As the world continues to wrestle with the pandemic, there has been a shift in the professional landscape both on and off the court. Tennis has returned often with minimal staff and many empty seats. The glory of victory is muted and the trophies are rare… and comically petite. For many, the business office continues to be a childhood bedroom as companies work remotely throughout the summer. We now find ourselves staring at screens for countless hours. Stress is generated by a strained work-life balance coupled with feelings of isolation. Although necessary, the socially distanced lifestyle poses an even greater risk of mental health struggles as we are left alone with our thoughts and feelings for the majority of each day. It is tempting to keep our emotions inside as our attention is often directed to upsetting news and unsettling predictions for the future.
Yet now more than ever, it is vital to maintain a healthy outlook. Self-care routines are necessary for everyone and one of the most universal and beneficial techniques is sharing our emotions. Struggles and uncomfortable feelings are a product of living in uncertain times. The New York Times provides possible strategies we can employ when discussing these feelings. Engaging with a friend or partner is often helpful in navigating sadness or fear. The option of consulting a licensed therapist might suggest a more serious approach in seeking connection and relief. There is often an erroneous belief that a mental health diagnosis is the only justification for talking to a therapist. However, this claim could not be farther from the truth. Therapists help develop useful strategies that alleviate stress and are catalysts for improving relationships with ourselves and others.
The role of a therapist in the context of competitive athletics becomes quite helpful. Athletes are often viewed, and view themselves, as superhuman yet the rigor of constant training, travel and high expectations can take a toll on mental health. Tennis players are especially prone to feelings of failure and disappointment since defeat is such a large and prevalent aspect of the game. Thus, the sport of tennis is inherently filled with emotions that are taxing on mental health. Even at the highest level, tennis players constantly take losses and most players travel with a skeleton team that includes a parent and coach, if the player can afford this luxury. In this case, the coach often serves many roles that include a therapist and mental advisor. However, sports psychologists bring a professional approach to the work of mental counseling. Often, the difference between winning and losing a match comes down to a few points which may be lost due to mental tightness. If a sports psychologist can help a player gain confidence to navigate these moments, performance is likely to improve.
With proper mental training, athletes can enjoy a longer and more successful career. The iconic duo of the Bryan brothers, who have a record-number 16 Grand Slam doubles titles to their name, are 42 years old. They were planning to retire after the 2020 US Open but now they have hinted that a farewell tour might be extended for another year. Other players such as Andy Murray and Kim Clijsters have come out of retirement for one last go-around on the tour. The professional circuit is physically and mentally demanding yet these legends seem to want more.
I am left to consider…