Tennis strokes are based on "feel" and that feel allows the mechanics to function properly. Since each player is unique, with individual physiological, mental, and emotional characteristics, each player must develop his own unique feel. As many of you know, this is a key principle of the Tennis Warrior System - playing by feel. This principle has many different applications. When you are in the middle of hitting a stroke you cannot see what is happening. Your eyes cannot follow every little intricate move of your racket or ball. Whether good, bad, or ugly, the stroke just happens! This is one of the reasons that focusing on too many mechanics will drive you bonkers. Most of the time when a player finishes a stroke he or she has no idea what just occurred. That's why when a teaching pro says to a student, "you are not following-through high," or "stop flicking the wrist," or "you have too big of a back swing," the student responds with, "I did what?"
The secret to this conundrum is to learn to let your feel be your eyes. Yes, as you will soon discover, you can see by feel. This concept is foreign to most players because they think in terms of consciously seeing through their eyes, not subconsciously seeing through a sense. A feel is a sense on a subconscious level. It's an awareness of something that you cannot physically see but you know it is there. I guess you could call it a sixth sense! Everyone can develop this sixth sense through the repetition process.
The ability to see where things are through feel is not new. Every day people access this sense but are not aware of it. Now, let me give you a few examples of the process to help you develop a feel and understand exactly how this feel principle works to give you 20/20 vision.
To be an efficient typist you must see by feel. From positioning your fingers on certain keys you learn to access all the other keys. You have the letters b, v, z, on the bottom and the e, y, p, at the top. You have numbers and punctuation, as well as many other keys. Once you have practiced many hours, using the process of repetition, you move your fingers through the air without looking and hit these small keys. You can accomplish this even though you are moving your fingers quickly at different distances and on different angles. When you become a proficient typist you do not see where these keys are, yet you manage to hit them with alarming consistency. You are seeing by feel!
I have observed skilled typists in action and it's amazing to watch their fingers fly from key to key without looking. Did you ever wonder how they find these small keys without keeping their eye on the keys? A skilled pianist does the same thing. For that matter anything you do that requires you to move quickly from one position to another also requires you to see by feel. How about when you drive a car? You do not look down all the time when you press on the gas or press on the brake. You feel where they are by many hours of practice. And you coordinate this feel with the steering wheel to know how much gas or brake to apply on a given turn. You are seeing what to do by feel.
Seeing by feel is your ultimate goal on a tennis court. To hit the sweet spot of your racket consistently, you must see by feel. To consistently aim a ball to a certain location, you must see by feel. To quickly read situations on the tennis court, you must see by feel. To develop competent tennis strokes, you must see by feel. You cannot think your way through a tennis stroke. You feel your way.
You must practice relentlessly until you can see by feel. Let me close with a story from one of my students about feeling relaxed when hitting a shot.
My goal as a coach is to have my students experience breakthroughs in feel. Everything I teach is related to creating the conditions to develop this feel by constantly challenging their senses. Recently Peggy, one of my students, told me about her breakthrough. She was up at the net volleying in a match when her opponent hit her a high ball. Peggy ran at the ball and was about to hit a volley when all of a sudden right in the middle of the shot an awareness of slowing down and relaxing popped into her mind. Peggy said it was an unbelievable sense or feel that slowed her down and allowed her to calmly hit a winner. She was shocked! Peggy's seeing by feel had 20/20 vision that time!
You will learn all phases of tennis in this fashion. What you are attempting to learn will just pop into your mind. Be patient with yourself and give yourself time to develop this sense. Trust me, just like Peggy you WILL have breakthroughs. Peggy was able to see by feel right in the middle of her shot! And interestingly enough she did not plan for this to occur...it just happened by itself.