Attention in tennis.Transition from external to internal focus of attention

External focus is related to detecting changes in the dynamical environment. The problem with the external focus is that it can be very broad. Broad attention does identify sources of information but processing many information influence negatively the efficiency of the decision making process. Creating visual strategies that can be related to detection only the relevant information from the environment can speed up the response by providing enough time in creating the most efficient stroke and pressuring the opponent.

The most changeable elements of the tennis environment that influence the player’s game are opponent’s movement and ball trajectory.
The most successful visual strategy in tennis would be depending on how fast the player can extract information about the opponent’s movement behavior towards the ball and how does it influence the opponent’s ability to create offensive/ defensive stroke in down the line/cross court direction, before shifting the focus of attention to the ball trajectory. It is proven that watching the ball constantly is not necessary, therefore player should attend to detecting the phases of the ball trajectory, as from different phases of the ball trajectory, player can extract information about the direction and height of the incoming ball predicting the future area of bounce and future impact zone.

Internal focus of attention is dependent on the level of self awareness and proprioception.

As soon as the ball is in reach, closer to the intended impact point, the focus of attention from the external should be taken over by player’s awareness of the stroke mechanics (technical element) to respond to demands of the point situation (tactical element).

As all of us are creating certain movement behavior which we want to control in every way possible, being self aware about it is the key aspect of translating mental images (projections) into the corresponding physical movement response. Self awareness in creating the mental projections of future movement is always dependable on the dynamic changes of the environment to which we have to adapt constantly. Creating a mental projection of the future physical movement behavior is a mental (non visible) response to the all the gathered information from the environment which can influence the efficiency of our movement. In tennis, there are many influencers of which the most important are the opponent and a ball and as being source of plenty of informations, the receiver should build a base of knowledge of which ones are relevant to the game.

Self awareness is related to the future movement behavior, created and mentally projected as the best possible imaginative successful movement. That’s where the relation between self awareness and proprioception comes to importance as crucial aspect of the stroke production. By having complete confidence in the success of the mentally projected execution of the movement, enables the player’s performance exactly as created in the mental phase of the process. The moments of doubts and creating the doubtful thoughts will create a delay of the neural transmission to the muscle fibers limiting the fluidity of the range of motion in joints. The consequences of this delay reflects onto the stroke production and efficiency of the whole movement.

The role of the proprioception is to make the player aware of the motion of the body segments, relation between each other and efficiency of the range of motion throughout the player’s space. Being attentive and very much in control of the body segments movement in space, the player makes sure that the physical movement corresponds to the mental projections from the earlier phase. Therefore being less curious about the ball trajectory leaving the strings but more attentive to the body movement synchronization influences directly the efficiency of the intended stroke movement behavior.


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