The Theory of Momentum in Tennis

The Theory of Momentum in Tennis

In the world of physics the theory of momentum suggests that an object that is moving in one direction, through the force of motion, will have a tendency to continue moving in that direction.  This term has been used frequently in sports to suggest that an isolated incident can precipitate a change in direction that can then, in turn, create momentum, which can affect the outcome of a competitive contest.

I do no not think that it is possible to use the word, momentum, in both situations because in physics the theory relates to inanimate objects, while in sports it relates to human beings.  I have no desire, nor am I qualified, to argue the merits of the momentum theory as it relates to physics, but in sports the theory, in my understanding, falls hopelessly short.  The reason is that in sports the theory relates to the psychology of a competitor and while a pool ball may become a victim of momentum, a person certainly need not.

So what is momentum in the world of sports?  It is a well-worn word used liberally in all sports by coaches, commentators and even competitors.  Yet, has anyone stopped to think if it makes any sense?  Does it exist?  What is it?  It seems to be a mysterious entity that comes and goes as it pleases, leaving us victims to its whims.

Momentum is an illusion based on the falsehood that there is continuity from one moment to the next.  Yet we know that this is not true!  When we win a point by acing our opponent, or by powering a forehand down the line, what advantage do we start with on the next point?  Obviously there is no real advantage.  We may ‘feel’ better about ourselves, but this ‘feeling’ based on an external phenomenon is a double-edged sword.  This becomes evident when you observe how you ‘feel’ after a double-fault.

There are gaps between each moment.  Each moment is a completely separate entity, but we build a bridge between the moments and suffer the consequences thereof.  That bridge is created by our mind and is commonly called momentum.  It is made from a host of conflicting emotions that range from confidence to frustration.  Remember, it does not really exist we have simply created it ourselves.  The good news is that because we have created it, we can also destroy it.  In order to do this all we need to do is to be present to the moment at hand.  The past is over and if we can let it go, the bridge will be gone and the mystery of momentum will be solved.

If we won the last point or game or match we feel good about ourselves and this feeling of confidence is turned into momentum because we play the next few points in a confused sense of, ” I can do it”.  Conversely, if we play a few points, games or matches poorly and lose, we feel an overwhelming sense of “I cannot do it”.  But, in each scenario, there is no connection between the past and the present.  It is the belief in any connection that will lead us into a vicious cycle, from which escape will be difficult.  It is interesting to note that we cannot have one without the other, in other words if our confidence can be built through ‘success’, then it will necessarilyhave to suffer through ‘failure’.

The alternative is to play each point in present focus and not allow the previous moment’s performance to color the present.  The ball is coming to you in the herenow.  Any remaining vestige of the past will only impede peak athletic performance because it will draw attention away from what is happening at this very moment.  When the individual brings all his attention to the present moment, only then will peak performance occur.

Psychologically, you can be in complete control and not a victim to the law of momentum because you are not an inanimate object.  Do not tie into the illusionary concept of momentum.  It does not exist and belief in its existence will only interfere in your endeavor to be the very best you can be!

Leave a Reply