September 19, 2016
Sometimes you look back at what your accomplishments are and wonder how the heck that happened. This is me with tennis. After all the research I've spent on how to skills are acquired and built on, I've realized that what I did to improve so much in tennis was somehow the way research points you to do. Meaning I didn't realize it at the time but I figured out the best way to improve at tennis in the shortest amount of time. Let me explain.
From the books "Peak," "Talent Code" and "Talent is Overrated," the researchers all agree the importance of mental representations. When I started playing, I had the two best players in the state of Michigan (both got full rides to play for Michigan and Penn State). To put in perspective, the #2 guy lost 13 games...the entire season, including just 1 in the sate tournament (The first game of the finals, which he ended up winning 6-1, 6-0). So I took advantage of this. I watched their movements, technique and strategies as they played their matches. I tried to find reasoning to everything they did to better understand the purpose of each shot. For example, they hit with a lot of topspin on their forehand and backhand so I had to know why this is important. I started watching professional tennis matches as well. With all of the mental representations in my head, I began to practice it. I even mimicked my favorite tennis players throughout the years of my high school days. Going from Andre Agassi to Pete Sampras and then on to Patrick Rafter. All of the time I was practicing correct form and undertaking the purpose behind it. Without correct mental representations, we are basically trying to reinvent the wheel with our technique, which will never compete with the technique that has been proven with all of the professional tennis players.
Not sure if you're looking the way you want to on the tennis court? Get a tripod and record yourself to see what you could improve the next time you get on the ball machine. You might be surprised to see things you are doing from a 3rd person perspective that you might not have ever noticed while hitting the ball.
What to Do When You See a Good Tennis Player Next Time
Don't watch the ball. As that person is hitting, focus on him or her. Mimic their movements in your head or even with your body as they are hitting. Remember that everything they do is because it is considered the best way to hit a tennis ball. If it's good enough for the pros it's good enough for us! So basically, don't do what most of these fans are doing while watching Serena Williams :)