Mind training: Maria Sharapova’s pregame mindset

By Su

Maria Sharapova visited Thanyapura last year and spoke to us about how she gets in a good pregame mindset. The professional tennis player, who is ranked second in the world by the Women’s Tennis Association, uses a variety of techniques to train her mind before a match. In this video, Maria Sharapova talks about how she increases her focus and mental strength.

Video time stamps

0.18 – Ways of thinking pre-game

0.41 – Maria’s mindset going into matches

1.00 – How she changes her way of thinking after a few losses

1.30 – The importance of having a coach before a game

Key points

Every match is different for Maria Sharapova, especially when it comes to getting in a good pregame mindset. For her to prepare herself and get ‘In the Zone’, it takes a “different way of thinking or a different team” in every situation. When she steps onto that tennis court, Maria Sharapova has to be her best and has to let previous failures not get in the way of her goals. But it’s those fight or flight moments that Maria Sharapova says that she proves herself.

She said: “You are not always feeling 100% and your best. You have come off a few losses but those are the moments where you need to turn things around and really prove yourself.

“More to yourself than anyone else, is how far you can go mentally so that you can get to the next tournament and change the result around.”

But to Maria Sharapova, this pregame mindset changes every time, even though she plays the same tournaments year in, year out.

She added: “I think every situation requires a different way of thinking or different team. Not one particular situation is the same, even though we play the same tournaments. The results are always different, you are always facing up against different opponents and your mindset going into all of those matches is very different.”

Getting into that pregame mindset can involve doing anything from reading a book to listening to music or just spending time with loved ones. For the tennis superstar, it depends on the moment, game or what she feels like doing.

“Sometimes I read an inspiring book and something clicks in my mind, or sometimes I surround myself with just my family and just being in their surroundings helps,” she said.

“[We won’t] even talk about my profession or anything like that and it helps to calm me down, so when I go on the court I just feel free in myself. Coaches always see things from a particular side and notice some stuff that I don’t really see out there, so it just kind of depends [on the moment].”

Maria Sharapova spent seven days training at Thanyapura Phuket last year, ahead of the BNP Paribas WTA Finals 2014 in Singapore. Thanyapura Phuket provided her with the best facilities for her to get in shape and get a positive pregame mindset.

She said: “It’s always nice to enter the grounds and know that this is where you will set your time and hours out of the day to commit to one particular thing in your career. Obviously you need the facility for that. You need to have everything around you. Whether it is from the start to the stretching for the sport that you are doing; or whether it is the recovery – a hot or ice cold bath – all that stuff goes into it, so it is really nice to be surrounded by all of that at Thanyapura.”

What is mind training for athletes?

Mind training for athletes is broken up into several aspects – the training mindset, the pregame mindset, overcoming fear, getting ‘In the Zone’, the mind that endures, post performance and dealing with injury or failure. In this blog post, the focus will be on the pregame mindset.

The pregame mindset

The pregame mindset involves having a pre-performance mindset, involving all the senses, being aware and increasing positive self talk. To have a pregame mindset, you must have a simple and consistent routine and then you will find yourself in the winner’s circle. The second part of this mindset involves all your senses and imagining how you can achieve your potential. If you believe it, you will see it – a characteristic of champions.

Athletes must be aware of the harmful images and thoughts in their minds so that they don’t let them affect their goal and their pregame mindset. This is hard because sometimes you don’t recognise them in the moment. Positive, motivational self-talk is another way to help train the mind and increase confidence. For example, “come on, you can do this”.

 

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About the Author

Pierre Gagnon practised concentration and insight meditation intensively from 2010 to 2012, then went on to study meditation at Wat Suan Mokkh with the venerable Ajahn Po from 2013 to 2015. As well as his own practice, he has coordinated meditation retreats in the south of Thailand which were attended by more than 1,000 people.

Having a great passion in the field of neuroscience, he likes to integrate these concepts into meditation practice. He believes that much of our life is lived resisting and defending against internal and external experiences that people perceive as threats. Through the development of concentration and meditation, we can insightfully see that all experiences are harmless and there is no need to defend of contract around them.  Pierre has experience coordinating concentration and insight meditation retreats, teaching the relationship that exists between Buddhism and neuroscience.

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