May tip of the month: Ready position

Wednesday, May 6th, 2015

Changing our terminology may help us play better tennis by giving us a better understanding of what the hands should do to better hit the ball and thereby improve the rhythm of our swing.

 Normally, the ready position is the neutral position we are in while waiting to see if the ball comes on our forehand or backhand side.  Let us call this neutral position the ‘waiting position’ instead.

 So while receiving serve, for example, we are in a ‘waiting’ position as our opponent prepares to serve.  As soon as we recognize that the ball is coming to our forehand or backhand side, we move to the ‘ready’ position.  Our ready position would be with the racket to one side as we prepare to hit the ball.  Since we are getting ready to hit the ball, this should be called the real ready position.

 This will help us understand that as soon as we recognize where the ball is coming, we need to get ready to hit the ball by moving our hands and allow the feet to follow naturally.  It seems obvious, but many club players actually keep their hands in front way too long and start moving their feet to the ball immediately.  Usually, this is because some players believe they don’t have enough time or they are are too slow.

 The ‘danger’ to be aware of is that because we are so focused on getting into the ‘ready’ position that we may leave our hands there too long.  So be careful.  The decision-making of when to take the racket further back will happen naturally as long as we don’t make getting into the ready position a big deal.

 Play around with this change of language and see if it affects the rhythm of your swing.

 enjoy the journey of exploration and experimentation………….

 

April tip of the month: individual growth

Thursday, April 2nd, 2015

Individual growth happens through exploration and exploration can only happen by ‘getting into it’. This means moving into what is happening in you without judgment or any desire to escape from the pain and discomfort that invariably arises at times.

 Our most valuable moments for personal growth are those moments when we feel weak and vulnerable. It is at those moments that we need to be most alert. The natural instinct is to move away from such feelings and there are numerous ways to escape, some subtle, others not so much. But, at these moments we need to hang in and live through and with these feelings and see where that process takes us.

Escape from discomfort happens almost instinctively because, after all, who wants to feel uncomfortable? Consequently, we have to make a conscious effort to stay in the discomfort without seeing a problem or trying to ’fix’ anything. The ego is extremely clever in devising creative ways to escape and therefore move away from the discomfort and pain.

This is counter-intuitive and does not make logical sense, especially at a time when everyone is drawn to all things positive. Why stay with discomfort? It will not be easy; you will need great courage to stay with your own feelings of vulnerability because every fiber of your body will want to run far away as fast as possible.

You will only be able to stay with your own discomfort if growth is more important to you then success, power or fame. You have to be totally committed to your own personal growth.

Your individual and unique journey will be revealed to you as stay in this space.

March Tip: experiencing anxiety during competition-who doesn’t?

Saturday, March 7th, 2015

Every player, to some degree, experiences tension, tightness and anxiety during competition. This obviously affects on-court performance adversely.

Western psychology has become the self-appointed savior, but little of what they say makes any sense or works. Why not? Because it is a symptom-based approach and what we need is a more ‘wholistic’ approach.

But what is the ‘wholistic’ approach? Contrary to popular opinion, my understanding is that we should totally ignore the symptoms and focus on the individual because everything stems from there. The individual is the root; it is all about you!

The first issue to be addressed is the attitude that this is a problem to be solved, rather than a mystery to be explored through fully living it.

These experiences seem to be so universal and such an intricate part of the human experience that there must be something to be learnt here.

For me, the answers seem to lie away from the tennis court and within the individual.

We need to explore our own lives, but how do we explore?

To be continued next month………

 

Feb tip of the month: Instinct and intuition

Wednesday, February 11th, 2015

Do you always play the same every time you step on the court? 

Why not?

There seems to be a range that we all have and one day we can play at the top of that range, while on the others at the bottom.

Why is that?

My experience suggests that the overwhelmingly single most important factor that determines our performance on any given day is whom we choose to give power to.  The ego or the “Being’.

If the ego is in control, sometimes we will feel confident and all powerful while at other times we will feel doubt and ‘out of sorts’. 

If, however, we can allow the ‘Being’ to play, we will then play to our athletic potential. What is the ‘Being’? The ‘Being’ is that part of us that takes over when the conscious mind and its constant desire for control is silent. It can be called instinct and intuition.

This fluctuation that we all experience is directly related to whom we choose to honor within ourselves.  When we can trust our instincts, we will play the way our athletic skills allow us to and when the ego is in charge and we try and control everything our game will suffer accordingly.   

Our desire for logic and control makes it extremely difficult for us to trust our instincts and intuition, but this is the challenge.

Experiment and explore!

Enjoy the journey…………………

 

 

January 2015, Tip of the Month: feeling the pause

Sunday, January 4th, 2015

 Waiting for the pause………

There is a subtle pause before every swing. In practice the pause seems to be completely natural. Look for it. However, in competitive situations, the pause often disappears. Players become rushed and discombobulated and as a result the rhythm of the swing disappears as everything seems to speed up.. The mind becomes extremely active and as a result we move away and out of our body.

It is funny that most people fear being late for the ball and yet the reality is that most errors occur when players are early. Explore and see what is true for you.

The pause is a big part of the rhythm of the swing. The swing begins as soon as the opponent hits the ball and the speed of the racket preparation and the pause seem to allow the perfect timing we all seek. These things cannot be calculated by the mind. Only through trust and by bringing attention to our own body can the active mind become more silent.

The pause seems to be present in every stroke. Both ground strokes; the serve; the volleys; the overhead. It seems to be everywhere! However, it is very subtle, if you try and make the pause happen, your entire rhythm will be thrown off. Just observe the pause, especially in practice or when you are playing freely and let it happen.

Let’s see what happens when you let it happen!

 

 

December 2014, Tip of the month: Finding trust

Tuesday, December 2nd, 2014

One of the biggest obstacles to competing fearlessly is the desire for control that arises and increases when most is on the line. We want to be ‘sure’!

The desire to control affects both the timing and rhythm of our swings by impeding the natural flow of an athletic body in sync.

For this to change, we need to trust our body. However, in order to trust we need first to feel vulnerable and uncertain. Obviously, trust cannot happen at those moments when we feel confident and ‘full’ of ourselves.

Consequently, for trust to happen, we need first to recognize and increase feeling awareness of those moments when we feel most lost. Those moments are essential if we are going to give trust a chance to take root in our being.

Those moments of vulnerability and discomfort are not moments to ‘let-go’, move away or escape from, however great the temptation, but instead are a time to really move into what we are feeling and swing away anyway and see what happens.

enjoy the journey……………

November 2014, Tip of the month: Surrendering to the Being

Sunday, November 2nd, 2014

While playing, bring attention to the hands and how they follow the ball when the opponent hits it.  Eye-hand coordination is an amazing thing.  The hands ‘see’ the ball and your legs get the message from the hands and move into place; ‘you’ are not in the picture.  “You’ do not have to do a thing, ‘you’ are not involved.  Players think they have to calculate so much to bring racket to ball and yet this is a process undergone by the being and the ego, or conscious mind, need not be involved.

Play around with this and take yourself out of the process of ‘finding the ball’ and see what happens.  Is it an automatic process or do ‘you’ have to be involved?  Explore, experiment and find out for yourself.  

The doubt that arises at times around contact or the swing in general suggests that you feel you have to make decisions or have an understanding about the swing that you cannot possibly have. When does the racket have to start going back?  When do we bring it forward?  How close do we need to be to the ball at contact?  Where is contact?  These and others, are questions the ego cannot possibly know.  When this recognition of not knowing happens, obviously doubt arises. How can it not?

Instead, if we can stay alert through this automatic process that happens through no effort of our own, how can there be doubt?  We don’t know and we know we don’t know and now we understand that we do not need to know.  We also KNOW that the ball and racket will come together and we can just chill and watch this incredible process happen over and over again…………until we feel the need to get involved and ‘help’ the process, at which point, things will break down!

How long can you stay out of it?

October 2014, Tip of the month: What is the most important part of a swing?

Wednesday, October 15th, 2014

Undoubtedly, the most emphasis is on technique and certainly good technique will allow you to hit the ball with the most efficient use of the body, which will ultimately maximize the power and consistency of your swing.

However, there is another component to your swing in the real world of competition that is equally, if not more important than technique and that is the rhythm of your swing.  

This is especially true of club players, who, even with less than perfect technique can still become competent players with a good rhythm to their swing, which will allow them consistency. And all competitive tennis players know the value of consistency.

 For advanced players with excellent technique, the pressure of competition will result in a breakdown of rhythm before technique. The lack of consistency for these players and errors at the most inopportune times will be the result of a lack of rhythm and not a breakdown of technique.

So what is rhythm?

If technique is getting one’s racket from point A to point B, rhythm is how this is achieved. Rhythm is the relationship between your hand (and therefore your racket) and the ball. Rhythm will allow for a smooth and continuously flowing swing. It is a very natural relationship, consequently, it may be easier to talk about what disrupts rhythm, rather that how to get it.

What disrupts rhythm more than anything else is fear and anxiety? The lack of rhythm will show in your body through the hands and its lack of coordination with the ball. The hands will either freeze when the opponent hits the ball or will move too quickly at the beginning of the swing.

The lack of rhythm will inevitably result in being too close or too far from the ball at contact; or too late or too early. Usually when this happens, players will complain to the tennis gods that they are ‘not watching the ball’. This is rarely the case, but it is a convenient go-to excuse that satisfies our need to ‘know’, but rarely gets any results as can be evidenced by how often these words continue to be uttered.

When there is fear or desire in the competitor, technique and rhythm can be affected.  However, even while we are in the throes of fear, if we can bring attention to the rhythm of our swing we will be able to maintain our level of tennis.  Rhythm is moving the hands immediately but slowly at the beginning and then more rapidly before contact.

So, the next time you have any inclination to say to yourself ‘watch the ball’, instead move your hands slowly and smoothly to the side as soon as your opponent hits the ball and see what happens.

Tip of the week # 10: Relaxed serving

Wednesday, August 27th, 2014

Relaxed Serving 

Club players make greater skill demands on their bodies than do the pros.  The pros make it look easy because, most of them, most of the time, are working with the body and doing simple things simply.  Club players often make simple things difficult and that is where the root of their problems lie.

Many club players could improve their serve instantly without any technical advice, perse and at the same time feel amazingly free for the first time.  This could all happen by simply getting more comfortable before you start your swing.

First look at your stance.  Are you comfortable?  Close your eyes and mimic the throwing motion.  Does your stance allow you to throw without losing balance or feeling awkward?  Does it allow your racket to swing freely across your body?  If not, change your stance so that you can do all these things. 

Secondly.  Where are your hands?  Are they together?  I have found for some reason it is better if the hands are together (touching) before the swing begins.  Also, are the hands high or at waist level or below?  If the hands begin too high, there is a longer distance for them to travel before contact and more chances for things to go wrong.  Where is the racket pointing?  Is it pointing towards the intended target on the deuce court, if so, is that comfortable?  If not, change it!  Put your hands in front of your belly, where they will feel most comfortable.

Finally, where is your weight?  Is it on the front or on the back foot?  Or is it somewhere in-between?   Most players, I have found are more comfortable starting the service motion with their weight on the front foot and then gently rocking back as the swing begins, but there are exceptions to this ‘rule’. 

Before you begin your swing, just make sure you are truly comfortable.  It would be best to get into your starting position and then pause for 3 seconds and silently scan your body for any discomfort.

The trouble is that most people are trying so hard to do something regarding the outcome of the serve that they become disconnected from their bodies.  It is for this reason, perhaps, that so many players rush through their serve.  It is difficult to hold an uncomfortable position for too long. 

By slowing things down and focusing on your body you will find it much easier to connect with your body and therefore notice the discomfort when it exists.

Drop ALL dialogue and just find a comfortable position to begin your serve.

Enjoy the journey………………

happy hitting!

 

 

Tip of the week #9: Hand-eye coordination, not eye-foot

Wednesday, August 20th, 2014

TIP OF THE WEEK #9

Hand-eye coordination, not eye-foot!

Many players, especially club players, move towards the ball as soon as it is hit to them.  As a result, they either come too close to the ball or too far and players and coaches alike spend much of their time verbalizing that they were too close or too far.  However, recognizing that one was too close or too far cannot and does not help in correcting this situation.  

What does?

First of all, we need to recognize and feel why the feet are moving early.  There is an underlying anxiety that ‘I cannot get to the ball in time’ and so as soon as the ball is hit movement happens. Can we feel this restlessness and anxiety?

Secondly, we need to realize that if movement happens immediately, the body is blind to the ball.  Unless the body sees the ball how can it possible get to the ‘right’ place.  How does the body see the ball?  Through the hands.  So, if our first movement is hands to the side, then the body will ‘find’ the ball and ‘we’ have to do nothing! 

Trust and respect for the body will build when we realize that finding the ball happens without any effort or calculation.

Enjoy the journey………………

happy hitting!