The Right Mindset

By Alba Cortina Pou

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Be positive. Believe in yourself. Work hard.

Through the sport of tennis, I learned the importance of these core values and why the right mindset not only matters in sports but in other areas of life as well.

Tennis, by default, is a very mental sport. For the most part, it’s just you and the person on the other side.

If you have a bad day, it’s hard to really blame anyone else except for yourself. You have to figure out a way to dig deep and beat your opponent — no matter the score, no matter the circumstances. 

If you like the nature of being in control in sports, tennis might just be the right one for you.

It’s definitely one of the many reasons I fell for the sport.

The Best Supporters And Teachers

I grew up in Spain and in a very active family. Both my parents were athletes which definitely had a big impact on my own development.

To this day, I can’t express how grateful I am for all of the sacrifices they made for the sake of my athletic ambitions.

Just thinking about the time, for example, that they invested to drive me to practices and tournaments all over the country… uncountable.

Also, my sister, who is four years younger, joined and cheered for me at every single tournament. And she never complained about it. I mean, that’s not the norm, right?!

Seriously, I’m beyond fortunate having grown up in such a loving, caring, and supportive family.

My parents also taught me very valuable lessons.

One in particular that shaped me from the get-go was the ‘don’t throw your racquet’ kind of lesson that arguably most tennis players are familiar with.

In my first-ever match, they warned me that if they ever saw me throw my racquet, they’d take me off the court.

And well, so I did. I kept my racquet in my hands at all times, which is harder than you think.

So, from the time that I was a teenager, I learned how to cope with my frustrations differently. And, without a doubt, this had a positive influence on my mental game.

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To this day, I can’t express how grateful I am for all of the sacrifices they made for the sake of my athletic ambitions.

Taking It Up A Notch

Once I reached a point where tennis was more than just a hobby, we all decided that it’d best for me to move to Barcelona to be closer to my coaches and better practice partners.

It was only an hour away from home, but living apart from your family is a tough pill to swallow for a teenager.

It was during this time that I really grew a thick skin and learned how to be more independent. Another trait that really benefited my mental game.

As my results kept getting better and better, I was soon attracting the attention of college coaches. I was somewhat familiar with the system as I had a handful of friends that went the college sports route.

Still, moving thousands of miles away seemed daunting. After all, mom and dad would not be a quick car ride away anymore.

But in the end, my decision to go to the United States was the only logical one.

You see, it’s very hard to combine education and sports in Spain after high school. Most of the time, you have to decide for either or. And since I wasn’t willing to make such a compromise, college sports in the US was the only reasonable decision.

So, I signed with Texas Tech, packed my bags, and off I went…

The Community

The transition to the US wasn’t super easy, not going to lie. To this day, I miss food from back home, for example. But, that’s a different story…

Texas Tech was a great school and I enjoyed my time there, but due to a variety of circumstances, it was time for something new.

And that’s what brought me to the University of Alabama. As soon as I stepped foot on campus in Tuscaloosa, I knew I was meant to be there.

Don’t ask me how, but in some ways, it even reminded me a bit of home.

The best thing about Alabama is the community. The level of support we receive from fans and the entire athletic department is hard to put in words. 

Also, the sense of community and belonging within the tennis team is such a blessing.

One moment in particular that really exemplified this for me was the moment we took down Florida on their home courts for the first time in school history in April of 2019.

It all came down to my match. Clinching this historic battle for the Crimson Tide made me feel like I was on top of the world.

And the best part about it was sharing it with my teammates and coaches. This bond, those relationships… so amazing!

A Strong Mental Game

Now, obviously, I was very nervous when I knew the entire match would be determined by my singles. To this day, I believe that my nerves and mindset have won this match for us.

I mean, I don’t know if my parents telling me not to throw a racquet in my first-ever tennis match, moving to Barcelona, or going through the adversity of adjusting to a new culture turned me into a mentally strong competitor, but I do know that all of these experiences helped me in this match.

Oh, and obviously music.

Little side note about me…

One way I’m coping with my nerves before matches is playing the ukulele, piano, or keyboard. Music means the world to me and has always been great for channeling some of my emotions.

Looking Ahead

With my last season right around the corner, my motivation is at an all-time high.

I’m not putting a lot of pressure on my or my team’s shoulders as I know we have everything we need to play a historic season.

No matter what happens these next few months and after I graduate in May, I’ll forever be grateful for the memories and lessons the sport of tennis has brought me.

Until then, Roll Tide Roll!

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