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July 1, 2004
Focus on improving, not winning!


Welcome to all the new subscribers to my email tennis lessons.  You will receive one long lesson on the first of every month and some quick tips in between.

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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


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
Focus on improving, not winning!

Welcome to Tom's Online Tennis Lesson, sponsored by TennisWarrior.com, "Where you can learn to think like a pro!"

If I were your coach I would teach you that your number one priority is to focus on improving, not winning. Every decision to develop your game would be subordinate to the improving concept. When your priority is to improve, winning becomes a natural result. When your priority is winning, improving becomes a natural disaster! Why? When you focus on winning in your practice or match play you will do anything, including the wrong thing, as long as you win!

Now, do not misunderstand. When you have an important tournament match, you play with your best stuff, with or without flaws. But when you are developing your game you must focus on improving, even if you lose! This is not easy and one that requires confidence and stickability in a player. But the final result will be a fabulous game with a mental attitude to be envied!

I've watched players from all levels of play struggle with this philosophy for years. Many even think they are focusing on learning to improve because they have practice sessions. This is ritual without reality! The truth is, physically the players are going through the ritual of practice, but mentally are not focusing on the reality of improvement.

For example:

In practice they have been hitting short to their opponent and winning. Of course they should be hitting deep, but when they do they often hit the ball beyond the baseline and lose the point. So, they have two choices:

1. Continue to hit short and win (focus on winning).
2. Practice hitting deep and possibly lose (focus on improving).

Which option do you think they will choose? Which option would you choose?  The choice is crucial to your development into a solid tennis player. Most players pay little attention to these choices. But this is what it is all about! You must learn to make the correct choices to separate yourself from all the other players. Most players would definitely choose number one. You must choose number two...always! The champion mindset always selects options that other players will not.

In another instance you have a choice between pushing the ball back (defensive strategy) or going for your shots (offensive strategy, the absence of cautiousness without pulverizing every ball). Remember battles are won by offensive tactics, not defensive. Pushing the ball back has been winning, but this is only temporary. Going for your shots could result in a loss, but this is also only temporary. Same choice:

1. Push the ball back consistently and win (focusing on winning).
2. Go for your shots and lose (focusing on improving).

The answer again is number two. If you continue to go for your shots match after match, practice after practice, do you think your game will improve? Of course it will! Will you make that decision? I don't know...will you?

The champion mindset always selects options that other players will not. This is a key to your ability to excel and to your match play toughness. Do the opposite of what most players will do!!!

I am constantly encouraging players that I coach to make these tough choices relentlessly. But be aware -  many will tell you to change what you are doing just to win...DO NOT BELIEVE THEM! Stay the course. Focus on improving, NOT winning. Let winning take care of itself...and it will!

John Wooden, the great basketball coach of UCLA, won 10 NCAA titles in his 12 years as their head coach. He developed "The Pyramid of Success," made up of many building blocks of success. This pyramid helped instill qualities of a champion in many of his players. Two of the blocks come to mind that apply to this lesson. The INITIATIVE block and the INTENTNESS block.



Cultivate the ability to make decisions and think alone. Desire to excel.


Ability to resist temptation and stay with your course. Concentrate on your objective and be determined to reach your goal.


As you are dissuaded by yourself or by others from focusing on your goal of improving not winning, remember these two blocks of John Wooden's pyramid of success and keep moving!

Your tennis pro,

Tom Veneziano



Hello Tom,
I just recently bought your books and CD's on Tennis Warrior mentality. It has made such a huge difference in my game - in such a short time. Your teachings are so revolutionary yet so simple.  It wasn't my stroke technique that needed correcting, but my mind.  I feel I  have the edge now when I walk on the courts. Just weeks after listening/reading your teachings I teamed up with my doubles partner to win a crucial match to propel our 3.5 USTA team to a spot in the sectional play-offs. Honestly, I would not have been strong enough to deal with the stress without your teachings. I would have been the weak (and probably losing) link if not for you. So, thanks!! 
Greg Spurgeon
Euless, TX


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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