Guest Writer: Steve Kupitz
Any athlete will tell you that any sport is mostly a physical game. The body runs, jumps, dives, catches, throws, swims, skates, etc. But what does the mind do? Does it just sit idle while the body does all the work? Most, if not all, experienced athletes will stress the importance of the mental aspect of sports. Mental preparation often ranks of equal or greater importance than physical training to some athletes.
Jennifer Maruyama is a student at the University of Lacrosse, Wisconsin and plays tennis on the girl’s team. This year she placed second place in conference singles and won first place in conference doubles. Maruyama explained that one of her most important mental attributes is positive thinking, from walking out onto the court to shaking hands with her opponent she never doubts herself. Perseverance and determination are also key attributes because they push her enough to put a certain spin on the ball or to put enough power on her backhand. Jenny uses a technique called compartmentalizing which is the practice of focusing on the objective on hand and not letting your problems “spill over” to affect your game. To do this effectively she takes time before a match to clear her mind of her stresses as a student, a daughter, and a member of a student organization. Maruyama makes sure she keeps a level head all throughout the game. She doesn’t let too excited after making a big play, rather, she takes a deep breath and gets her head back in the game.
Jenny Maruyama demonstrates her mental readiness through her experience. She has been playing tennis for over ten years. Her naturally competitive spirit puts her at an advantage because she’s always in it to win, not just to get the game over with. Maruyama tells herself to play the way she wants to play and not the way her opponent is makes her. Jenny’s mental preparation incorporates listening to hard rock. The hard music gets her amped, her blood flowing, but not anxious and too excited. She is mentally strong because of her experience with different types of players, playing on different types of courts, and in different types of weather. She also makes sure that she doesn’t let any big wins (or loses) get to her head (or bother her). She reminds herself that she’s a student before an athlete and won’t let her problems spill over onto other aspects of her life.
Jenny has played tennis all her life and has picked up many good techniques as the years have gone on. She practices positive thinking, separating her problems from the court, not getting too excited, and plays the game she wants to play. Between being a full time student, and a full time daughter, Jenny is an excellent athlete and will tell anyone that the mental aspects of sports are a key component.