November tip of the month: exploration of yin/yang continued

Friday, November 6th, 2015


Staying on the yin/yang theme for a little longer, let us explore how it applies to actually playing tennis.

As I experiment and continue to explore this theme on the tennis court, I am amazed at what I see and feel.

There seems to be yin and yang working in every movement. It is not only the full body that is in harmony with this, but apparently, each individual movement also.

For example, the non-dominant hand in each stroke has a role to play and it is easy to overlook its importance. In most situations, the non-dominant hand is the yin and it provides support to the swing itself.

The non-dominant hand is huge in the serve. It controls the toss through the speed, rhythm, path and release of the ball and its ultimate steadiness will play a significant role in the quality of a serve. As I said, it is easy to overlook the role of the non-dominant hand because it seems to be ‘far away’ from the action, but if you never paid any attention to it before, go out to the court and explore. Let’s see what happens.

The non-dominant hand is significant in looking at the entire body as a whole, but the yin/yang understanding seems to reveal things on a particular movement also.

For example, let’s take the forehand. The drop of the racket head during the swing reflects the yin phase of the swing and yet at the same time there is the yang that provides the force at contact. How can we feel both at the same time? Many problems in the forehand can stem from the inability to find this balance. This cannot be ‘gotten’ through intellectual understanding, but from experimentation and the feel that arises from that.

I have noticed that when fear arises in me, my hand becomes yang, which would seem to make sense. When threatened, it does seem logical to be ready to fight and yang is that.

On the forehand, for me, this translates to when an awkward ball comes to me or when the mind becomes too active during play, my grip gets tighter and the wrist locks, which, in turn, does not allow the racket head  to drop.  This will invariably result in an error or a ball hit with no pace.

How is it with you? Bring attention to your body parts and develop what has accurately been called ‘feeling awareness’ as opposed to intellectual awareness, which is not really awareness at all.

There are many such examples so I encourage you to jump on the court and hit balls with friends and experiment with this, all the while exploring both yourself and your body.


Enjoy the journey!



October tip of the month: yin and yang

Thursday, October 1st, 2015

October tip of the month: yin and yang

In Chinese philosophy there are two, apparently opposite, but actually complementary energies at work in the world. One is the yin or feminine energy and the other is the yang or male energy.

We all have elements of both energies within us and yet we are usually predominant in one or the other. The key is, through keen observation, to determine which energy is most predominant within us.

For example, for me, it is the male energy that is most predominant and what I discovered with myself was that in many situations I ‘automatically’ did or behaved in a yang way. As long as I remained unaware of this ‘pattern’ I remained a slave to it, but as soon as I became aware of the pattern, in some way, I became free of it. Not that I chose to behave in another way, but yet my behavior changed regardless. Hard to explain or to make sense of, but true nevertheless.  

What are your patterns of behavior? Are you predominantly yin or yang? By watching your inner process carefully, you will discover many things about yourself. You cannot be free if all your behavior is determined by consistent patterns over which you have no control.

How is this related to tennis you may ask? For me, who you are determines how you do anything, including your competitive experience on the court. By discovering more about who you are, your competitive experience can change. For me, that is the only way it can change.

Those of you trying to eliminate the fear and discomfort you may be experiencing on the court will discover that this experience does not magically disappear through ‘faking it’, escaping, by accentuating the positive or rational counter arguments to the feelings that arise during the heat of competition.  

So, if escaping or avoidance does not work, what’s the alternative? Actually, there is no choice; there is only one thing to do.

Get into it!


Enjoy the journey…………….




August tip of the month, #5: waiting

Monday, August 31st, 2015

August tip of the week # 5: waiting

For me, rhythm is the most important aspect of playing tennis. A stroke can be technically unsound and yet if the rhythm and timing are good, every ball will come back over the net.

The most important aspect of rhythm is waiting. Many players rush their swings. Notice the next time you are not hitting the ball well and try and see what is happening.

We have mentioned before in this blog that the hands need to move as soon as the eyes see and that is where the waiting needs to happen often. Obviously, the harder the ball is hit at you the less the waiting.

Why is waiting so hard? The waiting is uncomfortable. The anxiety surrounding what we want to do is so intense that calmly waiting for the ball to arrive becomes an impossibility. Who wants to be uncomfortable?

We need to notice this on the court and see how difficult it is for the hands to do nothing and just wait. Sometimes, the hands will get fast or the legs will want to keep going, but just waiting is so difficult.

Even volleys require waiting, even though we think we have so little time when at the net.

Once you bring attention to this phase of your game and notice the difficulty in just waiting, things will change. For one thing you will feel like you have so much more time. This sounds counter-intuitive, but check and see for yourself.

You do not need to do anything once you have become aware and felt the discomfort of waiting. Changes will happen by themselves.

Too easy? Explore and see for yourself.

enjoy the journey………..


August tip of the week #4: topspin serve

Tuesday, August 25th, 2015

August tip of the week # 4:   topspin serve

When learning the topspin serve, many players struggle with the trust required to accelerate up to the ball. To swing up as hard as you can and ‘know’ the ball cannot go out requires something that many players lack.

In order to get comfortable with that racket acceleration, I suggest hitting a slice serve first. It is easier to get comfortable accelerating through a slice serve because it requires less trust.

Once you are comfortable with throwing your racket at the ball with speed, it will be easier to throw the racket up to the ball as is required in the topspin serve.  

Enjoy the journey………….

Happy hitting………….





August tip of the week # 3: competing

Tuesday, August 18th, 2015

Every player has a range; one day you can play at one level and the very next day or later the same day, you can play at a very different level. Not realizing this can lead to much pain and frustration.

Why this range exists can be discussed another day, but for today, I just want us to be clear that such a range does in fact exist.

Look at your own game. Do you play the same every time you step out on the court? Obviously not, and yet our behavior suggests otherwise.

Even worse, we identify with just the top of our range many times, consistently denying the lower part of our range as if it is an aberration. We expect to play our ‘best’ tennis every time we play, not realizing that our ‘best’ only happens when it happens and it certainly does not happen often. In fact how often does it really happen?

Consequently, when you play up and beat someone, it does not mean you are better than that person. Similarly a loss does not mean you are worse than that person.

Every match is a moment in time. Once the moment is over it is over and the next time you play, the result may be very different.

The reality is that we don’t have control over the type of tennis we play. It would be nice if we did, certainly less frustrating, but we don’t. If we did, why would we ever choose to play anything but our best?

And yet there is this illusion that we do have control and the battle between the mind and the body continues.

When we realize that we have very little control, we will take less credit for the wins or great play (because if we have no control who is to take the credit?) and less blame for the losses or poor play.

But the big issue is to explore the issue of control. Do you have control over the way you play?

Stay with this question for some time and delve deep and see what comes up. If you answer any question of this nature too quickly, you are bound to come up with the wrong answer, so please be with the question and let it float around your head for a bit.

love, peace and chaos,

enjoy the journey………..


August tip of the week #2: meditation

Thursday, August 13th, 2015

August tip of the week # 2:   witnessing     

The subject cannot be the object. If something can be observed then it cannot be the observer. The body can be observed and thoughts can be observed, consequently, neither of these things can be the ‘I’, we so frequently and inaccurately, use to denote the essence of who we are.

Let us call the witness who observes all these things ‘I’. Let us then, use this ‘I’, to observe and witness the ways of the body and the ways of the mind. Observe as various thoughts come and eventually go. Observe how these thoughts affect you.

Being the witness and watching the ways of the mind and the body is meditation.

This is something that you can do 24 hours a day. It is not limited to your on-court time.

For me, this is true ‘mental’ training. By going to the ‘root’, the symptoms will disappear and although the symptoms seem many, the solution is one.

So self dialogue could sound like: ‘my body is in pain, but I feel good’ or the’ mind feels jealous, but I do not’.

Too simple to be true…..try it and see what happens.


Enjoy the journey………..

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


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.