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ARCHIVES UPDATED THROUGH DECEMBER 2003
Have you missed a past email lesson? All past email lessons are posted at my website under "Archives" from 1 January 1998 to 1 December 2003 at www.tenniswarrior.com.
STROKES ARE BASED ON 'FEEL' NOT MECHANICS!
Remember the basic principles for learning tennis with my system is to develop a 'feel' for different strokes along with developing mental skills through REPETITION. Repetition of simple procedures create that 'feel' NOT an over emphasis on the technical skills and mechanics. Click here for an article that I wrote on 'feel'
vs 'mechanics' in April 2001
Tom's Online Tennis Lesson
A smorgasbord of tips!
Welcome to Tom's Online Tennis Lesson, sponsored by TennisWarrior.com, "Where you can learn to think like a pro!"
Happy New Year! 2003 was a good year for TennisWarrior.com and the Tennis Warrior System. Many tapes, CD's, books, T-shirts and email lessons went out throughout the world. Packages were sent to countries I have never heard of, which inspired me to brush up on my geography! The word is getting out about the Tennis Warrior System because many of you have helped to spread the word. I would like to thank all of you for your support and I appreciate your confidence in my system. A few short years ago it was just an idea in my head and now it is becoming a reality. Thank you.
And now on to 2004! I hope that you have applied many of the principles that you learned last year and are ready to advance these principles in the coming year. But just in case you have forgotten some of these principles let me refresh your memory one newsletter at a time!
At the beginning of the year I challenged you to pick one of your weak shots and add some weekly repetition. Below is an excerpt from that newsletter.
Let's say you're a club player with a weak backhand. A club player who plays doubles twice a week hits around 1,500 backhands a year. Most of these players avoid their backhand and instead hit forehands so many times it may be only 800 or so backhands a year! Suppose you were to add 100 extra backhands a week. That would be approximately 400 backhands a month and 5,000 a year. You would be hitting five times more backhands in that year! Do you think your backhand would improve a little faster?
How did you do in 2003? Did you add any extra reps for your weak shots?
FEBRUARY 2003 - Self-discipline is the key to creating momentum
In February I explained the vital connection between self-discipline and match momentum.
The key to tennis is consistency, the key to consistency is concentration, and the key to concentration is self-discipline.
Since you take your mind with you wherever you go, the self-discipline you develop in your weekly practice will become a mental habit that you bring into your matches. How can this help your match play and create momentum? In your practice sessions you were self-disciplined to continue practicing week after week regardless of the failures, frustrations, and obstacles. This SELF-DISCIPLINE you enforce on yourself in practice begins improving your CONCENTRATION. The key to CONSISTENCY in tennis is CONCENTRATION, therefore when your CONCENTRATION improves so does your CONSISTENCY! You become more CONSISTENT not only in your practice sessions, but through all the failures, frustrations, and obstacles of a match. As a direct result of SELF-DISCIPLINE in your practice sessions you become more CONSISTENT in your match play and create your own momentum! Consistency establishes momentum.
MARCH 2003 - Racket face control to hit an angle.
Despite all the sophisticated technical information and all the complicated theories on how to hit that elusive little yellow ball over the net, the ball always goes in the DIRECTION THAT YOU AIM THE RACKET FACE. If you want to hit the ball down the line, you must point the racket face in that direction. If you want to hit the ball crosscourt, you must point the racket face in that direction. If you want to hit an angle, you must point the racket face in that direction. It does not matter if you are standing on your head, if you can get the racket face to point in the direction you want the ball to go and hit the sweet spot, the ball will go in that direction!
APRIL 2003 - After serving ...then what?
There are two reasons why players have trouble preparing for a return after serving. One, players wait to see if their serve is in before getting ready for the return. And two, players do not practice the balance to recover properly after a serve.
1. WATCHING YOUR SERVE
This problem is the downfall of many players in their match points. They are so busy watching the glory of their last shot, they do not get ready and prepare for the return. As a result they are slow to react to the opponent's ball coming back at them. It does not take a genius to figure out that if you prepare quickly after your shot, you will have more time to hit your opponent's return. I think the phrase "he who hesitates is lost" sums it up quite well! whether there is a return or not is irrelevant...you prepare anyway!
2. PRACTICING A BALANCING ACT
Next you must practice your balance over and over and over again by serving and bouncing back to ready position about a foot behind the baseline (unless of course you are serving and volleying).
MAY 2003 - The Making of a Champion
In May I talked about Todd Whitley, a Houston pro who changed from a two-handed backhand to a one-handed backhand. After three months,11,000 backhands and many failures he finally conquered the one-handed backhand. Many said he could not do it!
I challenge you to continue focusing on your dream and to become the best tennis player you can be. Whether you would like to move from a 2.5 to a 3.0 player or from a junior to a pro, you can develop the Heart of a Champion. But beware, many will tell you it cannot be done. Many will tell you, as in Todd's case, that a new stroke will not work. And many will tell you, when you fail, to give up the fight. Champions focus within themselves, ignore the critic's words and move undaunted toward their goals.
JUNE 2003 - Training your internal senses.
You must learn to execute all your strokes by 'feel'. How do you develop this feel? You develop this feel by training four internal senses by massive repetition. These senses are:
4. Muscle sense
All four internal senses combine together to form a whole, creating a 'feel' for a given shot. And that 'feel' allows the mechanics to work correctly. If you have a feel for a stroke you can improvise to make a shot. When you are all mechanics the ball had better be in the exact spot necessary to make the shot or YOU'RE IN TROUBLE! If you have a feel for a stroke you will identify with the stroke as a whole unit. If you are all mechanics you will identify with the stroke as individual parts, which can be mind boggling!
These senses are the key to playing in a more automatic, spontaneous, and instinctive fashion.
JULY 2003 - Choking under pressure!
One of my students gave me an article on the left brain/right brain functions during pressure situations. Although the analogy in the article was from the world of golf the same principles would apply to any sport.
The name of the article is STUDY MAY OFFER CLUES ABOUT CHOKING UNDER PRESSURE, by David Kohn of the Baltimore Sun.
ARTICLE - " Because the sport is so filled with opportunities to choke, researchers gravitate to golf as a lens into high-stakes behavior.
In one study, Mayo Clinic researcher Debbie Crews used 41 electrodes per golfer to measure brain waves, muscle tension and heart rate. To raise the stakes, each golfer received a finger prick from a needle every time they missed a putt.
She found that the best putters had a distinctive brain wave pattern. In the seconds leading up to the putt, the left side of their brains - which controls logical and analytical processing - was active. Then, just before the subject putted, the left side quieted and the right side - which controls spatial orientation, timing and balance - became more active. Chokers exhibited a different pattern - their left lobes never shut down, possibly obstructing the work of the right brain."
AUGUST 2003 - Mental toughness for juniors
Basic mental toughness can be taught to anyone at any age. The foundation for mental toughness is learning to take responsibility for your own mistakes and failures. If I am teaching tennis to a 7-year-old child, I immediately begin orienting the child to mistakes and failures as part of the learning process. I do not make an issue out of failing. In fact, I encourage it! My desire is that the child understands that it's okay to take a swing and miss. Why? Because that's the EXACT mental attitude pros have mastered from years of practice.
IMPORTANT! THE CORRECT MENTAL ATTITUDE MUST BE IMMEDIATELY TRAINED INTO A PLAYER AND THAT MENTAL ATTITUDE TAKES PRIORITY OVER MAKING A SHOT.
SEPTEMBER 2003 - The flow zone, finding your timing and rhythm
If you can find the correct timing and rhythm in a match you will discover that your strokes will begin operating by themselves. The correct rhythm of a match has a way of carrying your game along with minimum effort.
The best analogy I know to explain this flow concept is called 'drafting.' This is a term used in cycling where you are directly behind another cyclist who is shielding you from the wind resistence. You are in the perfect drafting spot on your bicycle where you are not overworking or under working. The flow is effortlessly carrying you along. However, if you pedal too fast, you will move yourself out of the flow or 'drafting zone' and begin to hit the bicycle in front of you. Your timing and rhythm will be disrupted and will affect your physical and mental game.
In tennis, this would be equivalent to overplaying in a match. You are pedaling too fast and the ride is bumpy. You are hitting great shots, followed by complete timing failures. Many shots are landing in, but the mistiming is taking its toll physically as well as mentally. You feel completely disconnected and you do not know why. If you knew about the 'drafting' concept and understood its application, at this point you would back off a little to move yourself back into the correct 'draft.'
Now, what happens when you are in a match, playing cautiously, tentatively, and underplaying? Simple! You have moved out of the flow zone and have to work harder to keep up with your opponent. At this point you must step it up and get yourself back into the flow zone where everything seems effortless again.
OCTOBER 2003 - Agassi gets it! Do you?
As far as baseline play is concerned, Andre Agassi has one of the greatest minds in tennis. He has learned to avoid a pitfall that most players fall prey. Andre understands clearly and instinctively that tennis is about 'percentages' not 'individual excellence' (hitting great shots). Most top pros could attempt to hit winners from any position on the court at any time. A key to winning on all levels is to suppress that desire. Strange, huh! Even though you may have the ability to execute a winner most of the time, the long-term percentages for consistency dictate that you control this desire and wait for the correct time to hit a winner.
Here is an illustration using Agassi as our model to help you understand the dynamics of this concept. If Andre is on the baseline rallying with his opponent and does not have a clear opening for a winner, he will suppress the desire to attempt a winner. Does Andre have the ability to hit winners most of the time in many different situations? Yes! But would this be beneficial to his long-term strategy? Would the percentage of winners fall in his favor? No, they would not! Oh, on occasion they will, but Andre is too smart to accept overplaying winners for the sake of that occasional victory. Andre Agassi and all great tennis players focus on LONG-TERM CONSISTENCY, not SHORT-TERM GAIN.
NOVEMBER 2003 - Science says!
What you learn from scientific studies and the many scientific devices (like slow motion video) must be couched in common sense.
For example, what I call the "professional model syndrome" is a source of much confusion and misapplication. Doing a scientific study using sophisticated slow motion videos you can take excellent videos of professional tennis players in action. Then you can watch as a pro hits the stroke this way or that way with the wrist firm or the weight forward, etc. With this "professional model" you are now supposed to do the same. A pro may hit a forehand groundstroke out in front with his wrist in a certain position and this now becomes the 'technique' you should emulate.
Not a bad idea! The problem is that scientific studies cannot measure the PROCESS by which a pro has reached that point! The video just shows the final RESULT. What science is breaking down is the RESULT of all those months and years of experience and placing it in a 'technique' category. Somehow you are now supposed to take this technique WITHOUT THE PROCESS OF EXPERIENCE OR REPETITION and begin keeping the wrist firm or the weight forward. Sorry, but this is just not going to happen. Not unless you have gone through a PROCESS OF EXPERIENCE AND REPETITION which will prepare you correctly to assimilate and apply that information according to your OWN INDIVIDUAL STYLE AND FORM.
What is left out of the scientific equation is the thousands and thousands of times a pro mistimed the forehand before he mastered it. Science cannot measure all the internal human elements that come together to develop a top-notch professional stroke. The process is too intricate, too personalized and too individualized for science to categorize because you learn a stroke by the blending of many different senses unique to you. Steffi Graf was notorious for hitting the ball with her forehand farther back than most players. This may not be scientifically correct, but she had one of the most explosive forehands in the game!
DECEMBER 2003 - Making match adjustments
Andre Agassi beats Juan Carlos Ferrero in the Tennis Master by slowly increasing the pace and throwing Ferrero off his game. I had the privilege of watching Agassi perform this work of art.
One of the most important lessons to learn from Andre's masterful win is that you can make subtle but simple changes in your game that could mean the difference between winning and losing. For instance, hitting a ball with just a little more pace changes the whole game your opponent has to play. Your opponent will then have to move and react a little faster to stay with you. This could be just enough to take home the trophy! You do not have to go from hitting the ball at medium speed to blinding winners to make a change. When in trouble great players will make subtle changes and keep adding to these changes if necessary as the match develops. Below is a list of some of those changes you can make.
* Hit with a little more or less pace
* Hit with more or less depth
* Hit with more or less spin
* Hit to the center of the court
* Hit more angles
* Hit exclusively to your opponent's backhand
* Hit exclusively to your opponent's forehand
Be creative and come up with your own subtle changes. Agassi, now the number four player, made some subtle but simple changes and won against the number three player in the world. When you are in trouble in a match there is no reason you should not do the same!
Now, you are set and ready to go for 2004. Players start your engines!!!
Your tennis pro,
"I just listened to your CD a couple of times and it immediately made a huge difference to my game, It was awesome!!!
I listened to the ABC's of tennis and the tip on how to increase speed. I am very satisfied and I will keep studying. Who needs a trainer when I have your books and CD's, this is better.
Have a nice day Tom,
Marcote te Pas, Saltsjobaden, Sweden
APPENDUM: I teach a total system of thinking in regard to stroke production and mental attitude which I cannot explain in one email. Although each lesson can stand alone you will derive tremendous physical and mental benefit by understanding the total philosophy. These emails, my web site, books, and tapes are part of a course in tennis, not just isolated tennis tips. They all fit together into a system. A system that once understood can help you not only learn tennis at a faster rate, and develop mental toughness, but also give you the knowledge necessary to help guide you and your children to a better understanding of the developmental process.
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