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Your 2020 Tennis Goal: Chop Wood and Carry Water

The book I'm currently reading, Burn Your Goals by Joshua Medcalf and Jamie Gilbert, mentions a story that pertains well to tennis training. It starts with a boy who wants to become a samurai master archerer. The boy finds out that the training he is required to do is very mundane with little focus on the archery itself. In fact, he has to chop wood and carry buckets of water for most of the day. Finally, the boy gets so angry, he calls out his sensei, arguing that he cannot be a good archerer with such training. The sensei shows off his archery skills to his young student by not only hitting the targets from a great distance, he does it in the dark. When the boy asked him how he was able to accomplish such a feat, the sensei says:

“Many years of chop wood, carry water. John, you aim only with your eyes, but I aim with everything. Everything impacts everything. The way I stand, the position of my feet, how much tension I put in the bow, how much tension I have in my hands, how I breathe, and what I see in my mind all impact the end result. Everything impacts everything. Everything is aiming. You have much to learn young John. Get some sleep, and tomorrow we chop wood, carry water.”

The term chop wood and carry water refers to the process of being great. This principle relates well in your tennis matches. Tennis can make a moment of time an exciting or disappointing one. We are either winning or losing points throughout a match. Having one eye on the match itself and one eye on the outcome will never give you a mindset to win. Every one of these moments are necessary outcomes to be victorious in your match. This means treating the ups and the downs with equal clarity and emotional control.

In your tennis training, this principle is just as important. Focus on the process of becoming a better tennis player. Many recreational players have the constant eye for the level they want to be at, robbing them of the mindset needed to improve at that moment of time. Many high level coaches I've interviewed all said the same thing about improvement: try to get 1% better at something every time you practice.

Use this process in your training and matches and there’s no stopping you from getting into your best tennis self in 2020!

I wrote a book on teaching yourself tennis. I've included a lot of research on all elements to improve your game, including interviews from legendary coaches and players such as Brad Gilbert and Rick Macci.

Check it out here!

Here are some important aspects to think about when trying to hit cross court vs down the line.

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