TennisONE, May 1, 2003
"Building the Modern Forehand," John Yandell
"In Your Mind's Eye," by Jim Loehr
ProStrokes: Justine Henin-Hardenne's Return and Net Game
To the TennisONE Community
To think or not to think, that is the question. Whether it is smarter to think about a match in advance, or not to think, and bear whatever winners and errors outrageous fortune sends your way.
USTA league play has begun, and it's the time of the queasy stomach and the sweaty palms. We all have our ways of dealing with the pressure of an upcoming match, but I contend that all these different approaches fall into two general buckets: thinking and not thinking.
Ironically, the not-thinking crowd actually has several theories about why not-thinking is superior to thinking. First, the non-thinkers believe that thinking about a match in advance makes them more nervous and tentative during the match. This belief is well-founded in their experience. They know if they're worried or thinking about double-faulting as they approach the baseline to hit their second serve, the likelihood of actually double-faulting seems to increase dramatically. Fair enough.
The second major theory of the non-thinking school of tennis is that the way to avoid the dreaded disease of mental fragility is to completely vacate the mental world. You can almost hear a Bob Marley reggae tune in the background as they tell themselves, "Go with the flow," "let it loose," and "let it roll, baby." Ah, everyone would like to think of themselves bobbing through life to a Bob Marley tune, casually dispensing "no-worries" advice to the uptight crowd.
The third major theory of non-thinkers is a firm belief that tennis should be fun, not work. Hours of mental preparation before a match feels a lot like work to most. Okay, score another one for the non-thinkers: everyone is in favor of fun.
Finally, the last major foundation of non-thinkers is a slight moral superiority over those who do think too much. Those who think too much, they contend, care too much about tennis. They obviously have their priorities screwed up. They should be putting family and their real work ahead of their preparation for this recreational sport called tennis. Hey, who's going to argue against the Puritan work ethic or family values?
As my tennis partners will readily attest, I've choked during games and matches using both the think and not-think approaches. However, after learning how to prepare for tennis matches from some of the best tennis minds in the business, I come down on the side of the think crowd (and I don't even own a Macintosh). Thinking is neither good nor bad, it's how you think that makes the difference. Think negatively, anticipate and foreshadow playing tight, relive your worst moments on the court, and sure, thinking is going to do you in every time.
So do we have to learn how to think? Yes, that's exactly what the experts say. To play your best tennis, you need to change your negative thinking into positive reinforcement. Are you going to have to spend more energy to do this? I wish I could say the answer is no. But I do think it takes some extra level of energy to redirect the lazy level of anxious energy you're going to spend anyway (even if it's subconsciously) into a more positive mental outlook.
Perhaps you're still firmly resolved to be a non-thinker. I say fine, but I would challenge you to give thinking a try for a few weeks. Read the following articles, and see if you can implement a few of the ideas on court over next two weeks (you need to login as a TennisONE member to see these). If after two weeks of this you still consider thinking counter-productive, by all means, continue to live in the no-think zone.
Forward this email to your non-thinking tennis friends. And well before you walk on court: THINK.
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"Building the Modern Forehand," John
Your potential in tennis is directly tied to how you see yourself inside your own mind. In the final article in this powerful series, Jim Loehr explains how our negative images set limits on performance, and how you can eliminate this barrier by replacing them with positive ones instead.
Exclusively on TennisONE
In addition to her fabulous backhand, Justine Henin has one of the most creative all court games in tennis. This month we present her returns, and her net game, including multiple attacking sequences. See how Henin gets to the net and wins points from everywhere on the court!