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Tennis Warrior
January 2011 Article

Tennis Warrior Archive

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Do you know when you're improving?

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Tom Veneziano

Often players improve but do not even know they are improving! This is a unique phenomenon that I have noted in my 30 years of teaching. The main reason this occurs is because most players use an incorrect model for determining improvement. Their improvement model is built on false assumptions and incorrect standards. Below are five of the erroneous beliefs incorporated in this failed model.

  1. They have been learning for months yet they are still making mistakes.
  2. The shot is not yet perfect, so there has not been improvement.
  3. Because the ball came back they think the shot is STILL not good enough.
  4. Many balls are still landing outside the court.
  5. They lose every match to the same player.

Did you notice the common denominator in these five false beliefs? Every one of themĘ is rooted in a negative. I'm still making mistakes - shot not correct - the ball came back - the ball landed out - losing to the same player - on and on! The premise for all these false beliefs is that they are not doing well, therefore they are not improving. Of course you could be improving rapidly and still have all these calamities happening. This is the normal learning pattern!
At the core of the problem is the player's mental attitude, perspective and belief system. How you analyze and evaluate things is crucial. Because you take your mental attitude with you wherever you go, you must learn to improve your ability to evaluate objectively. Let's look at a typical lesson and the student's perspective with the incorrect model.
I have been working with Sue on her backhand for one month. She has been hitting balls all over the place with a few sprinkled here and there in the court. Many balls are going 20 to 25 feet out. Sue is frustrated but I encourage her to keep practicing and, to her credit, she forges onward. Three months later Sue is still hitting balls long, but fewer are going 20 to 25 feet out. Many are now going 10 to 15 feet out with a number of balls actually landing in the court.
Sue now has a mental challenge. Is she improving? In most players' minds the answer is "no way!" She is still making mistakes (false belief number one) and balls are still landing out (false belief number four). This is the standard response I hear from my students.
Changing this negative thought pattern is essential. When you go from hitting many balls 20 to 25 feet out to hitting many balls only 10 to 15 feet out YOU HAVE IMPROVED. It's a positive! Not so with the incorrect learning model. Instead you are still failing. It's a negative! The usual cliche comes to mind. Is the glass half empty or half full? You must learn to see the positive when learning and NOT overthink the negative.
Why is this critical? BECAUSE YOU TAKE YOUR MENTAL ATTITUDE WITH YOU WHEREVER YOU GO. This includes right into a match! Learning to see the positives that occur in a match and not dwell on the negatives is the Tennis Warrior mentality. You must train your mind correctly when you are developing the Warrior mentality for match play. It's crucial!
You must stop evaluating your progress on whether you have improved based on the incorrect model. With that silly model you are never improving! Roger Federer still makes plenty of mistakes. Roger Federer hits balls long. Roger Federer has many great serves returned. I guess Roger Federer is just not improving! Even though he is one of the greatest players ever!
So, let's revise the model for improving - from the Tennis Wimp Model to the Tennis Warrior Model!
The Tennis Warrior Model
  1. I have been learning for months but I'm still making mistakes. I'll forget my mistakes and move on! The next shot is more important than the last mistake.
  2. This shot is not totally correct yet, but I can FEEL the improvement and will keep up the repetition.
  3. I expect my good shots to come back. This does not mean it's a bad shot. It just means, it came back... the object of the game!
  4. I'm still hitting balls out, but so does Federer. Many balls are landing in the court - even if I don't win Wimbledon.
  5. I'm losing to the same player, but I'm winning more points, and areas of my game are definitely improving.

Welcome to the Tennis Warrior World where thinking 'positive' is not just a word... it's a way of life!

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This column is copyrighted by Tom Veneziano, all rights reserved.

Tom is a tennis pro teaching at the Piney Point Racquet Club in Houston, Texas. Tom has taught thousands of players to think like a pro with his Tennis Warrior System.


In Tom Veneziano's book "The Truth about Winning!", tennis players learn in a step-by-step fashion the thinking the pros have mastered to win! Tom takes you Step-by-step from basic mental toughness to advanced mental toughness. All skill levels can learn from this unique book from beginner to professional. No need to change your strokes just your thinking.

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