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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
The Tennis Lesson Paradox
Ask anyone, and they will agree: A tennis lesson is where you go to learn tennis. Most students will argue without a doubt that this is the reason they come to their lessons week after week. And yet, when you look closer, you will see that "doing well" in the lesson takes priority over actual learning. They obsess over executing strokes correctly, they long to perform better, they need to make every shot. Subconsciously, the true reason they have come to the lesson is because they want to do well.
This, however, is not what learning is. Learning involves failure. Most students do not benefit from their tennis lessons for two reasons. First, they are threatened by mistakes and cannot cope with themselves when failing. They may logically understand that failing is inevitable, but after experiencing a failure they want an immediate success to remove the emotional sting. Failure is taken personally and therefore a threat to their being.
Second, they completely misunderstand the learning process. If I were to write down words to describe how a student thinks about learning, here is what it would look like. Learning, subtle improvement, learning, big improvement, learning, subtle improvement, learning, big improvement, learning, subtle improvement, learning, big improvement. Conceptually, this is what is in most students' minds when coming for a tennis lesson.
What is closer to the truth about the learning process? Here goes! Learning, learning, learning, learning, learning, learning, learning, subtle improvement, learning, learning, learning, learning, learning, learning, subtle improvement, learning, learning, learning, learning, learning, learning, subtle improvement, learning, learning, learning, learning, learning, learning, big improvement.
I think the legendary basketball coach of UCLA, John Wooden clearly captures this concept in his quote below.
"When you improve a little each day, eventually big things occur. When you improve conditioning a little each day, eventually you have a big improvement in conditioning. Not tomorrow, not the next day, but eventually a big gain is made. Don't look for the big, quick improvement. Seek the small improvement one day at a time. That's the only way it happens - and when it happens, it lasts."
-Coach John Wooden
With all this in mind, here is the paradox of a tennis lesson: In order to improve my student's game I must push him into failure. He ust fail and fail and fail again, until his body figures out how to perform the shot. This means he is training and learning with very little improvement at first. Considering the way most players think about doing well in a lesson, you have a problem.
The paradox: For them to learn I must push them to fail, but in most players' minds failing means they are not doing well. Depending on the player, this can be a huge problem. Even when I explain the process and how it all works, to not do well can still present a monumental obstacle.
The coach now faces another problem: determining exactly how much to push that player. If you push a student too much, he cannot take all the failures. If you do not push him enough, learning will slow down dramatically. Oddly enough, the very process that will help the student learn faster the student wants nothing to do with. In fact, when he is pushed and fails, the student often wants to stop this drill because he is doing poorly. He wants to learn, but he wants to do something he is already skilled at doing or learn something new but not fail. Huh?
The true solution is for players to mentally change how they approach taking lessons. They must stop thinking in terms of doing well. They are there to learn and learning means failure, lots of failure! Think in terms of learning in small incremental steps. As coach Wooden says, "Seek the small improvement one day at a time. That's the only way it happens - and when it happens, it lasts."
Your tennis pro,
Reading your books "The Truth About Winning" and "The Relax Technique" brought immediate results to my game. I am in excellent physical shape, but before applying the concepts in your books, I used to get extremely tired during matches (even practice matches), from, what I realize now, was nervous energy and "trying too hard". It was amazing to see and actually feel the difference during my matches. I did lose points and games, but I was completely relaxed and did not feel tired at all. To me, that has been the biggest difference."
Rey F Medalle
Union City, California
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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