The purpose of your consistent and intense practice sessions is to build a tennis matrix in your subconscious. (A matrix is defined as "something within which something else originates or develops.") From your practice and repetition you have carved out many nerve pathways within your tennis matrix. On a subconscious level these nerve pathways communicate with each other, allowing your body to play tennis more instinctively and automatically. Depending on your level of play this matrix can take months or years to develop. Aspire to be a good novice player and within months of practice you have increased your matrix to support that goal. But if you aspire to be a top pro you are looking at 10 years minimum (with intense practice, beginning very young) to develop a super highway matrix where impulses are traveling at blinding speeds.
But once you have built this subconscious matrix you still have a problem. Here's the conundrum. If your goal was to become a 4.0 player and you have developed a matrix in practice that supports that 4.0 goal, have you arrived? Answer. Nope! Now, the tough part begins. You have the matrix with all the nerve pathways in place, but you now must learn how to access this matrix in tournament play. Just like when you buy software and load it into the computer but have no idea what keys to press to make it work. The software is there but you cannot access it. The same is true with the subconscious tennis matrix that you have developed. Building the matrix is one thing but accessing it is another. So, how do you now access this matrix?
There is one button to push to access the matrix and allow it to perform its function. That button is "trust." You must practice trusting the matrix in tournament play. You let go consciously and trust your training. Let the matrix perform through the good times, through the bad times and though the okay times. Let the matrix guide the play. Your job is to do nothing but trust it!Ê
Bruce Lee, the great martial artist, summed it up best. In an interview he was asked, "What exactly do you do that helps you react so quickly." He answered, "When the opportunity arises I do nothing...it just happens by itself." Bruce trusted his subconscious matrix to do the job. He built a martial artist's matrix, then trusted it.
You will NEVER get over the hump in tournament play if you will not trust what you have built in practice. Trusting the matrix in practice matches is one thing but trusting it in tournament play is an entirely different story.
In match play if your trust button does not work you will have to consider bringing in a programmer and resetting your default mechanism. You are defaulting to unbelief. You do not believe in yourself enough to consistently let go in match play. When belief in yourself is strong enough you will trust the subconscious matrix to perform, even through the failures. You need some belief training!
THE TWO-STEP BELIEF TRAINING PROGRAM
So, how can you develop some belief in yourself? The first step is to begin in practice matches. If you cannot let go in tournament play you have not yet learned to totally let go in enough practice matches. You must use many practice matches to develop belief in yourself and your tennis matrix.
The second step is to find some small tournaments to play. In these tournaments your main goal is NOT to win. I repeat, your main goal is NOT to win. Your main goal will be to TRUST the tennis matrix and experience what this feels like in a tournament. If you lose but experience some sensations of trusting the matrix... you are on your way! This is mental conditioning to believe in yourself and trust your tennis matrix through the whole range of human emotions that can derail you in match play. Play as many small tournaments or club round robins as it takes to begin experiencing belief in yourself and your tennis matrix. Do NOT focus on winning. Let winning take care of itself.
Sooner or later you must learn to react instinctively and automatically in match play. This simple two-step plan can speed up the process and teach you to believe in yourself and your training.
Michael Korda (a famous novelist) once said, "To succeed, we must first believe that we can."
Remember, building a tennis matrix and becoming an improved player is one phase of tennis. This takes many hours and hours of repetitive practice and play. But accessing that matrix in match play is another phase of tennis that must be mastered. To do this you need a plan... and now you have one.