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David Smith, Senior Editor TennisOne
Disney's Dory, of finding Nemo, may have been a bit ditzy, but tennis players could learn a lot from her.
When ditzy Dory told Marlin, the tentative and overly cautious father of Nemo in the movie "Finding Nemo," to “just keep swimming,” she was focusing not on the small minutia of all the problems that faced Marlin in locating Nemo; she was emphasizing the act of not quitting.
In tennis, players often are subjective creatures, always criticizing themselves when a shot does not behave in the manner in which they hope or expect. Often, when a shot is hit into the net or out, the immediate subjective response is, “Ohhh, crap,” (or something to that effect!). Or, even when players reach for an objective retort, they often err in their evaluation. That is, they might hit a ball in the tape and think that they did something wrong mechanically, usually looking for some flaw in their stroke.
I will often test this theory in clinics and lessons. After a player missed a shot, usually one that was only out by a few inches or in the net tape, I will ask, “What did you do wrong?” The player almost always will say something about the grip, swing path, footwork, or follow-through. “I think I took too big of a backswing,” or, “I didn’t brush up enough” or “My follow-through was weird.” Get the picture?
Yet, in many cases, the stroke was just fine. It's just that the student didn’t aim two inches higher! Had the player hit the ball into the court in the desired direction, I could ask the same question, “What was wrong with that?” And the student, of course, would probably answer, “Nothing. It went in.”
You can see how result-driven we can become as tennis players. And these results dictate our level of confidence and, as such, affect the way we hit subsequent tennis balls.
When Michael Jordan was having a bad night of shooting basketballs, he never quit shooting. He kept putting the ball up over and over with the belief that he could hit ten in a row at any given moment.
Magic Johnson was asked after missing a wild, last second shot to tie the game whether he really expected the ball to go in. Magic's response, "I expect them all to go it." Great players of any sport perform with this same confidence: they expect great things.
Obviously, we don’t all have the grace and athleticism of a Michael Jordan, a Tiger Woods, or a Roger Federer. However, I have trained enough ordinary individuals and I believe the vast majority of them can indeed reach and succeed at high levels of play. The problem with the many who never reach these levels is, quite frankly, themselves! Too often, we let our emotions dictate our play and we start swinging with the utmost care and tentativeness. Out of fear, we avoid shots that we should be attempting and we become the dreaded “dinker” we wanted to avoid being at all costs.
We don’t all have the grace and athleticism of a Michael Jordan, a Tiger Woods, or a Roger Federer, but we can all reach and succeed at high levels of play.
This does not mean we have to swing big on each and every shot. However, we need to learn to trust ourselves and let our abilities emerge. Timothy Gallwey’s book, "The Inner Game of Tennis," delved into the concept with Gallwey’s discussion about “Self One” and “Self Two,” with Self One being the talker, the subjective evaluator and Self Two being the “Doer,” the part of us that does things without much conscious thought. Self One is the one who trash-talks, saying things like, “You are terrible; you choke on every point.” Self two is the one that executes our movements without subjective appraisal.
The point here is that Gallwey, and many others since, have identified that these subjective evaluations diminish our confidence and begin to affect our performance.
While the learning processes of tennis are always part of the game, we must not let our inner critic undermine what we are capable of achieving. That can prohibit us from playing well within our current abilities.
There are many articles on “mental tennis” in TennisOne Lesson Library designed to help students do just that: play the quality of tennis we are all capable of.
Check some of these out and see if you can learn to go out and be like Marlin who, thanks to Dory, learns to trust his instincts…even if her accurate wisdom comes from an inaccurate mind!
(Click link to purchase Dave Smith's Book Tennis Mastery, at tenniswarehouse.com.)
As always, we would love to hear from you! Questions, comments, personal experiences all create helpful dialogue for everyone! Please click here to send us your email.
Sequencing the Knees – When to “Fire”
Bend your knees. Use your legs. We hear these phrases all the time. Generally coaches implore students to get down to the ball, to achieve an athletic ready position, or simply to get a feel for using the ground to power forehands, backhands, and serves. However, Jim McLennan believes that at both the professional and recreational levels, sequencing and rhythm are more important than depth and the explosiveness derived from first bending and then extending the knees. So at the end of the day, effective use of the knees has more to do with the "when" rather than the "how much."
Nothing feels better on the doubles court than anticipating an opponent’s return, moving across the net, and drilling a volley right between the legs of their helpless partner. Poaching is a fabulous way to take opposing teams out of their rhythm yet, for many players, it’s a scary proposition. All too often when Greg Moran watches doubles, he sees two players on the baseline exchanging ground strokes while their partners remain virtually motionless at the net. This is not doubles! It’s singles with two statues taking up space..
ProStrokes Gallery - Guillermo Canas' Serve
This 29 year old veteran from Argentina, playing in his twelfth year on the tour, stunned the world with back to back victories over Roger Federer at the ATP Masters Series in Indian Wells and then again at the ATP Masters Series in Miami. In 2007, Canas also had wins over Gasquet, Nalbandian, Robredo, and Djokovic. With a big forehand, excellent movement, and great court sense, the Big Guy is fearless, with results to back it up. He plays an aggressive retrieving game and has the quickness and conditioning to run down just about any ball. Check out Guillermo Canas' strokes in the TennisOne Prostrokes Gallery. New this issue, the Canas Serve.
The Etcheberry Experience DVD
For more than twenty years Pat Etcheberry has been providing athletes from around the world with the winning edge. We call this the Etcheberry Experience, and players with an Etcheberry experience have hoisted Championship Trophies at over one hundred major championships, including 28 Australian Opens, 18 Wimbledons, 22 UP Opens, 22 French Opens and 15 Olympic medals.
And now it's your turn! This is your chance to experience the same drills, exercises and words of tennis wisdom that Pat gave to Pete Sampras, Andre Agassi, Jennifer Capriati, Martina Hingis, Jim Courier, Justine Henin-Hardenne, and others, that helped launch them on their incredible careers. For the first time, Pat Etcheberry shares his training secrets in a series of DVDs for players of all ages, their coaches, and trainers.
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