I love checklists. They’re so linear and easy – and great for simplifying and distilling things to their most important essence. No room for extraneous BS or complicated theory … checklists cut to the chase.
So I suppose it’s not surprising that I have a mental check list for tennis. It’s the list I refer to before a match, when I’m trying to warm up and settle down, or when I find myself struggling. Consulting this list can be either a centering and comforting ritual, or a game-saving hail mary. It’s not foolproof, but I find that more often than not, it’s an important part of my mental game on the court.
I mostly use mental checklists for tennis, but I also see the value for other sports or even just life. Going on a run but feeling a little tired? Pump yourself up with a list of how you’re going to breathe and pace yourself effectively. Heading into an important pitch or meeting? Continually check in with your list of the top 3 key messages you need to hit. The theme here? Know your blind spots and prepare yourself to avoid/address them.
I’ll share my tennis checklist for the sake of illustration, but as you can imagine, it’s important to develop your own personal list(s). A few tips:
- Everyone’s strengths and weaknesses are different, so honest contemplation of your personal game (tennis or otherwise) is important when forming your list
- Limit your list to no more than 3 to 4 items. Less, and it may not be useful enough. More, and it may be too overwhelming and possibly counterproductive, particularly if you’re stressed
- Make it memorable. Use terms or phrases that are meaningful to you, so that it’s easy to recall your list on a whim (see #1 below)
My mental tennis checklist, in order of importance:
1. Move your feet (or, as it manifests in my head, given that it’s my #1: MOVE. YOUR. F&*$@ING. FEET.)
2. Hit through the ball
3. Be patient
4. Arm/shoulder up (serves)
What’s your list?