Although tennis can be a very physically demanding sport, it’s considered to be more of a mental game. That’ll probably give you an idea on how mentally tough tennis players have to be, especially at a professional level. Today, I’ll like to discuss how, simply, hitting a ball back and forth can boost your brain and mental health!
So, how is playing tennis making you smarter? Different studies indicate that tennis can have multiple mental benefits like improving attention span, increase learning capacity, and decrease stress, among other benefits. Besides, research shows that practicing sports can stimulate brain cells growth, as well as, cranial nerves connections.
Also, based on Gardner’s theory of multiple intelligence, tennis players can enhance their intra-personal, interpersonal, logical and bodily-kinesthetic intelligence on the court.
Keep reading to find out more on how this sport is helping you stay sharp!
Theory of multiple intelligence & tennis
What makes a person smart or intelligent? Being called smart or intelligent can have different connotations. Howard Gardner, an American psychologist, introduced, in 1983, the theory of multiple intelligence. Gardner’s theory consists of the idea that humans can process information in different ways, and that have different intelligence types that are, to a certain degree, independent from each other.
From the more than 7 different types of intelligence that Gardner introduced, at least four can be developed and improve through the game of tennis. These are:
As a tennis player, especially if you participate in competitions or tournaments, you need to understand yourself in different ways. You need to have a sense of your mental strengths and weaknesses to perform well on the court. Besides, it helps you to develop your ability to cope with stress-full situations. If you ever played a tennis tie-break, you know how mentally challenging it can get!
There is a reason why Novak Djokovic said: “Tennis is a mental game, everyone is fit, everyone hits great forehands and backhands …”. In the professional tennis tour, at the end of the day, most players have similar levels of tennis; however, all comes down to their ability to handle their emotions, as well as, adversity on the court.
Playing tennis can help you to develop your social intelligence, which is described as the ability to understand yourself, as well as, others. Before, during and after a tennis game, there are moments where social interaction is encouraged. Especially, between sets, games, or when changing sides.
Since the persons you’ll be socializing could be either your partner (if playing doubles) or your opponent, it’ll help you to get experience and develop your people skills in different social situations. Also, being able to understand your opponent’s emotions allows you to have a more effective game strategy.
Having strong problem-solving skills is essential to be a good tennis player. Many situations can arise during a match, where being able to come with efficient solutions would make the difference between winning or losing a match. Besides, tennis can teach players to plan and execute different strategies, as well as, to make on the spur of the moment decisions. In a tennis point, players need to anticipate their opponent’s action and adjust to them, constantly.
Furthermore, the game requires players to have a good judgment of angles, heights, speed and, to a certain degree, geometry and physics.
Tennis players need to have good general body coordination, especially hand-eye coordination. Also, when playing this sports, players develop a good sense of timing and spacing because they are continually judging the ball back and forth. Furthermore, tennis encourages players to improve their gross and fine motor skills, balance, agility, speed, and strength, among other skills.
Some mental health facts about playing tennis
Below, I’ll discuss some supporting information on how tennis can potentially improve your mental abilities.
- According to the research from Southern Connecticut State University, people who play tennis tend to show higher levels of body & mind strength, positivism, and self-confidence, as well as, lower levels of stress and anxiety compare to most people who practice other sports or don’t practice sports at all.
- Based on scientific research from the University of Illinois, playing tennis could potentially promote additional cranial nerves connections, given that it demands high levels of awareness and strategic thinking. As a result, tennis players can experience continual brain development during their lives.
- In his book, “The exercise habit,” Dr. Jim Gavin explains that tennis, compared to other sports like golf or inline skating, can have more of a positive impact on people’s personality traits.
- According to the USTA, the United States Tennis Associations, studies show that playing tennis frequently can boost brain activity, as well as, enhance memory.
The court, your opponent, and yourself; no one else.
Tennis is, mostly, an individual sport where coaching is very limited or not allowed at all. As a result, this sport can be mentally and emotionally taxing for players, given that they rely only on themselves to make the appropriate decisions on the court. Although too much stress can have detrimental effects on your life, moderate levels of stress can be beneficial for your overall health, especially mental.
According to Daniela Kaufer, Ph.D., a professor at UC Berkeley, temporary and moderate stress could potentially promote the growth of stem cells, generating more brain cells, as well as, neurons. Consequently, improving a person’s awareness, memory, and brain performance.
Tennis, racquet sports, and your brain
According to Dr. John Ratey, a Harvard neuropsychiatry professor, sports and exercises can have multiple benefits in your mental health like improving attention, decreases stress, promotes brain cells growth, boost learning capacity, among others.
And although all sports are beneficial for your brain health, on various occasions, racquet sports can have a more profound effect than doing regular aerobic activities. Dr. Rayet suggests that sports, like tennis, badminton and squash, that simultaneously put the mind and body in intense aerobic situations can be more beneficial for a person’s overall mental health.
Similarities between Tennis and Chess
This sport can be compared, to a certain degree, to chess, which is known as a sport the requires high levels of intelligence to be good at. In both sports, players need to be able to anticipate their opponents’ moves and find ways to outsmart them to be successful. Besides, chess is a game, when played with limited time, forces players to have quick and efficient decision-making skills. Tennis players need to continually make fast decisions on the court, and react to different kinds of ball bounces, speeds, and heights.
All in all
Practicing sports, like tennis, that involves the constant use of your body, as well as, your mind, in multiples ways, can have considerable health benefits in your body, and your brain is not an exception. Although playing tennis will not, directly, help you with your next week exam or work meeting, it can, very well, influence your performance in different aspects of your life. Even if tennis is not for you, try to keep yourself active and to exercise; there are many sports to choose from, that, at least one, will catch your attention.
If you have any other ideas on how tennis can be making you smarter, or don’t agree with the information presented above, please let us know on the comment section.