The Tournament Player Mindset

I was once happy to be part of the show. I was happy to be one of the guys and enjoy the social aspect of paddle. If I made the quarters of a tournament I would get butterflies in my stomach and start to think about all the what-ifs: what if I beat this team, what if I play so and so next round, what if I win this tournament, what if, what if…!? I was concerned about many things that were not under my control. Looking back I wonder if that is why I never had the results I desired a little earlier.

It was not until Nationals last year that I decided to change my approach to tournaments. I started to treat platform tennis tournaments the way I treated tennis tournaments when I was younger. At last year’s Nationals, I did very little other than playing paddle. I did not eat the provided lunch, I did not hang out at the courts, I did not participate in any extra-curricular activities after dinner. I treated Nationals like business and I was happy with the result. Consequently, I have approached all the tournaments this season in the same way. A friend ask me yesterday if I was going to hang out at Nationals this year and actually talk to someone, or go into my Eminem state (referring to my headphones). My response was to not expect much banter from me.

The sport has become more competitive than ever and I feel that focus can really differentiate teams. I have learned a lot of how to focus from my current partner Mike Stulac. His ability to separate himself from the scene and focus on the task at hand is amazing. Interestingly enough however, I feel not all players could benefit from my routine or anyone else’s for that matter. Everyone is different.

All players have had a tournament (or more) when all things go their way. Many chalk it up to playing well, good draws, or some outside factor. I would ask those players to think about how they prepared for those tournaments and how they dealt with the extra time during the tournament. The only person who can tell you how to prepare for a tournament is YOURSELF. The problem with that is that you cannot lie to yourself. Whether it is playing that extra practice match the week before or skipping out of lunch a little early to get yourself ready, do whatever works for YOU. You can tell yourself to do a lot of things but if you do not do it, all you are doing is lying to yourself.

My challenge to you is: are you able to look at yourself at the end of a tournament and say “I did everything I could to allow myself to play my best paddle today”!? If the answer is yes, I am willing to wager you are on your way to being a better paddle player. If the answer is no then it may be time to reevaluate how you approach tournaments.

Best of luck to everyone playing Nationals this weekend. I hope that you prepare the best that you can. I know I will.

By Mark Parsons