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January 1, 2009
Unrealistic expectations create undue pressure


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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
Unrealistic expectations create undue pressure


It has been fantastic coaching you all in 2008. I hope everyone's game has improved mentally as well as physically and you have positioned your game for more improvement in 2009! Remember, the core of learning tennis is not the exact technique, but a training structure where hitting lots of tennis balls is the priority.

Tom Veneziano


The number one question that players ask me is, "Why is my tournament play not like my practice play?" The answer is simple. PRESSURE! As the great golfer Bobby Jones said 80 years ago,"You may take it from me, there are two types of golf. There is golf - and tournament golf. And they are not at all the same thing." All you have to do is replace the word golf with tennis and there is your answer. "There are two types of tennis. There is tennis - and tournament tennis. And they are not at all the same thing."

You can bridge the gap between practice and tournament play, but it does take time. No magic bullet here! As you improve in practice, your tournament play will improve. You must keep bringing your practice level of play higher and higher to allow for the drop in tournament play.

Do not think that you are the only one this is happening to. Every player goes through this same frustration in all sports.

Your best chance of playing well in tournament play is to stop creating a mindset in which you absolutely must play well. Just play! Do not judge your results or compare them to a great shot you hit last week or a truly fantastic practice session. Your expectations are not realistic and are causing you undue stress and frustration. But you say, "I just want to play like I practice." Well, that is a high expectation! Can you see the problem?

The solution is to first accept how you play in tournaments as the standard, then build on that. But players are constantly pointing out some other way they are 'supposed' to play, whether it be an exceptional practice or an extraordinary shot, and exclaiming, "That's how I should play!" This is competition, this is tournament play, this is pressure, hardly anyone plays the way they would like to play! You are creating your own testing and your own pressure with your unrealistic expectation.

Below is an excerpt from an article in the golf section of the Wall Street Journal, October 4-5, 2008 (W-6), written by John Paul Newport. The headline reads, "The Quest for Confidence: For amateurs looking to beat the knee-knocking fears of tournament play, it's all about knowing your level."

Newport writes, "It used to be, in my younger competitive years, that I fantasized about putting all my best shots together in a single tournament and achieving spectacular results. But those expectations were precisely what created the disabling tension that was my undoing. A bad hole or two would trigger frustration. I had learned all the mental-game tricks for neutralizing frustration, of course, but it was still there, and subterraneanly led to bad decision-making, anger and even worse play. As hard as you try, you can't fake equanimity. You've simply got to figure out over time what is realistic to expect and make your peace with it."

Within that last line is a valuable two-pronged plan to help you learn how to play under the pressure of tournaments. Number one, figure out what is realistic to expect. Number two, make your peace with it.

Interesting, isn't it? The more you attempt to play like you practice or play like you think you can, the worse you play. The more you accept the reality of the way you are actually playing and fight to the finish, the better you will play.

Your Tennis Pro,

Tom Veneziano




I ordered your book, "The Truth About Winning" some time ago and have been using the techniques on a regular basis. My game has improved a lot. When I say that, I mean my strokes have not improved that much but my mental focus has enabled me to become more 'mentally tough.' I find that makes all the difference between winning and losing. It is, as they say, 'a skull game.'

Thanks Coach!

Laurens Robinson
San Francisco, CA


ADDENDUM:  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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