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Mind the Mind Games

Mind the Mind Games

Written By:  Ladies Who Tennis

As Professor Preston Ni, M.S.B.A. explains in Psychology Today: “In psychological manipulation, one person is used for the benefit of another. The manipulator deliberately creates an imbalance of power, and exploits the victim to serve his or her agenda.”

Take my friend, Rose, for example. She started playing tennis at age 44. After some years of lessons and league play including ALTA, USTA, T2 she had become an avid tennis player. 10 years later, her win/loss record showed that she was a true contender and had climbed the ladder to a respectable competitive level. 

Watching her play, you might describe her as a “backboard”. The type of player who doesn’t necessarily have beautiful strokes or a killer serve but who can get to every ball, hit it over the net and make you hit one more ball, increasing your chances of making an unforced error. She’s “That” player. The one you would rather play with than against. 

But the real secret to Rose’s winning record is not what she has up her sleeve but what she has in her bag. Rose will tell you that she does not have a “trick bag” but rather, a “shit bag”. Unlike a “trick bag” where the player conceals the fact that they have a winning shot which they can perform, at will, and likely win the point, a “shit bag” contains every shot ever created. What makes it even more distinct is that, while it contains every shot you can think of, the actual execution of these shots does not come with a high success rating. In fact, Rose rarely practices these shots. At one point in her tennis career, she was taught the basics of each of these shots and then stowed them away in her “shit bag”.

"There Is No Rose Without Thorns" ~ Pam Munoz Ryan

The deployment of the “shit bag” results in exactly what Pofessor Preston described above in regard to psychological manipulation. If you are the unlucky one, (and believe me, all of Rose’s opponents are “the unlucky one”) she will size you up from the start and decipher from your demeanor, wardrobe and warm-up, exactly which shots will cause you to psychologically “crumble like an Oreo cookie”, as Rose so delicately explains.

“No one can beat me at mind games” she claimed during a recent conversation. “Tennis is all mental and you can bank on winning if you can get in your opponent’s head.”

Prof. Preston described 4 ways to help identify if you are being psychologically manipulated. You’ll see that the “shit bag” is a tool for this kind of deception on the tennis court:

1. They try to confuse you with their “expert knowledge”. 

Rose is famous for trying to rip a down-the-line return on the ad side. But if anyone had actually calculated the percentage rate of how often she converted that shot into a point for her side, it would probably amount to less that 5%. And in reality, Rose could not care less whether she wins the point or not. Her goal is to convince her opponent that she actually has that shot mastered. She wants you to believe that she pulled it out of her “trick bag” but, in fact, it came out of her “shit bag”. 

2. They pressure you into making decisions

“The best compliment anyone can make about my game,” Rose explained, "is to switch up their strategy when they are serving to me.” That’s the true power of the “shit bag”. Whether or not, Rose’s down-the-line or drop-shot attempts are successful, she accomplishes her real goal when her actions make her opponents stop and think about how to deal with her. She draws them out of their comfort zone and introduces them to unfamiliar territory, one wrought with unforced error potential, by simply convincing them that she has a weapon or two that she can pull out and use whenever she needs to. Sadly, what the opponents don’t know will probably kill their chances of winning against Rose.

3. They use guilt trips to make you do things for them.

A good example of this is the time Rose encountered an opponent who was horrible, at best, in her ability to call a ball in or out. It seemed that any ball which landed near the baseline was deemed “out”. 

Just before they started the 3rd set and after many confrontations about whether the balls were in or out, Rose approached the net:

“Ok, ya’ll, I just need to understand. So, if anything hits the line, we’re gonna call it out. Is that how y’all’ve been doing it?

Frantic at the accusation of cheating, the opponent responded, “You’re a bitch! You know if the ball hits the line, it’s “in”! THAT’s how we’ve been calling it!”

Unfazed, Rose responded, “ I just wanted to know YOUR understanding of the lines. I talked  to our division manager about this type of thing before and she said it would behoove us to level the playing field by using YOUR interpretation of the lines and applying it to what we see on our side. I’m just trying to play by YOUR rules. That’s all."

4. They resort to outbursts of anger.

In the middle of a mixed doubles match and during a contentious argument between the male players, yelling from the baselines about something stupid like . . . whose racquet was bigger, Rose gently put her own racquet down. Right there in the middle of the court where she was standing she, placed her racquet on the ground and crossed her arms. A silent protest but a protest nonetheless.

The men suddenly quieted down noticing her dissatisfaction with them. When she was sure that she had everyone’s attention she addressed the men, “Are ya'll finished? Tell me when ya’ll are done fighting and then we can play tennis again.”

With her subtle outburst, she took control of the situation, was able to stop the men from arguing and restarted the tennis match. She totally got her way.

If you suspect that you may be facing a psychological manipulator on the tennis court, God help you. Unless you are one, yourself, escaping their control is nearly impossible. So it’s important to practice your own mental game as much as your physical one in order to be your genuine self in a match, play your strengths and be fully prepared to show Rose and others like her, just what you can do on the tennis court.

I don’t know who said it but an easy way to avoid the power of mind games is to  ..."Watch the ball, not your opponent!"

Suggested Reading: The Inner Game of Tennis

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The Truth in Ruth

The Truth in Ruth

Contributed by - Ladies Who Tennis

I had a long overdue breakfast with a friend today. I knew she’d have a gem for me and she did.

Ruth started by telling me about her recent singles match. First off, my hat’s off to all of you ladies who are somewhere within a decade of me, and are still battling it out between the singles lines. Those days are long gone for me. Singles used to be my thing. It used to be my jam. But truthfully, I’m not even a little jelly. I like knowing I have a partner to depend on, to strategize with, to retrieve my first serves which I often pelt at the net.

She told me that she took her singles opponent through a challenging 3-setter. Not a favorite thing to do down here in Atlanta, where even the cloud covered, late spring sky brings no relief from the heat. Instead, it replaces the hot temps with viscous humidity so stifling that if it weren’t for red faces and drenched clothing, you might get away with telling people you’d just stepped out of the shower. 

But get this, they could have made it easier on themselves by agreeing to play a 10-point tie-breaker in lieu of the 3rd set but these are bad-to-the-bone, die-hard, tennis-playing, southern ladies. There’s no “in lieu-ing” of anything! 

Unfortunately, Ruth lost but politely congratulated the winner who then made a curious remark about her own game, “I’m surprised that not many of my balls were 'out' today." To which Ruth replied, still short of breath from the match, “So am I!” 

After discussing the lady's comment over coffee, grit cakes and a salmon bagel plate, we decided, based on other personalities we’ve met on the court, that it is a rarity these days to find an opponent who calls the “close” or questionable balls “in" rather than “out". To me, the situation is similar to the rule in baseball which gives the tie, between base runner and ball, to the runner because it’s just too close to call. 

 In tennis, if you're not sure whether the ball landed in or out, calling it “out” wouldn’t be fair. So, your only other option is to call it “in”.

An incident which still plays vividly in my mind is a doubles match I played and my partner called a clearly good ball “out”. The ball landed inside the lines and just to my left as I defended the ad side at the net. She called the ball from way across the court from the deuce side baseline. Well, that was enough to anger our opponents, propel them to the net and accuse us of cheating! US?! Cheating?! What the heck?! My partner came straight up to me and said, “That was out, right? You were standing right there. Tell them it was out!” I’d never felt so intimidated in my life and by my own partner nonetheless. The way I saw it, it wasn't even a close call. Besides, she wasn't even close enough to call it!

She didn't talk to me for the rest of the match and of course, we lost. I also did not get paired with her for the rest of the season so you can guess how I eventually called the ball. Thankfully, there was no love lost. That was the first and last time I ever played doubles with her. 

My breakfast date recalled one of her own doubles matches. As was in my case, the offender was Ruth’s partner. Running down ball after ball and repeatedly calling baseline shots as “out", she started to gain the attention of not only her opponents but even Ruth’s radar went up. It’s a sinking feeling when you realize your very own team mate is making bad line calls. It instantly highlights the fact that even you and your honesty come into question simply because you are on the same team.

Finally, the ball that broke the camel’s back, “Out!” Ruth’s partner proclaimed. Then the team altercation began. Recognizing their opponents' anger over the call and increasing rebuttals to each line assessments, Ruth flatly accused her own partner of making bad line calls. Surely embarrassed that she was being reprimanded by her teammate, Ruth’s  partner immediately came to her own defense anxiously describing the situation of the last ball played. And as swiftly as she served up the excuses, Ruth slammed back with what everyone was really thinking anyway, “Hey! Just because you can’t get to the ball, it doesn’t mean it’s out!” 

Sounds rough? Well, sometimes hearing the truth can sound like a thunderous avalanche. And if you are in it’s path, it’s gonna hurt a little. 

So with the cat out of the bag, they all returned to their respective places on the court to continue play. Relieved that the conflict was addressed and seemingly understood, Ruth readied herself at the net waiting for her partner’s serve. And then she  heard, from over her shoulder, “Hey, what’s the score?”

Oh boy. 

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Ooops I Forgot Something Spring Break Giveaway!

Ooops I Forgot Something Spring Break Giveaway!

So have you ever got to a match and realized you don't have a visor or you forgot to stop and get that can of balls?  I have.  For that reason I started carrying a little hamper (I guess you can call it) in the back of my car.  I make sure I keep an extra visor, can of balls, extra pair of socks etc.  This way I don't have to stress and or rush last minute to pick up something on the way to a match if I forget.  So, I thought it would be cool to to do a giveaway to celebrate Spring Break and give one of my Instagram followers the chance to win their own Ooops I Forgot Something Starter Kit :-). 

What do you win?

  • This cute little hamper
  • 2 Cans of Penn Tennis Balls
  • 6 pack of Head Tennis Socks
  • Pink Blender Bottler Shaker Cup
  • Pink Adidas Women's Visor

How to win?

  • Follow us on Instagram @40luvapparel
  • Like the Instagram post with the image from this blog post
  • Comment on the same Instagram post

It's that simple!  A winner will be chosen this Friday as we close out spring break!  Good luck!!!

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Blog Post | Tennis Sisters | Why is it best to have a bond with your tennis partner?

Blog Post | Tennis Sisters | Why is it best to have a bond with your tennis partner?

Since today is Valentine's Day and love is in the air, I wanted to talk about the bond between tennis partners.  Or what I like to refer to as my "tennis sister".  The bond between partners is so important mainly because it is important that you have a chemistry on the court.  I have played against opponents who are so mean to each other  or barely even talk to one another.  How do you win matches like this?  How can you play effectively with someone who is just mean spirited especially towards you as their partner?  I have been fortunate to have partners who I play well with, but I feel it is because we have a bond off the court.  I'm not saying that you spend every waking moment together but again there must be a chemistry.  I'm not expert at this but I have played with some partners that the chemistry wasn't there and it made the match much tougher.  Here are a few great tips to keep in mind when creating a bond with your tennis partner:

  1. Communicate!!!:  The worst thing you can do on the court is not talk to you partner or vice versa.  Many matches are lost by not calling the ball (mine/yours) or talking between points whether to figure out a strategy or encourage each other.  NEVER talk down or negatively criticize your partner during a match.  That's the worst thing you could do.
  2. Know your strengths & weaknesses:  Once my partner and I figured out what our strengths & weaknesses were, we had a better chemistry.  I have a better cross court forehand, she had a better backhand.  I play the deuce, she plays ad.  She's a stronger server so she always serves first.  She's stronger at the net so there are times when she's serving we will switch in the point.  She will come in to the net and I will go back to the baseline.  Little things like that help us improve our over match play.
  3. The more you play together the better you will become as a team:  There are times on our team we are unable to play together in the line up but we make it a point to play together in flex leagues.  We don't want to loose our chemistry.
  4. Be friends off the court:  We are more than just tennis partners we are friends, better yet tennis sisters.  We talk about what goes on in our lives personally, our families, our jobs, etc.  It makes it that much easier to play with someone you have a bond with.

Are you and your doubles partner "tennis sisters"?  I would love to hear from you.  Feel free to leave your comments below!

See you on the courts!!!

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Tennis Anyone? | It's Never Too Late To Get Started

Tennis Anyone? | It's Never Too Late To Get Started

I grew up being very athletic.  From a dancer at the age of 5 onto playing basketball and softball in high school.  I followed in the footsteps of my mother being a sports fanatic.  When other moms watch soap opera's and sitcoms.  My mother insisted on watching professional basketball and football.  Since I was forced to watched I learned every aspect of both games which definitely comes in handy being married.  I grew up on sports and loved several.  Fast forward to the age of 40 and one of my dear friends kept trying to convince me to start to play tennis.  What?  Are you serious?  I'm not trying to learn how to play a sport at the age of 40!  After much persistence I decided to give it a shot.  I practiced with a coach for a year and decided to join her team (which was way out of my league).  I remember being so frustrated loosing every week I decided to play in every flex league I could think of until I got better.  Needless to say, 2 city championships and 1 city final later, I must say I am in love with this game!!!  It's fun and super social.  I have so many tennis sisters now that I feel I can't live without.  It's also somewhat additive so I had to find a balance but all in all it's one of the best decisions I made in my life!  So if you are looking for something to do to alleviate some stress and get some extra exercise give tennis a shot!  I would love to hear some of your "how I got started" tennis stories.  Leave them in the comments below!!!

3 Tips On Getting Started In Tennis

1. Find a hitting partner - It's probably best to get someone who knows the game.  I used my friend who got me into the game.  It's good to start off slow with someone who is patient and understands you are a beginner.

2.  Hire a coach - Once you start getting a hang of hitting and good with your hand eye coordination, it helps to hire a coach to get you a little more acclimated with the game of tennis and strengthen your strokes.  To coach with a group of friends is lots of fun more so than a private coach which is also an option.

3.  Join a flex league - Once you start building confidence in your game take a shot in joining a flex league.  Find a partner who's also a beginner and get out on the courts.  It will feel a little scary at first but the only way to get better at this game is to play.  You may loose some matches (or like me all of your matches),  but before you know it you will be well on your way to winning bag tags.  Just keep telling yourself you are getting better.  Don't get discouraged or give up.  You will get there.

See you on the courts!

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