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Physical Skills

Since at this time I do not have any books, audio tapes, or videos to help you learn the physical skills I will instead give you an idea of how the learning process works. This information will help you when you are practicing. The magic of the Tennis Warrior System is that there is very little traditional technical information necessary when you are learning the strokes. However, at the same time you are learning and developing the strokes, mental toughness is being built right into the process!

The three areas I would like to cover are:

  1. How the process of learning tennis is built on repetition.

  2. How the example of walking, running, and jumping is the model for learning tennis.

  3. How all this information can help you.

How You Learn Tennis

The key to learning anything is Repetition. A phrase I use often is "repetition is the chariot of genius." We learn by extensive repetition to be proficient at whatever we do. Walking, riding a bicycle, driving a car, tying your shoes, and reading are all perfect examples of the repetition principle. Think back on how much technical knowledge you possessed when you learned to walk, ride a bicycle, tie your shoes, and drive a car? All these activities required technical skills, but it was the repetition that caused you to learn these skills. It is important to understand that repetition, not the technical information, teaches you. The technical skills eventually become functional because of all the repetition. The technical skills in themselves are meaningless without repetition.

If any of you have ever taken a tennis lesson under traditional instruction (which is usually loaded with technical commands), you probably think you have to do all those technical things correctly to become a good player. In fact, if you have been taking lessons for a while you may even be thinking, "I’ll never get this. I have been working on certain technical skills for months and I’m still making the same mistakes!" Well, guess what? There is good news! You do not have to do all those technical things correctly. At least not in the way you think.

To learn any stroke you should emphasize repetition of only one or two general principles associated with a particular stroke and then let the repetition mold you into the correct stroke production. Now, do not go ballistic on me! Are you thinking? "How can this be - that’s impossible! Tennis strokes are a series of intricate mechanical moves!" I admit my system is different from what you would expect, but that does not make my system wrong. Once I learned the truth about the learning process applied to tennis, I could not believe that I had never seen it before. I missed this phenomenal truth because I was blinded by preconceived ideas that were born of accepted traditional methods. Do not make the same mistake. All I ask is that you hear me out, then you can decide.

When practicing with emphasis on repetition rather than the technical, you mentally and physically journey through many phases. Mental phases like handling failures, successes, tentativeness, anxiety, etc. Physical phases like muscles tightening, relaxing, strengthening, becoming fatigued, etc. Finally one day, after going through a host of different mental and physical phases, you begin developing a feel for the stroke - a feel that you have never experienced before. A feel is an identification with the stroke as a whole unit rather than as the intricate mechanical parts of the stroke.

This next statement will shake you up so make sure you are sitting down! Tennis is not based on mechanics. Tennis is based on a feel for a given shot and that feel allows the mechanics to function properly. The mechanics and the technical skills are a result acquired from developing a feel of the stroke through repetition which is the cause. You do not efficiently develop the mechanical by painstakingly forcing yourself to do a plethora of technical things correctly. That simply leads to frustration! Acquire a feel for a given stroke through repetition and you will execute the mechanics properly.

The Way You Learn Is Important

You can learn with emphasis on the technical and mechanical or you can learn with emphasis on repetition. How you learn will affect your thinking and ultimately the way you play.

  1. Learn with emphasis on the technical and you will think of a stroke in terms of individual parts. In other words, I have to do this, that, this, and this to make it all work together correctly.

  2. Learn with emphasis on repetition, acquiring a feel for a stroke, and you will think of the stroke in terms of a whole unit rather than individual parts.

The choice is yours. You can think of just one thing - a stroke as a whole unit, or you can think of a stroke as a complex mechanical movement with multiple moving parts. Which one do you think is easier for the mind?

And that’s not all!

When you emphasize the technical you become reliant on the technical to play well and win. This has the subtle but often disastrous result of your blaming the technical when things go wrong. If you miss a shot, something technical must be wrong. If you are not volleying well, something technical must be wrong. If you miss hit, something technical must be wrong, etc. In other words, all the solutions you have are based on the technical to solve match problems. You have subtly and unknowingly become dependant on the technical as your top priority to win your matches.

You may be saying, What is wrong with that? The answer is, haven’t you ever witnessed the destruction of a tennis player with the perfect technical skills by a scraper with absolutely no technical skills? If you have not, I have! Do not get me wrong, the technical is essential, but it should not be the top priority in your mind. This mind-set will make you vulnerable in match play.

Now, on the other hand, when you emphasize repetition you become the focal point for success. Through self-discipline and repetition you make the stroke work properly. This has the effect of you not placing the emphasis on the technical in a match. Instead, when you are having trouble you take responsibility (mental toughness) and look for other solutions to win, solutions that are related to your thinking.

Solutions like, relax, slow down, speed up, attack more, forget your mistakes, wait out the bad cycles, stay up, do not over play, etc.

If for some reason the technical skills are not working perfectly on that day, it does not matter, you can win anyway! This is not the time for practicing some repetition to improve the stroke. You must go with what you have. With this mind-set you begin to lay the foundation for mental toughness and have oriented to match play correctly.

Listen to this incredible definition of tournament toughness found in Carlos Goffi’s book entitled "Tournament Tough" and see if this concept begins clicking a little for you. "Tournament toughness is that mental resilience and flexibility that separates the champions from the pack, allowing them to win against opponents who are technically more skillful and physically more powerful, even when they themselves are playing poorly."

Repetition not the mechanical or technical skills is the key to learning strokes.

The Model for Learning Tennis

Again, I realize this is different and foreign for most of you. You may even be thinking "not much technical, not based on mechanics! Well, then how am I going to learn?" The answer to that question is the question. How did you learn to walk? No one told you anything technical, yet you learned to walk and not only can you walk, you can run, you can jump, you can skip etc. Walking happens to be an extremely difficult mechanical feat that you probably take for granted. You had absolutely no technical information when you were learning to walk, yet you can walk. How can this be!

A baby learns how to walk from the parent guiding him in the proper direction with a lot of repetition and trial and error. The baby tries to walk, falls down, and gets up, tries to walk, falls down, and gets up, tries to walk, falls down, and gets up over and over again. Eventually the baby develops some muscles, some balance, some judgment, and a feel for walking. Soon the baby walks five or ten feet at a time before he falls down. Eventually, he can walk. Then, low and behold out of no where one day the child begins to run and skip. The feel of walking, established through repetition, not only allowed the mechanics of walking to work properly, but that feel was the foundation that enabled the child to automatically learn more advanced skills like running and jumping.

Before I continue let me show you a little fun analogy that will help you learn an interesting principle in regard to repetition. Let’s pretend the baby can talk and understands what he is trying to do - learning to walk. The baby was told that walking and running will take a lot of repetition utilizing some simple principles. The principles are, get on your feet, move forward, and place one foot in front of the other foot. Now, go for it! The baby says, okay I got it, and proceeds to get up and fall down 20 times in a row attempting to walk. On the twentieth fall the baby is lying there frustrated and discouraged. He looks up and sees his seven year old brother running past him. The little baby perplexed and confused turns to the teacher, the parent, and whines, "how in the world is this getting up and falling down going to teach me to do that running? Tell me something technical I can do to learn how to run. I just saw my brother running past me and running looks very complicated, it must require a lot of intricate mechanical movement."

This is exactly why players have trouble understanding and utilizing the repetition principle. How can repetition of some simple procedures teach you these complicated tennis strokes?

To learn properly you must do a lot of repetition and trial and error utilizing simple procedures. Slowly building some muscle, some balance, some judgment, and a feel for a given stroke. Even if you already play well and would like to improve a stroke the principle is still the same.

You say "okay, you’re right, I did not know any technical information when I was learning how to walk, but learning tennis is a sport that is much more difficult than walking." My answer to that is "tell that to the baby who has no technical information, no muscle development, no balance, and no walking skills what-so-ever." In fact the baby that is learning how to walk has a far more daunting task than you will ever have in learning how to play tennis.

One of the differences is the baby does not judge himself every time he fails, and he does not look for quick-fix technical solutions. He just gets up and keeps doing it again, and again, and again, and again.

Learning to walk and riding a bicycle are excellent models for the learning process. The principles of learning tennis, as well as anything else you learn, should be based on these models. Very little technical information and a lot of repetition. The truth is, this is the way pros have learned to play the game for decades. As kids, they may or may not have been told many technical things, but they really learned by many hours of having fun and playing day after day. Unknowingly, they were utilizing the master principle of repetition and trial and error. Repetition and some guidance from a teacher eventually molded them into the winning strokes they possess today.
How This Information Can Help You

Obviously the principle is to begin placing more emphasis on repetition to teach you a stroke rather than emphasis on the technical. Use a ball machine or go with a friend and spend time each week doing some repetition on the strokes you would like to improve. I use a ball machine to teach most of my private lessons. My students do a lot of repetition utilizing simple procedures which helps me mold them into the correct stroke. The ball machine offers you the opportunity to do a lot of repetition and is a great tool to help you learn any stroke. You are probably thinking, "do repetition of what? What do I do?" Wow! This is a tough question. Again, I have no books or tapes on techniques or strokes to help you through this process and I cannot be on the court to guide you or help you understand. But I can give you the basic principles of the Tennis Warrior System.

If you are taking lessons from a pro, pick out one or two general principles for a particular stroke and practice them over and over again. Below is a brief description of some of the simple general procedures I use to teach players different strokes. You may want to give it a try on your own.

Just remember the child who learns how to walk does not understand that getting up and falling down over and over and over again is going to teach him how to walk and eventually how to run. The same principle applies for what you are about to learn.

I will not address how to grip the racket for different strokes. Most players that come to me have already been playing tennis for some time and I usually go with what they are using. If you are a beginner and would like an idea of which grips to use, pick up just about any instruction book on tennis.

When you are doing repetition to learn the strokes do not worry if the ball goes in or out of the court, just keep doing the repetition. The position of the racket face is the key that determines the trajectory of the ball and that also begins improving with repetition.  You can use a ball machine or a friend feeding balls to you.  You could alternate with your friend giving them a chance to practice while you toss them balls.  

The following examples will be for a right handed player. Left handed players should do just the opposite.

The forehand stroke

You begin by standing in the ready position. A general idea of the ready position would be to have your body squared off facing the net with your legs approximately shoulder distance apart. The racket is in your right hand pointing toward the net with the fingers of your left hand on the throat of the racket.

To practice the forehand stroke, when you see the ball coming to your forehand release the throat of the racket with your left hand and rotate your shoulders backward, then rotate your shoulders forward to hit the ball, and swing low to high over your left shoulder. That’s it!  Let the footwork and everything else work itself out naturally.  Including when you take your shoulder back.  Work out your own timing.  Do not just throw the racket back like traditionally taught.  This is incorrect, very unnatural, and not the way the pros play.  Watch them! 

Are you shocked? Remember you are trying to feel the stroke as a whole unit, not as individual parts. Do this over and over and over again until you begin feeling your shoulders and body rotating backward and forward - almost like a golf swing. Hint: Do not take your racket back as traditionally taught when the ball comes to you. Instead, rotate your shoulders back. The racket and arm come along for the ride. You will soon learn - in a month or so - to control the arm and racket from the shoulders and body.  This is your goal, to acquire a feel of the shoulder and body controlling the arm and racket like a pro does.   Now, here is the interesting phenomenon.

  • The racket is in your hand,

  • the hand is attached to your arm,

  • and the arm is attached to your shoulder.

If you rotate your shoulder back - your racket WILL, without hesitation, go back too!

When you watch a tournament on television watch the pros rotate their shoulders backward and rotate their shoulder forward on the forehand - this is what you are attempting to do. Add to this the low to high racket follow through over your shoulder and you are off! Try to emulate what the pros are doing. Do this for about a half an hour once a week for two months and watch what happens. Practice more if you have the time. Take little two minute rests from hitting forehands every ten minutes. Work on some backhands if you like, then go quickly back to the forehand.

WARNING: When the ball you hit goes flying high in the air do not think it was the low to high swing. The ball goes up because the racket face is pointing toward the sky. This is called an open racket face. The high follow through does not make the ball go upward, the racket face does. Close the racket face and see what happens. This is trial and error to learn a little about the position of the racket face. Keep experimenting!

The backhand stroke

You begin by standing in the ready position. A general idea of the ready position would be to have your body squared off facing the net with your legs approximately shoulder distance apart. The racket is in your right hand pointing toward the net with the fingers of your left hand on the throat of the racket.

To practice the backhand stroke keep the fingers of the left hand on the throat of the racket as you coil the body up from the shoulder, step toward the ball with the right foot (this seems easier for most players on the backhand), when you are about to hit the ball let the racket go with the left hand uncoiling the body from the shoulder, and swing low to high.  Again, that's it!  Let everything else happens naturally with repetition.  With some consistent weekly practice you will be surprise how much you improve! 

The backhand is similar to the forehand, but there is more of a coiling up feeling on the backhand instead of a rotation feeling. You are attempting to control the arm and racket from the shoulder and body by coiling and uncoiling.  This will take time, so be patient.  Do this for about a half an hour once a week for two months and watch what happens. Take little two minute rest every five or ten minutes.

  • The two handed backhand is exactly the same except you continue to hold on with two hands as you coil and uncoil from the shoulder swinging low to high.

Watch the pros and try to emulate what they are doing with the shoulder and low to high swing. Let the balls fly everywhere, just keep doing the repetition.  Do not panic because of all the failures.  It is part of the process.

WARNING: When the ball you hit goes flying high in the air do not think it was the low to high swing. The ball goes up because the racket face is pointing toward the sky. This is called an open racket face. The high follow through does not make the ball go upward, the racket face does. Close the racket face and see what happens. This is trial and error to learn a little about the position of the racket face. Keep experimenting!

The forehand volley

You begin by standing in the ready position. A general idea of the ready position would be to have your body squared off facing the net with your legs approximately shoulder distance apart. The racket is in your right hand pointing toward the net with the fingers of your left hand on the throat of the racket.

To hit forehand volleys at the net take one step with your left foot toward the direction of the ball. Reach out with your racket in front and just block the ball. No fuss, no muss, no swing, just let it rebound off your strings.

Same thing, practice every week for a month or two and watch your muscles, timing, and judgment improve and ultimately your volley!

If you begin improving or if you are a more advanced player, then practice aiming the ball to different spots on the court.

Warning: if you are a beginner and cannot hit the ball, do not worry about it. Keep doing the repetition and trying the best you can to hit the sweet spot (center of the strings) of your racket. Repetition will improve your judgment (about tennis only), just keep going. You will be surprised!

The backhand volley

You begin by standing in the ready position. A general idea of the ready position would be to have your body squared off facing the net with your legs approximately shoulder distance apart. The racket is in your right hand pointing toward the net with the fingers of your left hand on the throat of the racket.

To hit the backhand volley at the net take a step with your right foot toward the direction of the ball. Stick the racket out and let the ball just rebound off of the strings.

Same thing, practice every week for a month or two and watch your muscles, timing, and judgment improve and ultimately your volley!

If you begin improving or if you are a more advanced player practice aiming the ball to different spots on the court.

Warning: if you cannot hit the ball in the strings, do not worry about it. Keep doing the repetition and trying the best you can to hit the sweet spot (center of the strings). Repetition will improve your judgment, just keep going! Remember the child learning how to walk.

The serve

The serve is a little more complicated to explain in writing because you have two hands involved.

I still teach a few simple procedures, but I teach them in increments. Once my student improves through repetition on one procedure I move on to the second procedure - like the baby learning to walk one step at a time.

When players come to me I will teach just the first simple procedure. Practice this simple procedure with repetition and your serve will improve tremendously. Really!

Your stance is sideways with your body slightly angling toward the service box you are aiming for. If you are a beginner, pick up a tennis instruction book so you can see where to stand, where the service box is, and the body position on the serve.

When most players serve they do not shift their weight properly from the back right foot to the front left foot. This procedure is all you are trying to master. Shifting your weight from the back foot to the front foot like a pro. Watch the pros and see if you can emulate them. Here is a test for you. The next time you are serving, check to see what your front foot does as you begin serving. My bet is you toss the ball up, then take a step to adjust your position before you hit the serve. Most players are in this habit because they toss their ball all over the place, then take that step trying desperately to adjust to the ball. Instead, as you begin your serve you should learn to calmly shift your weight quickly to the front left foot without that desperate step to adjust to the ball. Once you shift your weight on to the left front foot you cannot move unless you jump up. You are firmly anchored to the ground for a more balanced serve. Repetition will make this weight shift an ingrained habit and replace the bad habit of taking that desperate step with the left foot.

You will be surprised at how many serves I have improved by just practicing this tranquil calm weight shift from the back right foot to the front left foot on the serve. Try it and see for yourself. Remember, repetition is required to really get the feel for the correct weight shift. Again, watch the pros. It will help you.

Left handed players just reverse all the above procedures.

The overhead

You begin by positioning yourself approximately twelve feet from the net standing in the ready position. A general idea of the ready position would be to have your body squared off facing the net with your legs approximately shoulder distance apart. The racket is in your right hand pointing toward the net with the fingers of your left hand on the throat of the racket.

As the ball is lobbed up, turn the body sideways rotating the shoulders back as you did with the forehand stroke. At the same time you let go of the racket with your left fingers and bring the racket up and back as though you were going to throw a baseball. Then, you rotate the shoulders forward assimilating the throwing motion with your arm and racket as you reach up toward the ball. Again, just like the forehand stroke, your goal is to learn to control the arm and racket from the shoulder and the body.

Do not worry where you hit the ball, just keep doing the repetition of the shoulder motion backward and forward.

Watch the pros and visualize what they are doing. This always helps. They throw the racket at the ball (figuratively speaking) as they rotate from the shoulder.

Warning: because of the height of the ball, timing on the overhead is one of the toughest shots to judge correctly. Repetition WILL improve your judgment and as a result your overhead will become easier. Practice one half hour a week or as much as possible. The more the better.

The summary

The above lessons are just general procedures to follow for some of the main tennis strokes.  It is not intended to be a full explanation of all the different strokes or techniques.  If you follow some of these guidelines utilizing the repetition principle you will be surprised at the results.  Email me and let me know how you are progressing.  If you run into any difficulties let me know and I will see if I can help you over those stumbling blocks.  Between the both of us we can create the worlds first true internet tennis lesson!  I’m game, if you are!

The Eight Mental Dynamics of Repetition

The empowering nature of the Tennis Warrior System without a doubt is rooted in the physical and mental dynamics of repetition. Most people understand the physical benefits of repetition, but they miss what I call the eight mental dynamics of repetition that are incorporated in the repetition process and is the cornerstone of the Tennis Warrior System.

If you practice some of the physical strokes as outlined above utilizing the repetition principle, you will advance through these eight mental dynamics that are foundational skills for developing mental toughness. These mental dynamics are inherent in the natural repetition process and will become part of your arsenal of mental skills if you choose to accept them. All eight mental dynamics are necessary for competitive match play.

Repetition teaches you to:

  1. Handle failures

  2. Learn to "let it happen"

  3. Improve concentration

  4. Cope with up and down cycles

  5. Keep tabs on yourself

  6. Build confidence

  7. Develop mental match play skills

  8. Emphasize repetition, not technique

Handling failures - Failing is part of the repetition process.  Giving you the perfect opportunity to practice recovering from your failures.

Learn to "let it happen" - You will tighten up many times when executing repetition. You must learn to relax your muscles and your mind and "let it happen."

Improve concentration - When practicing you must discipline your mind to keep on concentrating whether you are happy, tired, bored, excited, or despondent. Repetition will improve your concentration. By the way the key to tennis is consistency, the key to consistency is concentration, the key to concentration is self-discipline, and the key to self-discipline is you. Now, what is the key to you? I haven’t the faintest idea! You are on your own there. 

Cope with up and down cycles - When executing a lot of repetition you will fluctuate from hitting well to hitting poorly. You must practice coping with these fluctuations just like in match play.  You must not be too exhilarated by success nor too despondent over failures.

Keeping tabs on yourself - Just like in a match when executing repetition you must keep tabs on your mental attitude at all times and make changes when necessary.  You must learn to keep track of your bad mental states as well as your good mental states and adjust accordingly.  

Build confidence - As you begin improving mentally as well as physically from the repetition your confidence will soar!  True confidence will sustain itself though successes and failures. 

Develop mental match play skills - Repetition has all the match play skills incorporated into the process. Handling failures, improving concentration, building confidence, etc.

Emphasize repetition, not technique - When you emphasize repetition you place the focus on you not technique. This has the affect of you not relying solely on technique to win. Instead, mental skills play a major role in your ability to win matches. Even when you are playing poorly.

Repetition is the chariot of genius and the true reason the pros have become the players they are today. You can utilize the same repetition principle to develop your physical skills as well as your mental skills and improve rapidly.

Whether you are a beginner or championship player I have the knowledge that can help you think like a pro.

How to get started:

  1. Tom's Free E-mail Tennis Lessons! (Sign up FREE on this website)

  2. Website - www.TennisWarrior.com

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  4. Audio tapes and CDs

I would like to be your secret weapon. I promise I will not tell anyone!

Tom Veneziano

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