After defeating Trinity 7-2, Connecticut College 9-0 and University of Southern Maine 9-0 this past weekend, the men’s tennis team improved to 12-1 overall following their ninth win in a row. The team is having an impressive season with an end goal of making it to the NESCAC Championships in May. Since Covid-19 interrupted their last two seasons, most of the small team hasn’t played at the college level before, making their current winning streak even more admirable.
The secret to their success? Mindfulness.
When it comes to athletic performance, the team values mental exercise just as much as physical exercise. This season, Head Coach Conor Smith has introduced several new techniques to raise the level of the team’s game. In addition to attending practices, the players read a book every semester as a group to help them with their mindset on the court.
This semester, they are reading and discussing George Mumford’s “The Mindful Athlete,” which contributes to the theme of mindfulness practiced by the players.
“We would go through one chapter of the book, talk about it, and discuss for ten or fifteen minutes before each practice,” captain Ethan Bradley ’24 said. “It was a great way to regroup and get focused.”
Before practices, in addition to discussing their reading, the team meditates together for ten minutes using the popular mindfulness app Headspace, which offers a program designed for athletics. The team uses meditation to stay present, positive and mentally sharp throughout their matches.
“It’s about learning how to be mindful, and how to use mindfulness to our advantage on the tennis court.” Pieter Breuker ’25 said. “It definitely helps to give us an advantage over other teams. We’ve seen that for sure. Other teams often don’t have the ability to be really tough when things aren’t going their way. It takes a lot to get through those long matches.”
The team’s ritual of mental as well as physical strengthening proved to be a catalyst for success following a string of wins over historically tough teams, such as Amherst College and Emory University.
Breuker cites their mindfulness practice as their reason for success against Emory in March.
“I went to a third set and everyone was focusing on that one match, and there was the spotlight and the pressure,” Breuker said. “But it all went back to focusing on the little things, relying on our mindfulness training and edging the other guy out.”
Following Breuker’s match win, the Polar Bears secured a 5-4 victory over Emory. Since then, the team has won eight straight matches and are confident about the remainder of the season.
“I think we all have the ability to go as far as we’re willing to push ourselves,” co-captain Evan Fortier ’22 said.
This Saturday, the team will travel to Medford, Massachusetts in a face off against Tufts University.