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Mastering the Mental Side of Tennis

It is only against the big waves that he is required to use all his skill, all his courage and concentration to overcome; only then can he realize the true limits of his capacities. At that point he often attains his peak. In other words, the more challenging the obstacle he faces, the greater the opportunity for the surfer to discover and extend his true potential.

The potential may have always been within him, but until it is manifested in action, it remains a secret hidden from himself. The obstacles are a very necessary ingredient to this process of self-discovery. In true competition no person is defeated. Both players benefit by their efforts to overcome the obstacles presented by the other. But one can control the effort he puts into winning. One can always do the best he can at any given moment. Self 1 gets so dependent upon things, situations, people and concepts within its experience that when change occurs or seems about to occur, it feels threatened.

Freedom from stress does not necessarily involve giving up anything, but rather being able to let go of anything, when necessary, and know that one will still be all right. What I really wanted, I realized, was to overcome the nervousness that was preventing me from playing my best and enjoying myself. I wanted to overcome the inner obstacle that had plagued me for so much of my life. I wanted to win the inner game. Like this: Like Loading Related posts. Leave a Reply Cancel reply Enter your comment here Shooting a free throw or throwing a pitch are similar but there are far fewer variables and the action is identical each time.

You can practice that identical free throw or pitch thousands of times. In golf every shot is different, a little or a lot. In the other sports you do not have time to think.

You must react more naturally without trying to control your action. Quickly you find out that thinking about your body while shooting hurts your ability to shoot well. Our ancestors lived and survived because they could do this well. It is built into us. But in golf, there is no urgency, no very short time limit for acting. You have time to think of all kinds of things and try to control your actions, trying not to make a mistake.

That means that every shot and outcome are important. In baseball, if you get a hit every third time to the plate you will be in the Hall of Fame. No quarterback realistically expects to make every pass. The natural response to golf for most of us is to get more careful and deliberate in our preparation to play the shot and then we often try to control our swing or stroke to get them just right, or perfect because the outcome counts.

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We may be trying to avoid a miss or making a mistake. This makes us more Left Brained and less athletic. It messes up our trained swing or stroke. Many play their best golf when they stop worrying about the outcome or making a mistake.

Mastering The Mental Game | Talk Tennis

For most players this happens by accident. It is not the natural nor normal response to every shot counts. You then attempt to make every routine the same. This leads to focusing on the number of steps, the number of looks, the number of waggles, the checking of alignment, the checking of posture and grip and stance, checking and monitoring the takeaway and the all important swing keys every time. Your coach may reinforce this by noting that your routine changed that time, after a miss.

This also makes you more Left Brained and less athletic. It has you focusing on things that do not matter and blocks a full athletic swing. It makes you slow down and get more careful and deliberate when the shot or round is more important. It does not improve your consistency. It hurts it. This creates a lot of frustration because you are following the coaching but it is not working. It can create lots of self doubt. This is a fallacy and not a great way to practice to play golf.


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It is only practice swinging the golf club in a certain way. Most of you spend all your practice on technique and repeated swings and swing keys because of this coaching. Then you go out on the course and play golf swing trying to remember all your swing keys and making perfect swings. The other Tour players do not, yet they are all physically skilled golfers. These personality traits determine how they process information, make decisions and think on the golf course.

It is the secret of the frequent winners on Tour. They are naturals for stroke play golf. Even the Champions get off track because of these challenges. We can see these.

We can feel these. Often they work well in some situations on the golf course and the range. They may work well in practice or fun rounds. They may work well in rounds where you have lots of confidence because of your experience. We spend lots of time, effort and money on our physical skills and equipment. We have been promised that if we do these things well and have the latest and best equipment, that we will play well and hit it farther.

Mastering the Mental Side of Tennis

The golf industry makes its living from these promises. We see others doing this. We are told working hard on our game will pay off. If we hit poor shots or have bad holes, then we need to work on our physical games more.

We have had many clients who have worked very hard on their physical games and find that they do not score as well as they used to. Although the instruction thus conceived can now be stored in the part of the mind that remembers language, it must be acknowledged that remembering the instruction is not the same as remembering the stroke itself.

Focus means keeping the mind now and here. It is not distracted by other thoughts or external events, it is totally engrossed in whatever is relevant in the here and now. My own device, and one that has been effective for many of my students, is to focus attention on breathing. Some object or activity which is always present is needed. Putting attention on breathing simply means observing my breath going in, going out, going in, going out in its natural rhythm. It does not mean intentionally controlling my breath.

Our minds leave the reality of the present only when we prefer the unreality of the past or future. He values the obstacles the wave puts between him and his goal of riding the wave to the beach. Because it is those very obstacles, the size and churning power of the wave, which draw from the surfer his greatest effort. It is only against the big waves that he is required to use all his skill, all his courage and concentration to overcome; only then can he realize the true limits of his capacities.

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The Inner Game of Tennis: The Classic Guide to the Mental Side of Peak Performance

At that point he often attains his peak. In other words, the more challenging the obstacle he faces, the greater the opportunity for the surfer to discover and extend his true potential. The potential may have always been within him, but until it is manifested in action, it remains a secret hidden from himself. The obstacles are a very necessary ingredient to this process of self-discovery. In true competition no person is defeated.

Both players benefit by their efforts to overcome the obstacles presented by the other.