Serious Tennis Players: To Grunt, or Not to Grunt?

By Dr. Jack Singer

Russian Kremlin CupIf you’ve watched serious tennis players, from 12 year olds to pros, you’ve seen this phenomenon.  One or both players grunt, moan, or make guttural sounds just when they make contact with the ball. Coaches often suggest that their players grunt when making contact in order to expel air completely, helping them to relax.  But, do you think a coach might suggest that his student grunt for another reason? 

A University of Hawaii at Mānoa researcher has studied the impact of these grunts and come up with some surprising findings. Scott Sinnett, assistant psychology professor at the University of Hawaii at Mānoa, has co-authored a study on the potential detrimental effect that noise has on shot perception during a tennis match. 

Sinnett’s work appears in the October 1 online issue of PLoS ONE, published by the Public Library of Science. He co-authored the study with Alan Kingstone, psychology professor at the University of British Columbia, to determine if it is reasonable to conclude that a tennis grunt interferes with an opponent’s performance.  Read the study here.

These researchers discovered that the extraneous sound resulted in significantly slower response times, and significantly more decision errors, confirming that both response time and accuracy are negatively affected by the grunting from ones’ opponent. 

So, there is perhaps a method to this madness.   The grunting can obviously distract the opponent as she prepares to make contact.  This suggests that coaches and Sport Psychologists need to prepare their charges for the grunting by teaching them techniques to ignore the grunting and stay focused on their own game.

Free 20 Minute Telephone Consultation with Psychologist Dr. Jack Singer

I am also available for phone consultations with athletes around the U.S. and in-person visits with athletes in Southern California. Call today toll free at 1-800-497-9880 for a free 20 minute telephone consultation with Dr. Jack Singer.

Jack N. Singer, Ph.D.
Certified and Licensed Sport and Clinical Psychologist
Diplomate, National Institute of Sports Professionals, Division of Psychologists
Diplomate, American Academy of Behavioral Medicine
Certified Hypnotherapist, American Academy of Clinical Hypnosis

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