Serena Williams’ Mental Technique Can Turn Anyone Into a Winner

Serena Williams is one of the most recognizable figures in modern sports. For over twenty years, she has been the face of women’s tennis, and even in her twilight years as a professional, she’s still among the best in the entire sport. Lots of hard work and dedication went into allowing Williams to get where she is, but her tips on thriving when the pressure is on might help explain why she can perform on the largest stages. 

Serena Williams on the court

Williams is as passionate an athlete that any fan will ever see. Those who have watched her know that she is not one to wear her heart on her sleeve. If things aren’t going her way, she is prone to scream and show visual frustration across her face. Despite this, Williams also has a knack for thriving when the pressure is on, even when the outside noise is getting to be too much. 

Nobody is perfect, and Williams certainly has had times where she melted down both at herself and officials. However, with a resume like hers, Williams’ downfalls are simply louder than most, not more frequent. Williams is a master of the mental game of tennis as well as the physical game. She notoriously works around the clock to get where she is, and that doesn’t just mean on the court

Williams was hoisted into the spotlight when she was just a child. As such, she often had to learn on the fly and figure what will help her get through every match as she rose her way to greatness. She has spoken about her methods of drowning out the world throughout her career. 

Serena Williams looking off camera
Serena Williams | Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

Quiet Eye

Even when Williams is notably shaken, she has a knack for correcting and playing some of her most relentless tennis with her back against the wall. Part of this, according to her, has to do with the “quiet eye.” The quiet eye, according to the BBC, is a type of visual perception that allows an athlete to mentally eliminate any distractions on their way.

During times of stress, this can be what saves an athlete from going down in flames. The ability to perform when things are not going their way is key to almost every superstar athlete in every sport. Those who can perform in even the most stressful situations are said to have a grasp of their quiet eye, and Williams is no exception. 

“There is a small window of opportunity for the motor system to receive information from the eyes,” said Sam Vine at the University of Exeter (per BBC). “And experts have found a better way to optimize that window and to keep that window [open], which helps their movements to be really accurate and really precise.”

How does Serena Williams use this?

Williams has been open about her belief that tennis matches are won with the mental side more than the physical side, and without talking about the quiet eye by name, she explained her process of drowning everything out. 

“I’ve won most of my matches – probably all of my grand slams – because of what’s upstairs, not anything else,” Williams said (per BBC). “If you are behind in a game, it’s so important to relax, and that’s what I do – when I’m behind in a game, that’s when I become most relaxed. Just focus on one point at a time… just that sole point, and then the next one, and the next one.”

According to Inc., the quiet eye technique can be self-taught. To do so, people are developing technology and using home methods to work on how their eyes move. The key is focus. Being able to see what you want to see and drowning everything out. To train one’s eye to accomplish this requires control of eye movements and the reflexes to keep from getting distracted. 

Likely, there will never be another Serena Williams. However, by learning her techniques people can begin to see why she was so good and try to emulate it in their everyday lives. This is the power of the quiet eye.