learn the game more efficiently. It was a fun, social and educational way of learning the game of tennis.
However, a few years passed and my technical and tactical skills came to a satisfactory high level. By this time I was twelve years old and the club started assigning me different coaches as I was moved from one level to another. At one point, my coach encouraged me to start playing in tournaments as he thought I was very talented and skillful. I never thought about this but decided to give it a shot at a national 14U tournament.
I signed up for a few consecutive tournaments to see how well I would perform. I felt motivated to compete because I was having a great time playing tennis. These national events were what really counted toward building my ranking and the way to do it was to win, win and …well, WIN. So it started – I played a few tournaments and lost in the first rounds. I would go back to the club and work on things that my coach thought I needed to work on technically and strategically. I signed up for the next few tournaments and again, lost in the first rounds.
Once in a while, we would have intra-academy tournaments that players of all ages entered. I played well, won a few and usually advanced to at least the semi-finals. Practicing with my fellow teammates made it easier for me to compete against them. I knew their game styles really well plus I was probably the most patient player at the academy. I was willing to build the point like a house, brick by brick and not deviate from the blueprint one single bit – a trait I learned, twenty years later, that Rafael Nadal was famous for. Would have been cool to compete against Rafa on tour, but oh well…
As I competed at various tournaments, I felt extremely uncomfortable stepping onto the court to play a match that counted for something, like a big test I had to pass. At first, it started with heart pounding, sweaty palms, locked legs and nausea. No matter what I tried to do, these sensations never fully went away. I didn’t know what was happening to me. Weekend after weekend during competition, they would come back to haunt me.
I accepted I was feeling this way. I adjusted to the new state by consciously carrying these sensations with me. They came into my life uninvited and disturbed my inner peace and confidence. I soon discovered whom I have actually met. Its name was ANXIETY. Finally the question of WHAT was happening to me was answered, but the challenge of HOW to handle it was the journey I was about to embark on.
Check back with Nikola to read more about how he dealt with the mental aspect of tennis in his career! If you would like to learn about his program at INTENSITY and work the mental aspect of your game , visit his Mindful Meditation page here to book a session with him today!