Due to the quick pace and sudden weight changes of the game, tennis players at any level are highly prone to injuries. If your athlete is dealing with the long, unwanted journey of an injury, help them understand the road in front of them and the tools they need to come back on the court stronger than before.
An important thing to note for any injury is that pain involves the mind just as much as the body. There are many cases where something in the player’s mind is contributing to their pain, or even making them fear the court. These injuries are often a manifestation of the player’s feelings, fears and doubts. If you find yourself questioning the validity of an athlete’s injury, remind yourself that it is not your job to dispute the athletes pain.
In some cases, all an athlete needs is unquestioning support. While the main role of a coach is to focus on technique, you should also focus on being a safe space for players. If an athlete express’s concern about an injury, give them the opportunity to talk about what’s going on. It is not a coach’s job to decide if an athlete is pretending, but to stick with them and ask them about what kind of pressure they are dealing with. When support is provided, the player will often become calm and relaxed, thus giving the coach a clearer idea of where their head is at.
Injuries can also be a result of fear. A fear of not being good enough, a fear of being judged, or even a fear of success can lead an athlete to taking them self off the court. If you feel an athlete is using an injury to cope with their doubts, your biggest tool is to be able to recognize, identify, and help them understand how to deal with those fears. A domino effect is simulated when a player carry’s around their stress. When this occurs, the nervous system becomes overloaded with excess anxiety and nervousness and can eventually lead to either a “mental injury” or a true physical injury.
When athletes become injured they begin to deal with a long and often unwanted journey. No matter what your athlete is struggling with, take the time to understand where their pain is stemming from. It is not only your role to coach their technique, but to also be a support system.