In all types of sport and in all forms of life we often here the word ‘momentum’ being used in various platforms. Most of us can recall our high school physics class when we learnt the formula for momentum was mass x velocity so, how can we relate this to sport.
In a purely scientific sense, we can see mass as being the importance of the event and how emotionally invested the participants are whilst the velocity is the importance of the event and the time that it occurs (think about the goal on the siren or a lung busting rally in a grand slam final.)
Research has also shown that for momentum to be real in a sporting sense, at least two competitors are required so there is a sender and a receiver of the momentum otherwise if there are less than two competitors it is more of a ‘flow state’ (golf for example).
If we think about a typical tennis match, we will see many shifts of momentum and the longer the match progresses the momentum shifts arguably become much bigger. A good example of this is in a tiebreaker in the deciding set. With the pressure increasing all the time due to the importance of each point the way momentum affects you is extremely important.
Understanding when you have the momentum and how to maintain it is a valuable tool that needs to be practiced being replicated under pressure. As important as recognising positive momentum is being able to identify when you are being affected by negative momentum.
It is imperative when you have positive momentum to maintain a sense of calm, stay in control and not try to be even better than what you have been. In tennis terms that can mean not trying to overhit the ball, play too quickly between points or yell and scream with excitement after every point.
It is all well and good having positive momentum but what about when things are going against us, and we are experiencing negative momentum.
We see it all the time in our various football codes that one team seem to have the ball for an extended period and are scoring at will whilst the opponents are looking disheartened and out of ideas. This is when the coach really earns their money.
You will see them change tactics or bring a replacement on to try and wrestle the momentum back their way.
Momentum in tennis can be just as important as a solid technique especially for players with less experience. If you look through tournament results you will see lots of variations in set scores, and this can often be traced backed to positive or negative momentum.
The inexperienced player will be on top of the world when things are going their way but will crash back to earth with a thud when things are going against them whilst the experienced player will recognise when they do not have the momentum and be able to find a way to turn things around.
That is why being an excellent problem solver is such an important part of becoming a complete tennis player.
We will witness momentum in other aspects of our lives as well. Think about our exercise regime, diet, study, work, hobbies, social interactions, and we can think of countless examples of times that we have experienced both positive and negative momentum.
In these instances, we will be our own best ‘coach’ understanding how we can maintain our positive momentum or how we can change things around when being afflicted by negative momentum.
For something that is not able to be seen, cannot be measured, has no timeframe and we do not know where it comes from or where it goes: momentum certainly is a powerful commodity and will stand us in good stead once we understand it and know how to use it to our advantage in all walks of life.