June tip of the week, #4: What is confidence?

A confident player, it seems, is someone who talks trash and ‘feels’ unbeatable. A common phrase and my ‘favourite’….NOT, used amongst many sports psychologists is ‘fake it until you make it’!

But what is ‘real’ confidence? Is it a belief that ‘I am the best’ or ‘I know I can do it’? Or is it something else?

The problem is that if confidence is the belief I am the best or I can do, how long can you fool yourself when you become aware that those statements are obviously untrue?

It seems to me; a really confident player is someone who faces adversity without getting discouraged or giving up in any subtle or overt manner.

On the tennis court, players’ moods all too often seem to be based on their perception of how well they are playing. So, if they are winning or playing well, they are ‘confident’, if they are losing or playing poorly, they are angry, frustrated and ready to throw in the towel.

For me, a confident player is someone who misses a shot and turns around and is ready to play the next point without much inner movement. It is not something you can fake.

Of course, you can ‘force’ yourself to not shout or scream or show any outward emotion, but that will not change your inner experience. If your inner experience does not change, no growth happens in you.

What is your reaction to an error or a ‘bad’ day?

Just watch that inner experience without judging it or trying to suppress or escape from it in anyway.

To fully live the experience will take you on your journey towards freedom!

See what happens!



June tip of the week #3: Do you struggle competing against opponents ‘weaker’ than yourself?

First of all, I don’t think it is a good idea to judge opponents as weaker or stronger. It is one thing to evaluate someone’s game and develop a plan, but quite another to go into a match with expectations of winning or losing because the opponent is a ‘better’ player or someone you ‘should’ beat.

None of this dialogue is helpful, however, the mind is the mind and that’s what it does. So what can we do? We can take the ‘fight’ to the body and move it away from the mind.

Let us examine what happens to your body and performance when expectations arise. If we can see how what the body does changes we can keep it real, but if we try and deal with this symptom with mind-stuff, nothing will change. Is that not your experience? Has trying to change your ‘mind-set’ ever worked for you on the long-term?

Let us begin with the premise that I shared with you last week that every shot requires a certain amount of risk. You cannot be sure of the outcome or result until afterwards and certainly, not before you hit the ball or wind up for a swing. This requires a certain cavalier attitude, a certain amount of risk-taking.

Can you see that? Is that your experience?

If that is true, then it is easy to see that when we play against someone whom we feel we ‘should’ beat, it becomes harder to take a risk. We develop a more defensive attitude because why take a ‘chance’ when we are playing someone who is ‘weaker’ than us? Surely, all we have to do is to just play ‘safe’ and make sure the ball goes in?

This attitude results in the body swinging differently, maybe the swing slows down; perhaps the contact is a little late because we are not moving forward as we would naturally do if we ‘going after’ the ball( in other words, we are not fully committed to the swing). There are other ‘symptoms that can arise in this situation, but that is all they are, symptoms. What symptoms arise for you?

Similarly, the opposite is also true. When we play someone ‘stronger’ than us, whom we ‘expect’ to lose to. Then risk becomes easy to take because we feel we have ‘nothing to lose’ so what the heck, let’s just go for it.

What is missing is the understanding that regardless of whom ever we are playing risk is involved. That feeling of not knowing and ‘don’t care type of attitude’ has to exist regardless of the opponent.

It is an uneasy feeling that we need to get comfortable with.

Play around with this. See what happens?



June tip of the week #2: living with uncertainty

Every shot in tennis requires some trust.

You cannot be sure the ball is going to stay in the court, or even if you will make good contact with the ball.

Do you agree?

The body language of many players clearly reveals they do not. It is one thing to be disappointed at a certain outcome, but it is entirely another when anger and frustration take over because we ‘should’ have made a particular shot.

When we get ready to serve, can we guarantee the ball will go in? Can the future ever be 100% predictable? Of course, we may want the ball to do as we desire, but the fact that it not always does, proves that we do not entirely have control. There may be many reasons why we miss, but that is not the issue. The point is there is some sense of uncertainty as we swing away, even if our technique is normally sound. Continue reading “June tip of the week #2: living with uncertainty”

June tip of the month #1: Do you trust the body?

Every year for the past 21 years, our Wholistic Tennis Academy has given away and sold t-shirts with a saying on the back. This year’s message is ‘Trust the body’.

Tennis is a game played by the body, so why is it so hard to trust the body? Can we learn to be more trusting?

The reality is that we don’t trust. That’s my reality at least, at times. The first thing is for you to see what exists in you now. Do you trust the body? Can you swing freely without fear of consequence? At those moments you cannot, what is going on?

If not, there is no need to talk about trust (since that is not our experience because we know nothing about it. It just happens.), we need, instead, to talk about what is our individual experience. If trust is not there, what is? Continue reading “June tip of the month #1: Do you trust the body?”

May tip of the month: wholistic teaching

More and more, division and compartmentalizing seems to be the order of the day in all fields. It is clearly true of the medical profession and it is becoming true in tennis where specialist technical, tactical, fitness and mental ‘gurus’ are emerging everywhere.

However, it seems to me that everything is connected and to divide is to miss. Continue reading “May tip of the month: wholistic teaching”

April tip of the month: dis-identification

Do you get on an emotional roller-coaster that is the mind when you play tennis and compete?  It would seem that we are ALL on this roller coaster; it is a shared human experience.  Some of us are very vocal during our experience and others may keep it under tabs, but if we are alert to our inner happenings we will see that this roller coaster is taking us all for a ride!  Continue reading “April tip of the month: dis-identification”

March tip of the month: Effortless Effort or Relaxed Intensity

The zen tradition has many paradoxes, one that is very relevant to tennis is ‘Effortless effort’ or what I like to call Relaxed Intensity.

What do you think that means? Have you ever experienced it?

Effort denotes some sort of trying, while the word effortless is the opposite. To use both words together is to explore the mid-point between the two. Continue reading “March tip of the month: Effortless Effort or Relaxed Intensity”

February tip of the month: is tennis an arm sport?


February Tip of the month: Is tennis an arm game?

This tip is more for club players, but it can be relevant to any level of player because it reinforces fundamentals. In addition, if your game breaks down at crucial times during competition because of nerves this tip can also be helpful to you.

Look around at your local tennis club and you will see that one of the biggest ‘problems’ players have is that they do not finish their swings. It is possible for coaches to spend hours and even years screaming out ‘finish the stroke’ (I know, I’ve been there!), without any success. The reason why the reminding doesn’t work is because, although this looks like a simple technical issue, it is not! Continue reading “February tip of the month: is tennis an arm sport?”

Jan 2016: tip of the month: comfort vs winning


What do we really want from playing tennis?

Of course, the immediate response is that we want to win, but is that the most important thing?

When I look around at club players and even some very good junior and college players, I see many players who have managed their game in a manner in which they can be successful, but the strokes look awkward and the body is not at ease. Continue reading “Jan 2016: tip of the month: comfort vs winning”

Competition: the battle between the mind and body

The battle is between the desire to control and the ability to trust. The mind is about control and the body requires trust. The desire for control is usually so great that the mind takes over and trust evaporates.

The mind is constantly giving instructions, judging, cajoling, chastising, etc., and is not willing to trust the immense intelligence of the body.

Continue reading “Competition: the battle between the mind and body”