Predator vs. Prey Mindset in Tennis

You have a choice each moment on the court, in school and in life. Are you going to be the Predator or Prey?  Are you on the prowl, or are you constantly fearing for your life?  When you think about animals in their natural habitats, there are always two types of animals: Predator animals and their Prey. These two groups of animals have key differences:

Prey animals have evolved to protect themselves from predator animals. They have adapted by developing eyes on the sides of their head or further apart than predators. This is to improve peripheral vision so that they can see everything that is going on around them. It is their best way to avoid the predator animals.

On the other hand, predator animals have eyes much closer together because they don’t need to be as concerned with the world around them. They need to have tunnel vision to attack their prey. 

We can use this analogy in tennis to see that we have a choice. Are we a predator or a prey athlete?

The Prey is concerned with everything around them. How good is my opponent? What will my teammates say if I lose? How does my swing look? If we lose this match, who will we play next in the tournament? If we lose this match, will we be out of playoffs? What will my friends think of me at the academy?  Most importantly, the answers to these questions don’t matter!  The predator’s mindset does not allow these thoughts to cultivate in their mind.

The Prey is worried about external factors which are things they have no control over and won’t help them.  Worry about loss or failure in tennis is the most common prey mindset.  Most likely the player does not want to disappoint coaches, friends, family, or themselves. It causes players to get tight and tentative, and playing “not to lose”.  Maintaining a predator mindset throughout the match is not easy, but it can be done! Work on your self-awareness by recognizing prey mindset thoughts and snuff them out! Replace prey thoughts with predator thoughts and your actions will follow. Many people believe they have to have the ability to play aggressively in order to have aggressive thoughts.  The fact is, many tennis players need to first begin with the aggressive thoughts in order to perform aggressively on the court. The old adage, “fake it till you make it” applies here! 

A tennis player behaving like a prey athlete would play very reactionary defensive tennis.  They would continuously be reacting to their opponents shots. If you fall into this mentality, you will feel like you are constantly running, and your opponent is controlling every point.  Instead, you need to be the one controlling the points right from the very first ball, making your opponent run! It is likely that this will happen occasionally in your match. Don’t beat yourself up about.  Become an expert at recognising it and turning your predator mindset on right away!

A Predator tennis player doesn’t care to look around at these external factors. He/She makes decisions based on what they believe is best regardless of others. They focus on the things they can control. They put forth a full effort and are aggressive regardless of rankings, seeds, score and outcome. The predator tennis player doesn’t look ahead, doesn’t look around, doesn’t look back. They focus solely on the task at hand, the team ahead of them, and what they need to do.

During the postseason you have the same choice. Are you predator or prey? Are you going to look around at what other people are doing? Fans? The crowd? Other teams in your league? Predictions/Seeds/Rankings? That is a Prey mentality. 

Be the athlete who acts like a Predator. Focus on what you have to do to be successful. Tune out your opponents results, rankings, predictions and all the hype. Use tunnel vision, stop caring about what is going on around you and focus all your energy on competing aggressively from start to finish. Do everything you can to be the best server, attacker, partner, and competitor on the court.

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