An Examination of Preservice Routines of Elite Tennis Players

By Gentner, Noah B.; McGraw, Theodore J. et al. | The Sport Journal, Fall 2008 | Go to article overview

An Examination of Preservice Routines of Elite Tennis Players


Gentner, Noah B., McGraw, Theodore J., Gonzalez, Stephen, Czech, Daniel R., The Sport Journal


An Examination of Preservice Routines of Elite Tennis Players

The development and administration of a preperformance routine has been linked to optimal and consistent performances in many activities. Past research has shown the positive effects of preperformance routines in various sports, including tennis (Moore, 1986), golf (Cohn, Rotella, & Lloyd, 1990), bowling (Kirschenbaum, Ordman, Tomarken, & Holtzbauer, 1982), basketball (Czech & Burke, 2003; Lobmeyer & Wasserman, 1986; Wrisberg & Pein, 1992), and skiing (Orlick, 1986). Preperformance routines seem most beneficial within closed skill and self-paced tasks found in these sports, for example free-throw shooting in basketball, serving in tennis, kicking in football, and putting in golf.

Previous research has shown that preperformance routines can help athletes focus attention, enhance confidence, eliminate distractions, and reduce anxiety (Weinberg & Gould, 1995). Eliminating distractions and focusing attention creates an ideal state of concentration prior to performance; consistently replicating this state of concentration can create consistent performances (Schmidt & Peper, 1998). Focus and concentration allow for other psychological skills (i.e., visualization and relaxation) to be implemented during the preperformance routine, which helps block any external stressors and unwanted environmental stimuli (Schmidt & Peper, 1998). The ability to eliminate distractions before a performance may be the difference between a good athlete and a great one (Orlick, 1997).

Another benefit of preperformance routines is that they structure and organize the time leading up to a desired task, mentally preparing the athlete for the performance (Weinberg & Gould, 1995). For example, Crews and Boutcher (1987) observed the preperformance routines of golfers in the Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA), measuring the time taken for routines. Results indicated that all the golfers were automatic in their routines, starting and finishing with consistent and purposeful actions and completing their routines in a consistent amount of time. Purposeful behavior is key to consistent and effective performance during a preperformance routine. Foster, Weigand, and Baines (2006) studied free-throw shooters found to have superstitious behaviors and attempted to implement a preperformance routine among the athletes. Surprisingly, the effect of preperformance routines and of superstitious behavior differed little (performance worsened when neither was conducted before shooting). Purposeful behavior, whether based on superstition or on a structured preperformance routine, resulted in consistent and effective performances.

A preperformance routine can also help athletes reactivate appropriate physiological and mental processes before each shot, hit, service, or putt, increasing the chance of a successful performance (Schmidt, 1982). Boutcher and Zinsser (1990) studied the cardiac, respiratory behavior patterns of elite and nonelite golfers during a putting task. Elite golfers' consistent preperformance routines resulted in slower breathing and heartbeats, indicating relaxation and focus on the task. Nonelite golfers lacked consistent preperformance routines and had higher heart rates. Physiologically, preperformance routines prepare the body for competition and sync mind and body for better control.

Some research argues that consistency of performance as a result of using a preperformance routine involves more than simply keeping the routine to a consistent time period. For example, Southard and Miracle (1993) conducted a study of female basketball players that manipulated how fast their free-throw routines occurred (time for the routine was doubled, was cut in half, etc.). Despite the manipulations of time, the results showed that the relative time to complete the routine did not vary, and that the rhythm of the routine was most important to successful performance. …

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