December tip of the month: Why do you play tennis?


Wholistic tennis, in my ever-evolving understanding of the term, involves raising awareness of the individual playing the game and not just the game itself.

Who you are determines how you play. For example, if there is a desire for control within, as is the case for me, it will be reflected in technique and the way the game is played at every turn. To not address the root cause and still expect change will be difficult to do.

Great technique is not difficult; it is simply moving and doing things naturally. It seems to me, poor technique is what emerges during the struggle between the body and the mind or ego.

May I be so bold as to suggest that most of us are engaged in this struggle, some of us are aware of it and some of us may not be?

Although forehands and backhands may look the same, especially at the higher levels, closer examination will reveal subtle differences. Why? My understanding is, that these differences reflect the uniqueness of each person.

Having said that, how do we know when differences are personal statements of our individuality or faulty technique? How do we know when to honor our uniqueness, as opposed to copying others, and when to change something that is simply ‘wrong’?

I guess, the first thing to do is to simply ask yourself the question ’is this working?’ Now this question is not as simple as it sounds. What does ‘working’ mean? For me, working cannot just mean, does the ball stay in the court?

I could open my racket face and push every ball over the net pretty consistently, albeit without a lot of pace. For me, that would not be considered working!

Yes, a prerequisite is that the ball must stay in the court, but it cannot be limited to that. You must also feel comfortable. If you have a feeling of holding back, of not fully and boldly expressing yourself as you hit the ball then the criteria of working is not being met, in my opinion.

I know, many people will disagree with my definition of ‘working’. Many players are satisfied if the ball goes over the net and doubly so if the point is won, and I understand that and am not saying there is nothing wrong with that. If the goal is winning then yes this definition does make complete sense, however, if you are looking for something different then, yes, perhaps there is an alternative.

Certainly. There is something very challenging in competition that also helps us understand ourselves better. It is a battle for survival and as such it also highlights the struggle, which exists within all of us. This battle is more primal and I think we can all relate to it at some level. There is growth in exploring this also.

However, if you are curious about Life in general, who you are and your relationship to the world in particular, and other such issues, then playing tennis affords us many opportunities to indulge these questions through exploration of our inner process during both practice and competition.

Certainly, the journey towards doing anything boldly without fear is a difficult one. Not only because of the inherent challenges of the ‘game’ or activity itself, great as they be, but because one has to courageously explore oneself, one’s patterns of behaviour and tendencies, and see how they are being used to escape from that which is difficult for us to face.

If we can recognize and face these patterns, without any attempts to fix or solve them, which we will only be able to do if we don’t judge them, technique and more importantly, rhythm, can automatically change all by itself.

Direct attempts at changing technique if the cause of the poor technique is the body’s response to fear or uncertainty will ultimately fail. For example, so many club players do not accelerate through contact or have a full follow through. Why is that? Is it because they do not ‘know’ where the racket should finish? Or is it a lack of trust or a desire for control?

If it is the latter, then all the cajoling and instruction to ‘finish’ the swing will be fruitless; perhaps, not in practice, but certainly in competition.

Enjoy the journey,

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