August tip of the week #1: service motion

Tuesday, August 4th, 2015

August tip of the week # 1: serving             

The non-dominant hand can easily be over-looked when working on the serve and yet it is crucial in the execution of the serve. Ignore the yin at your own peril.

The non-dominant hand should be relaxed and the best way for that to happen is to let it hang a la Roger Federer, it is not the only way, but I think it is one of the best. Many club players begin the serving motion with both hands very high and I think this makes timing a little more difficult.

When the arm is hanging, it will also be fairly straight and that will result in more uniformity in the ball placement.

Stop calling it a toss, it is not! It is more of a placement. You are simply letting go of the ball right at the top of the reach. This will make your ball placement more consistent and take the wristy-ness out of it.

To remove the image of throwing the ball and replacing instead with the image of placing it on the top shelf will also slow down the non-dominant hand and that is also an important aspect of the total serving motion.

Finally, for some reason, I have found that to have the two hands connected and to pause for a few seconds before beginning the service motion will also serve you well.

Experiment with some of these things and be alert to your body.

 

Enjoy the journey………..

 

 

 

July tip of the week #4: expectations

Tuesday, July 28th, 2015

Expectations

There is a certain expectation that if I am winning a set 5-2 that some how I ‘should’ win that set.

Even now, away from the adrenalin rush of competition, do you agree with that statement?

And therein lies the problem. How about when you are up 40-15 on your serve or you have a few break points, what is your expectation then?

If we can truly understand that these situations are a simple reflection of what has passed, but have no bearing on what is to come, we can become better competitors.

The expectations usually have consequences. When we are up, we tend to play more tentatively and some how feel entitled to the victory. When we are down, we get desperate and play more freely and go for our shots.

Many sports psychologists like the latter, but don’t want the former, not realizing, it is simply impossible to have the one, without the other slipping in through the back door.

To play freely out of desperation, is different from playing freely through fear, doubt and uncertainty.

One of the difficulties is that this voice within us, which expects to win in certain situations is very low and it is not always easy to detect it. But, it is there and whenever it is heard, it must be silenced.

Be silent and listen for it and the many other asinine things it says and we buy into!

happy hitting…………..

 

 

July tip of the week #3: intimidation and self-doubt

Monday, July 20th, 2015

Do you ever get intimidated by your opponent? If so, this tip is for you.

Certainly, there are players at every level who have great reps or rankings and their stature is such that the prospect of playing them is scary.

On one level, it is good to understand that every player has a range, meaning they don’t always play exactly the same way every time they step on the court. We all have good days and bad days. So we never know how our opponent will play on any given day and the same is certainly true of our own game. Every match is a match to be unraveled; a mystery to be explored.

On another level, to be intimidated is feel doubt about our own abilities. It is fear and the fear is that we are not good enough and we may be ‘humiliated’ by our opponent.

If you are ever plagued by fear and doubt, instead of fighting it or trying to escape from it, just move into and see that there is a voice in your head that sometimes tells you how great you are, while at other times tells you, you are jut not good enough.

Both these voices are just stories that are created by the mind and while we cannot stop these stories, we can remind ourselves they are stories that have no basis in reality.

We can marvel at how a simple story can affect us in such a ‘real’ way. We can be amazed at how a fictitious story can alter our skill set in such an surprisingly powerful way. We can take note of the physical affects that happen to our body based on the story we buy into.

The goal is not to change the story, but to realize that all are stories and real is something different. To bring attention to the body and this whole game played by ego on the being is something to be enjoyed and marveled at.

The more awareness we have of the games played by ego, the less powerful a hold ego will have over us.

Enjoy the journey……………..

 

July tip of the week #2: Getting comfortable at the net

Friday, July 17th, 2015

If you ask almost any player what is the objective of coming to the net, they will undoubtedly tell you ‘to put the ball away’.

These four words, I feel, have had such a negative effect on club players. This could be the reason why so many club players swing at their volleys and why so many others just never get comfortable.

‘Punch the ball’ is a phrase heard around the courts for many years now (maybe less so recently) and it reinforces this feeling that you need to put the ball away as quickly as possible.

So how do we get comfortable at the net? My feeling is that players should start on the service line when learning to volley as opposed to standing right on top of the net. One of the things this does is make it almost impossible to put the ball away. Now, if we can use the image of ‘catching’, instead of ‘punching’, perhaps we can lay the foundation to a solid net game.

Play cooperative games with friends and have your friend stand also behind the service line and make it your objective to make the ball bounce in front of your partner so they hit a ground stroke, while you volley it back to them.

I am not a great fan of volley-to-volley drills unless you an advanced player.

Have fun with these and other drills and take your time getting comfortable at the net. There is no rush, you need to spend time at the net.

There will be plenty of time put the ball away after you have good fundamentals at the net.

July 6th Tip of the week

Monday, July 6th, 2015

What is your objective as you practice and compete at tennis?

It seems like a silly question. Obviously, the objective is to win the match. Right?

Mostly people may agree, but for me, I would suggest players develop a different objective. Instead of worrying or focusing on something you have no control over, why not focus on getting comfortable with your swings and overall game.

How to become comfortable is a key question? How about by being honest? What I mean by that is how about swinging freely and seeing where the ball goes.  Can we drop all self of self as defined by playing a certain way or keeping balls in play and just swing?

In many players, I see the body doing unnatural things in order to keep the ball in play. The result is non-flowing stroke production. The swings could be short, cramped, rushed or late and the movement to the ball awkward.

If, our emphasis shifts from keeping balls in play to swinging freely, I wonder what would happen?  By this I don’t mean over-swinging or trying to hit as hard as possible, but focusing on smooth, natural, flowing movements with absolutely no agenda.

Obviously, this would work best with a ‘wholistic’ pro watching and discussing observations with you, but it can also be done alone.

Could be an interesting experiment?

 

Please feel free to send any comments or sharing regarding this blog or something you may be dealing with to my email address: wholistictennis@gmail.com.

Perhaps, we will share some of the exchange on this website.

happy hitting!

June tip of the week: getting to know oneself

Tuesday, June 16th, 2015

If I asked you do you know yourself, who amongst you would think, ‘I have no clue!’

For truth’s sake, let us assume that all of us adopt this answer.

Now, let us make an effort to know. How do we do that? Let us start by simply watching ourselves on the tennis court during competition.

How do we feel when we miss a shot? How do we feel when we hit a winner? How do we feel when the match is on the line? How do we feel hitting the ball when we really want to win the point? How do we feel hitting a second serve at break point? How do we feel playing a ‘big point’ (read my article on the Big Point Theory for an alternative view)? How do we feel when we fail? How do we feel when we succeed? There is so much to watch and learn about oneself.

In other words, what is happening within us as we compete?  Most of us are aware that something feels very different, but we are not sure what.  We need to be alert and really watch closely.

Everyone has patterns and tendencies and we need to recognize these patterns because they will continue to occur unconsciously until we increase awareness. We can only be free of a certain pattern, if we are aware of the pattern.

As we observe our tendencies and patterns, it is important not to be judgmental. It’s easy to see things as a problem, especially when they seem to be preventing us from achieving our goals, but the emphasis should be on growth, not the fulfillment of our goals.

The journey towards freedom lies in growth through awareness, not through success.

happy hitting!

 

June tip of the week #2: are you arming the ball?

Tuesday, June 9th, 2015

For many people tennis is an arm game. There are various reasons for this, but from one perspective, hitting the ball with the arm gives us some sense of control, while using the bigger body parts to hit the ball will give us the opposite feeling. This week’s tip is addressed to those of us who suffer from this tendency.

The first thing is to recognize is if you are indeed using too much arm. See if you can do this through feel and not through someone telling you. Here are a few signs to look for:

  • Are your joints (elbow, wrist) hurting you?
  • How heavy does your arm feel when you hit the ball?
  • Do you finish your follow-through?
  • Go back to observing your follow-through and look closer. Have you allowed gravity to completely take over or are you still holding on a little bit at the end?
  • How tightly are you holding your racket?

In order to answer any of the above questions, you will need to really bring attention to your body.

If you do feel the arm is playing to great a role in your swing, here are some things you can play around with as you play with friends.

  • Try and really ‘attack’ the ball with your upper body with an aggressive rotation and keep the arms neutral and loose.
  • If the ball starts to fly and you lose control, make sure your wrist is firm. The arm needs to be loose, but the wrist cannot be floppy.
  • Make sure your hitting arm is just hanging and not moving independent of the upper body rotation.
  • loosen the grip on your racket

Play around with this and see what happens.

happy hitting!

June tip of the week: awareness of tension allows relaxation to happen

Monday, June 1st, 2015

Relaxation cannot be a goal. It cannot be something you try to achieve or strive for. It is the absence of tension. So, we need to see where there is tension in our lives off and on the tennis court. The only way we can do this is by being super alert and bringing our attention to ourselves.

On the tennis court, tension manifests in many different ways, however I will focus on simply one.

As you play, bring your attention to your hands and how tightly they are holding onto the racket, both as the ball is coming to you and through contact.

Give yourself a number from 1-10 correlating to the tightness of your grip and then experiment with different numbers both up and down and see how you feel.

By experimenting in this way, you will be amazed how well you hit the ball when you simply loosen the grip and then you can experiment playing matches and yet focusing on this as you play. A loose grip gives us a feeling of a loss of control and that is why we grip onto the racket so tightly, to feel in control.

In a match our attention goes to different places, usually all of them are outside of ourselves. If we can instead keep our attention on ourselves even as we compete, we may discover many interesting things. This will take tremendous trust.

Players constantly, tell themselves to relax as they play, but judging by the frequency these words are heard on the court, all to no avail. It could be fun to instead focus on something tangible and real, our bodies, and see where it takes us!

 

happy hitting!

 

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.