Wednesday 1 March 2017

I tend to get down on myself sometimes, when I'm not playing well

Arianna has played for the Wales National Lacrosse team, and is now captain of the Ladies 1s Lacrosse Team for Imperial College London. Here she talks about how she tackled mental blocks to improve her tennis.
- Arianna, Imperial College London

I always enjoyed playing all the sports that were offered to me at school. From the age of about 10-11 I started to play tennis quite seriously (I was training about 4-5 nights a week). On the weekends my parents would take me to tournaments and originally it was tough. A lot of kids start tennis a lot younger than I did and I lost about 20 matches before I won a match. This was obviously tough, but I've always been the type to try and power on.

"I'm active for my mental health because it helps me to be more productive with my day to day life"

After this losing period I started to win a few matches at tournaments, but I really struggled to implement what I was being taught because I was too scared to make mistakes. I thought it would be better to play it safe and try and tire the other person out instead of beating them with my shots. I found my parents watching quite hard as I knew how much time and money they had invested in tennis and I didn't want to let them down. This led to me being really nervous on the court and looking like a completely different player to when I was training. Although I was winning more matches overall, I was losing to people that I should have beaten, simply because I wasn't putting into practice the things I was taught.

This is something I have only recently started to improve in tennis in the past few years. I think things changed for me when I realised that playing well and with a good technique was more important than winning matches.

"I did tend to get a bit down on myself sometimes, when I feel like I'm not playing well"

I was captain of my school’s tennis team in my final year and this gave me the opportunity to watch my team playing matches. I saw a lot of them struggling with the same confidence in their shots that I struggled with and I decided I needed to set a good example.

I realised that in order to improve I needed to use the things I have practiced in matches. I hoped that this would encourage my team members to do the same. We managed to get through to the Aegon team tennis finals for the first time in my school’s history - which was great!

I don't play tennis competitively at university, but I try and make time to play at least once a week as when I go home I still play in some competitions and with my family. I have my Level 1 tennis coaching qualification and help at local tennis camps in the summer. I find it really rewarding and is something I'd like to do more of in the future.

Arianna's story is one of a series of Active Mental Health stories, collected by Student Minds for University Mental Health Day 2017. To find watch or read more, visit our Active Mental Health stories page!

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