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

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

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

 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

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

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?

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

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


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!



Tip of the week #8: Are you a supportive doubles partner?

Everyone thinks they are, but not everyone is.

What do you think? Are you a supportive partner?

There is value in being a supportive doubles partner. If you can make your partner feel good they will relax and most players play better when relaxed. On a more personal level, to judge another or consider oneself better or worse than another is ugly and ultimately, does not feel good.

One indicator of support is when your partner makes an error. What is your response to your partner’s error? The error can be off a simple shot or a difficult one, it could be off the first shot or after a twenty ball rally? It could be the first error they made or the twentieth. No one intends to make an error and when it happens the individual already feels some mix of doubt, frustration, disappointment, anger, fear, etc. Your reaction can help ease the pain or make it worse 

What is your reaction?

Of course, what ever your honest feelings are will be reflected in your reaction. This reaction will tell you much about yourself if you are honest.

The other side of the coin is to observe your reaction to your partner’s reaction. If you have a supportive partner, how do you feel? If your partner is critical in any way, how do you feel? Is your entire experience based on someone else? If so, how free are you?

Of course, it would be wonderful to have a supportive partner, but that is not always possible. How dependent is your well-being on a partner that is supportive? Do you fall apart if your partner gives you an un-approving gaze or worse still, says something in a negative tone?

The more you learn about yourself through simple observation, without judgment, the ‘free-er’ you will become.

Enjoy the journey………………

happy hitting!



Tip of the Week #7: Trust


Most club players are simply uncomfortable on the tennis court while playing.  They have no confidence in their athletic ability and are always trying so hard.  This trying hard translates into tension and this tension leads to poor results.

The truth is that the reason the pros make it look so easy is that they have, to whatever degree, learned to trust the body.  When the body is in control, things are easy.  When the mind is giving instructions as the ball is coming to you, awkwardness and failure has to result.

The desire for control is powerful because it goes to the root of ego and how we feel about ourselves, but the irony is that real control can only come when the desire for control is dropped.

How can we drop the desire for control?  By first bringing our attention to the fact that it exists.  Once we feel it………the journey begins and the awareness takes each individual in a uniquely different direction.

Enjoy the journey………………

happy hitting!