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.

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?