Tip of the week: forgetting about the zone state!

The zone state is NOT the goal

For many years I perpetuated the myth that the zone state was the ideal performance state and I tried to help players achieve it.

How wrong I was and it is not surprising that I failed!

It now seems to be clear that the zone cannot be the ideal performance state because it is accidental and ‘unconscious’. We cannot make it happen because it comes and goes on its own accord with a will of its own. So what good is it if we are a victim to its whims?

However, as we bring more and more attention to our body both on the court and off, the mind becomes more and more quiet. As the mind becomes more silent, we experience time differently. It seems like we have more time, but the reality is the time is the same.

Our experience is measurably different. When we focus on things outside of ourselves, panic and anxiousness can often set in, but if we can keep the attention on ourselves, everything changes. Try it. The ‘goal’ is not to lose yourself in the activity, but find yourself in the activity. To remember the doer in all doing!

The way we are off the court cannot be any different to the way we are on the court. If the mind is super active off the court, we are going to struggle with the same symptom on the court also.

The irony is the more we work on ourselves off the court, the better our on court performance will become because we are addressing the root.

However, if we address only the symptom on court, nothing will change. How can change happen by playing with the shadow?

explore, experiment, enjoy!











Tip of the week: The 3 F’s of Fundamental Tennis

The three F’s of hitting ground strokes:


Forget the old adage ‘watch the ball’; instead replace it with ‘find the ball with your hands’.   The racket moves immediately to the side of the oncoming ball and waits for the ball to arrive. Connect with that pause. The hands wait, while the legs move to the ball.

The hands find the ball.


Once the finding is happening successfully and consistently, then move to swinging the racket in the direction of the ball. So, find the ball and then take the racket back and push it forward in the direction of the ball. Do this while moving further and further towards the baseline.

The arm and racket follow in the direction of the ball.


When both finding and following are happening well enough so that you are hitting the ball cleanly and comfortably, the finish will happen automatically. The finish is an outcome of relaxation in the arm, it is not something to be ‘done’, it is something that happens when the arm is light as opposed to heavy. Throw the arm towards the ball.

Allow gravity to take the racket wherever it wants to go.  Your grip and the type of shot you hit will determine the finish, not the mind.


Tip of the week: stillness and silence

For me, the hardest thing in tennis is the waiting. The stillness and silence that is essential before hitting the ball. Timing is completely based on the ability to pause and be still so adjustments can happen before contact.

Why is it so difficult?

Nothing happens on a tennis court with a player that does not also happen outside the court as well.

Have you ever noticed how active your mind is throughout the day (and night!)? Regardless of the activity, the mind is constantly chattering.

The same thing is happening on the tennis court. The ball is hit towards you and there are dozens of comments or ‘feelings’ that arise in us related to our ability to hit this ball back in a particular way or in a particular direction.

In life, we don’t notice it so much because we can usually successfully achieve our mundane activities despite the chatter. However, in tennis or other highly skilled activities this chatter will prevent us from successfully playing and then it gets our attention.

So, what can we do?

By bringing our attention to the body, we get into ‘real’ time from where timing becomes much easier.

Our first reaction to the oncoming ball usually takes us away from ourselves and into the world of doubt and desire. However, if at that moment we can instead stay ‘here’ with ourselves, our whole experience can change.

One way to do that is to bring attention to the body, either by focusing on our preparation. When we do that, we will see that, all of a sudden, it seems like we have so much time.

In that waiting; in that stillness and silence great discomfort can also arise, but eventually, by facing this discomfort, without judgment or any attempt to escape from it, perhaps some comfort will emerge.

There are no short cuts to becoming still and being comfortable with silence and I do not wish to suggest there are, but something like this can perhaps give you a taste and then your journey will be driven by the depth of your desire to grow by facing the mysteries of life.

Enjoy the journey……………

Tip of the week: attitude to errors

What is your reaction to an error? How do you deal with adversity? What happens to you when things don’t go the way you want?

These are all interesting questions that each and everyone one of us needs to ask ourselves if we want to grow through self-awareness. The ONLY way to really know the answer to these questions is by watching ourselves as we are in those situations.

For some players, there are a lot of strong emotions arising from these situations. Why is that? Is it a choice? It just doesn’t look like fun. Why do we torture ourselves?

Surely no one would make this choice. If that is true then why do these strong emotional reactions occur?

One of the reasons could be that deep down there is a ‘feeling’ that I ‘should’ not have missed that ball.

The word ‘should’ implies control and a choice, but my feeling is that there is no control. When we swing freely there is some uncertainty in the outcome of the shot. It is important to acknowledge that uncertainty. That recognition that we don’t have total control of where the ball ends up can help us live with failure and adversity, but if we truly believe we have total control, then mistakes will certainly be very difficult to swallow.

It is no fun being a perfectionist!







Tip of the week: what sort of competitor are you?

There seem to be two extreme types of competitors and it is important to understand yourself and know where along the continuum you lie. Once you know what you are comfortable with, then I would encourage you to explore the ‘dark’ side; the side you are least confident about, by putting yourself in the situation that is most uncomfortable.

I have coached a few players who loved to compete and felt very little nerves. No matter what the situation, they would be up for a challenge and the bigger the stage, the more excited they would become. I feel this condition is far less common among tennis players.

On the other side of the spectrum, there lies the vast majority of players. Most of these players feel at least a little threatened when competition happens.

The interesting thing is that the people who love to compete, struggle practicing. They are bored hitting the same ball over and over again, seemingly without purpose and with nothing to gain from it. They struggle with the discipline necessary to succeed.

Conversely, the players who struggle with competition, love to practice. Training and running is not threatening for them and so it is something they can put a lot of energy into. More energy than usual, because they feel a little guilty about getting tight and therefore try and compensate by putting greater effort into practice. However, this will not help them play fear-free.

We are all conditioned and have our ‘tendencies’, once we understand this, it will become obvious that our ‘choices’ are really not choices at all. Our ‘choices’ keep us in our comfort zone. For growth to happen, we will need to get outside our comfort zone by going against our ‘choices’.

How important is growth to you?

Tip of the week: are you having fun?

When I was coaching at pro tournaments a few years back, players would come up to me periodically and say, ‘I know you are into the mental side of the game, can you help me?’ I invariably would begin by asking them why they played tennis. They would always answer in the same way, ‘ because I love it!”

My response was always also the same. No you don’t! I have seen you play and there seems to be little joy in you after you miss a ball or when you lose a match.

Is there a joyfulness or playfulness in the actual playing? For many, many people the answer is clearly, no!

And this is true not just on the tennis court, but also in Life.

This is particularly interesting in the light of recent statements by Nick Kyrgios who said that he did not enjoy playing tennis; an echo of Agassi’s statements in his book ‘Open’.

Many people are shocked by these statements? How is it possible to be so good at something and yet dislike it? I feel these men are not aberrations, but just honest and in touch with themselves a little more than others.

How many more people are there playing this game, no where near as good as Kyrgios and Agassi, also not enjoying their time on the court? Probably a lot!

Why do they do it?

I urge you to look at your motivations for playing. Not from the words that come out of your mouth, but from watching and being alert to the feelings that are arising within as you play.

You don’t need anyone to tell you anything. Just watch and be honest with yourself.

Don’t make a goal or try to ‘teach’ yourself to play for the ‘right’ motivation. Just bring some awareness to what is there now. Why do you play tennis or do anything in your life?

Just to raise awareness of who you are and what is driving you could be the beginning of your own personal spiritual journey. And that road will be revealed to you as you bring in more light.

Explore, experiment and enjoy!



Tip of the week: Are you running blind?

This tip is largely for club players, but applicable to anyone who has the need and sees the value.

When you are competing, do you often feel rushed? Do you feel that you are too slow or do not have enough time to get to the ball?

Often, when this is the inner dialogue, the feet start moving towards the ball before the hands ‘see’ the ball.

This results in the body moving blind to the ball because the hands are the eyes of the body.

What is your first move? Everyone says ‘watch the ball’, but far more important, is to see what is your physical reaction to this watching. Is it the feet or the hands? Or do you just freeze and ‘watch’ for a few seconds.

Are you taking time away from yourself?

Either way, if you follow the ball with your hands immediately it is hit by your opponent, you will find so much time that you will have to wait for the ball.

Enjoy, explore, experiment!



Tip of the week: the body mind connection

The wisest amongst us have told us that the body and mind are connected. That they are one.

Is that true? Let us explore!

In my observations it seems that what happens on the tennis court is that our inner dialogue and constant chatter affects the body in a big way.

I would encourage you to explore this because I feel it is happening on almost every shot.

For club players, if there is a desire to hit in a certain direction, the arm seems to go there.

For all players, if there is a ‘fear’ the ball is going out the hand will turn down or slow up; if the fear is that the ball will go into the net, the hand will automatically go up. Continue reading “Tip of the week: the body mind connection”

June tip of the week, #4: What is confidence?

A confident player, it seems, is someone who talks trash and ‘feels’ unbeatable. A common phrase and my ‘favourite’….NOT, used amongst many sports psychologists is ‘fake it until you make it’!

But what is ‘real’ confidence? Is it a belief that ‘I am the best’ or ‘I know I can do it’? Or is it something else?

The problem is that if confidence is the belief I am the best or I can do, how long can you fool yourself when you become aware that those statements are obviously untrue?

It seems to me; a really confident player is someone who faces adversity without getting discouraged or giving up in any subtle or overt manner.

On the tennis court, players’ moods all too often seem to be based on their perception of how well they are playing. So, if they are winning or playing well, they are ‘confident’, if they are losing or playing poorly, they are angry, frustrated and ready to throw in the towel.

For me, a confident player is someone who misses a shot and turns around and is ready to play the next point without much inner movement. It is not something you can fake.

Of course, you can ‘force’ yourself to not shout or scream or show any outward emotion, but that will not change your inner experience. If your inner experience does not change, no growth happens in you.

What is your reaction to an error or a ‘bad’ day?

Just watch that inner experience without judging it or trying to suppress or escape from it in anyway.

To fully live the experience will take you on your journey towards freedom!

See what happens!



June tip of the week #3: Do you struggle competing against opponents ‘weaker’ than yourself?

First of all, I don’t think it is a good idea to judge opponents as weaker or stronger. It is one thing to evaluate someone’s game and develop a plan, but quite another to go into a match with expectations of winning or losing because the opponent is a ‘better’ player or someone you ‘should’ beat.

None of this dialogue is helpful, however, the mind is the mind and that’s what it does. So what can we do? We can take the ‘fight’ to the body and move it away from the mind.

Let us examine what happens to your body and performance when expectations arise. If we can see how what the body does changes we can keep it real, but if we try and deal with this symptom with mind-stuff, nothing will change. Is that not your experience? Has trying to change your ‘mind-set’ ever worked for you on the long-term?

Let us begin with the premise that I shared with you last week that every shot requires a certain amount of risk. You cannot be sure of the outcome or result until afterwards and certainly, not before you hit the ball or wind up for a swing. This requires a certain cavalier attitude, a certain amount of risk-taking.

Can you see that? Is that your experience?

If that is true, then it is easy to see that when we play against someone whom we feel we ‘should’ beat, it becomes harder to take a risk. We develop a more defensive attitude because why take a ‘chance’ when we are playing someone who is ‘weaker’ than us? Surely, all we have to do is to just play ‘safe’ and make sure the ball goes in?

This attitude results in the body swinging differently, maybe the swing slows down; perhaps the contact is a little late because we are not moving forward as we would naturally do if we ‘going after’ the ball( in other words, we are not fully committed to the swing). There are other ‘symptoms that can arise in this situation, but that is all they are, symptoms. What symptoms arise for you?

Similarly, the opposite is also true. When we play someone ‘stronger’ than us, whom we ‘expect’ to lose to. Then risk becomes easy to take because we feel we have ‘nothing to lose’ so what the heck, let’s just go for it.

What is missing is the understanding that regardless of whom ever we are playing risk is involved. That feeling of not knowing and ‘don’t care type of attitude’ has to exist regardless of the opponent.

It is an uneasy feeling that we need to get comfortable with.

Play around with this. See what happens?