Ben Ratner's photo of Chuck Nice and Gary O'Reilly, hosts of Playing with Science.
Ben Ratner's photo of Chuck Nice and Gary O'Reilly, hosts of Playing with Science.

The Tennis Brain: Strategy, Analytics, Mental Game

Tennis anyone? Credit: Ben Ratner.

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About This Episode

“If you don’t train your brain, you ain’t got no game”. On this episode of Playing with Science, hosts Gary O’Reilly and Chuck Nice investigate tennis brain and the strategy, analytics, and neuroscience that go into succeeding on the court. Chuck and Gary are joined by a trio of the top tennis experts, and to start things off they welcome Craig O’Shannessy, one of the top tennis strategy analysts in the world. Craig tells us the impact that analytics and big data have had on the sport of tennis as it entered the “Moneyball” era in 2015. Learn more about the surprising lack of analytics in the sport before 1991. You’ll find out how Craig develops strategies with players based on strategy platforms and the four main elements that happen during a point on the court. Go behind-the-scenes as Craig tells us how he developed a strategy with Dustin Brown, who then defeated Rafael Nadal at Wimbledon in a stunning upset. Next, Leslie Sherlin, sport psychologist and mental performance consultant, joins Chuck and Gary to discuss how tennis athletes prepare for the mental side of the game. You’ll hear how Leslie helps athletes train and condition their brains just like they would train and condition their bodies. We discuss how the advancements in technology are allowing us to get into the moment of sport rather than study sport from a lab. Leslie explains how he trains athletes to be flexible with their mental state in order to pinpoint high mental performance and focus at the right moments on the court. You’ll also hear how Leslie can study the brain waves of a player and show them what it looks like when they’re performing well. Discover how he trains athletes by having them use their brains to power a computer-generated car. Lastly, we hear from professional tennis coach Sarah Stone. Sarah tells us what it’s like to work with athletes from a young age and why emphasizing fun is the key point to training junior players. She also predicts who might be the next Serena Williams and why we should be looking at slightly older players as the ones who are the next generation of superstars. All that, plus, she tells us how the WTA is helping coaches expand their knowledge, which in turn helps players take their game to the next level.

NOTE: All-Access subscribers can watch or listen to this entire episode commercial-free here: The Tennis Brain: Strategy, Analytics, Mental Game.

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