Tip of the week: attitude to errors

What is your reaction to an error? How do you deal with adversity? What happens to you when things don’t go the way you want?

These are all interesting questions that each and everyone one of us needs to ask ourselves if we want to grow through self-awareness. The ONLY way to really know the answer to these questions is by watching ourselves as we are in those situations.

For some players, there are a lot of strong emotions arising from these situations. Why is that? Is it a choice? It just doesn’t look like fun. Why do we torture ourselves?

Surely no one would make this choice. If that is true then why do these strong emotional reactions occur?

One of the reasons could be that deep down there is a ‘feeling’ that I ‘should’ not have missed that ball.

The word ‘should’ implies control and a choice, but my feeling is that there is no control. When we swing freely there is some uncertainty in the outcome of the shot. It is important to acknowledge that uncertainty. That recognition that we don’t have total control of where the ball ends up can help us live with failure and adversity, but if we truly believe we have total control, then mistakes will certainly be very difficult to swallow.

It is no fun being a perfectionist!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tip of the week: what sort of competitor are you?

There seem to be two extreme types of competitors and it is important to understand yourself and know where along the continuum you lie. Once you know what you are comfortable with, then I would encourage you to explore the ‘dark’ side; the side you are least confident about, by putting yourself in the situation that is most uncomfortable.

I have coached a few players who loved to compete and felt very little nerves. No matter what the situation, they would be up for a challenge and the bigger the stage, the more excited they would become. I feel this condition is far less common among tennis players.

On the other side of the spectrum, there lies the vast majority of players. Most of these players feel at least a little threatened when competition happens.

The interesting thing is that the people who love to compete, struggle practicing. They are bored hitting the same ball over and over again, seemingly without purpose and with nothing to gain from it. They struggle with the discipline necessary to succeed.

Conversely, the players who struggle with competition, love to practice. Training and running is not threatening for them and so it is something they can put a lot of energy into. More energy than usual, because they feel a little guilty about getting tight and therefore try and compensate by putting greater effort into practice. However, this will not help them play fear-free.

We are all conditioned and have our ‘tendencies’, once we understand this, it will become obvious that our ‘choices’ are really not choices at all. Our ‘choices’ keep us in our comfort zone. For growth to happen, we will need to get outside our comfort zone by going against our ‘choices’.

How important is growth to you?

Tip of the week: are you having fun?

When I was coaching at pro tournaments a few years back, players would come up to me periodically and say, ‘I know you are into the mental side of the game, can you help me?’ I invariably would begin by asking them why they played tennis. They would always answer in the same way, ‘ because I love it!”

My response was always also the same. No you don’t! I have seen you play and there seems to be little joy in you after you miss a ball or when you lose a match.

Is there a joyfulness or playfulness in the actual playing? For many, many people the answer is clearly, no!

And this is true not just on the tennis court, but also in Life.

This is particularly interesting in the light of recent statements by Nick Kyrgios who said that he did not enjoy playing tennis; an echo of Agassi’s statements in his book ‘Open’.

Many people are shocked by these statements? How is it possible to be so good at something and yet dislike it? I feel these men are not aberrations, but just honest and in touch with themselves a little more than others.

How many more people are there playing this game, no where near as good as Kyrgios and Agassi, also not enjoying their time on the court? Probably a lot!

Why do they do it?

I urge you to look at your motivations for playing. Not from the words that come out of your mouth, but from watching and being alert to the feelings that are arising within as you play.

You don’t need anyone to tell you anything. Just watch and be honest with yourself.

Don’t make a goal or try to ‘teach’ yourself to play for the ‘right’ motivation. Just bring some awareness to what is there now. Why do you play tennis or do anything in your life?

Just to raise awareness of who you are and what is driving you could be the beginning of your own personal spiritual journey. And that road will be revealed to you as you bring in more light.

Explore, experiment and enjoy!

 

 

Tip of the week: Are you running blind?

This tip is largely for club players, but applicable to anyone who has the need and sees the value.

When you are competing, do you often feel rushed? Do you feel that you are too slow or do not have enough time to get to the ball?

Often, when this is the inner dialogue, the feet start moving towards the ball before the hands ‘see’ the ball.

This results in the body moving blind to the ball because the hands are the eyes of the body.

What is your first move? Everyone says ‘watch the ball’, but far more important, is to see what is your physical reaction to this watching. Is it the feet or the hands? Or do you just freeze and ‘watch’ for a few seconds.

Are you taking time away from yourself?

Either way, if you follow the ball with your hands immediately it is hit by your opponent, you will find so much time that you will have to wait for the ball.

Enjoy, explore, experiment!

 

 

Tip of the week: the body mind connection

The wisest amongst us have told us that the body and mind are connected. That they are one.

Is that true? Let us explore!

In my observations it seems that what happens on the tennis court is that our inner dialogue and constant chatter affects the body in a big way.

I would encourage you to explore this because I feel it is happening on almost every shot.

For club players, if there is a desire to hit in a certain direction, the arm seems to go there.

For all players, if there is a ‘fear’ the ball is going out the hand will turn down or slow up; if the fear is that the ball will go into the net, the hand will automatically go up. Continue reading “Tip of the week: the body mind connection”

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”