Using Meditation and Visualization in Sports to Excel

Nathan Healey, Director of Racquet Sports. Radley Run Country Club

I have been involved in the tennis industry since 1998 when I became a professional tennis player.   My achievements as a player included career high rankings of 57 in doubles and 158 in singles.  I competed in all four grand slams for nearly a decade and was a member on the Australian Davis Cup team in 2006.  I was also a World Team Tennis player for the Philadelphia Freedoms in 2003, 2009 and 2011 and was a member of the New York Buzz who clinched the title in 2008.

s great as the above results may seem, they were achieved in a forceful,   aggressive and discontented manner.  Playing the sport with this approach caused a variety of mental blocks, which ultimately created a disconnection from the purpose of the sport – which is to enjoy the game and have fun!  As I competed around the world, I realized my happiness was dependent on my results and I was playing with an overwhelming sense of pressure.

In 2008 I started coaching former world number 1, Lleyton Hewitt.   I spent two years with Lleyton, helping to move his ranking from outside the top 100 in the world, back into the top 20.   This move from playing to coaching had a dramatic impact on my overall perspective of the game as I started to realize that peak performance didn’t come from “trying so hard”.  Instead I realized that quality tennis was governed by a relaxed state of awareness, which is possible through a practice of presence and mindfulness.  In order to do this, you need to include mediation and visualization as part of your training.  Below are examples of exercises that will help you become more mindful and ultimately allow you to enjoy the “game” of tennis!

Guided meditations are an incredible stating point to reaching your peak performance and becoming a “peaceful warrior” on and off the court.  Eckhart Tolle, Adyshanti and Swami Srinivasananda are amongst my favorites.  Practicing these meditations will slow your mind and bring your attention into the moment.  This will create a quality to whatever you are doing, and will ultimately limit the distracting stories that take your attention away from the task at hand.

Being mindful as you drive to practice and matches is another exercise that assists in quieting your mind and preparing you for a quality, enjoyable time on the court.   For example, following the inhale and exhale of your breath, noticing your feet in your shoes, your hands on the steering wheel and listening to the sounds around you are extremely powerful ways of setting the stage for peak performance.

Visualization is another key ingredient to allow your unlimited potential to come to fruition.  Visualization is basically playing a movie in your “minds eye” of how you want your match or practice to unfold.   I recommend watching your practice or match like it’s a cartoon, by making the images as vivid and graphic as possible.  Watch yourself executing the necessary movements to win the match.  You can mentally create a blueprint of the movements: visualize the actions and allow your body to simply follow.  This is an enjoyable process, so have fun with it!

I recommend practicing the above exercises for 20 minutes each day and 30 minutes before your match or practice.  This repetition will allow everything you do to be infused with presence and will prepare you for battle without the emotional rollercoaster! Doing this will heighten your senses, prepare you for excellent tennis matches, but more importantly a quality life outside the court.

Consider your next business meeting to utilize these practices. Staying grounded with a clear mind is necessary for success in every moment and situation. Take extra time on your way to work, in the elevator, or even at your desk to focus your mind before meetings or presentations. By quieting your mind you can find stillness mentally and allow yourself to give your full attention to the task at hand. Ultimately, this presence brings focus into your business setting and will translate into success!

Using Meditation and Visualization in Sports to Excel