Many readers have asked how I developed the Tennis Warrior System. They are curious as to why I drifted away from the conventional wisdom of teaching tennis with emphasis on external mechanics, and moved toward teaching a more automatic, instinctive and spontaneous style of playing with emphasis on the internal senses and repetition. After players have learned the different parts of my system and experienced how these parts come together physically as well as mentally, many begin to wonder how it all started. So, in response to the inquiries, I shall now give a quick summary of the genesis of the Tennis Warrior System.
IN THE BEGINNING
For 40 years I have been a tennis coach. The first 15 years I taught the conventional methods of playing, and for the last 25 years I have been teaching my Tennis Warrior System. When the system was in its infancy 25 years ago I had no idea what would develop. Back then I constantly asked myself "why was I teaching one way and playing another?" I would teach to stay still and balanced after a shot. But did I do that? No! I jumped and dove all over the place! I would teach to move the weight into every ball. Did I do that? No! I hit with my weight going forward, sideways, upward or backwards depending on the situation at hand! I would teach to jam the racket back immediately. Did I do that? No! I ran with my racket comfortably in front, then when I got close to the ball I began my racket preparation! I would relentlessly teach to bend the knees. Did I do that? No! On some shots I bent my knees and on others I did not! Soon I was confronted with a blinding flash of the obvious.
If I personally were not using all of these techniques when I played, why was I teaching that way? I came up with two reasons. One, you learn using conventional techniques at first and later you begin playing the way I was playing. Two, tennis was traditionally taught using these conventional techniques. I was blindly accepting this method as the correct method.
I remember thinking, "If at first I teach my students these accepted conventional techniques, then at what point do I tell them to switch to the more automatic, instinctive and spontaneous style?" If players come to me week after week and I teach them all of these traditional mechanics, do I one day say, "Forget all of these mechanics and just go play!"?
I never could come up with a satisfactory answer to this contradiction: teach one way, play another. Learning the conventional way was rooted in tradition, not in true learning principles. How could I teach players to play naturally without forcing a host of mechanics on them?
Then I thought about how I learned to play not by using a lot of technical information, but by hitting thousands and thousands of balls over the years. Tennis was my life! I would hit balls anywhere, anytime. I would play any opponent on any court - clay, hard, grass, marble or mud! Just let me hit tennis balls! Little by little my strokes began to mold themselves.
As a seasoned coach, I decided to try teaching a player balance without saying much. My plan was to quietly let the student hit a lot of balls and I would observe what his body would do. What occurred next shocked me! At first my student was clumsy and off balance, but I said nothing! Weeks later he still was not in much better shape, but still I said nothing. Then, suddenly, I noticed some improvement in the way he was catching his balance after a shot. I was motivated to forge ahead. Months later the unbelievable improvement in his balance was all the proof I needed to begin testing, testing, testing all parts of a stroke. With little instruction and lots of repetition I was learning how to mold a player's stroke according to his own style, form and personality. Wow! I knew I was on to something big.
Repetition is the chariot of genius. Repetition molds a player, not the technical instruction. This is the way all pros have learned the game. These magnificent men and women were so excited about playing tennis that they just hit and hit and hit.
THE FINAL QUESTION
So I knew repetition worked, but I really did not know how. Why did the strokes mold themselves with little technical information? Why did the feet go this way and arms go that way all by themselves to develop a stroke? What was the key that explained this phenomenon? The answer was so simple, yet it was months before it came to me.
My final epiphany catapulted my system to the next level. The answer was in how we learned to walk! The trial and error of a small child teetering on the brink of mobility. His or her little body over time, with much repetition and much trial and error, makes automatic corrections and begins internally balancing itself. The body actually seeks to become more efficient on its own to survive the tumbles and spills! Eventually this internal balancing mechanism is manifested externally by walking correctly. This process is true of riding a bicycle, playing a musical instrument and, oh yes, even learning to play tennis.
THE TENNIS WARRIOR SYSTEM WAS BORN!
Mission accomplished! With a basic foundation of true principles set, I began to build my system. Now here we are, twenty-five years later. My system has turned into a philosophy - the Tennis Warrior philosophy. I have three CDs, one book, two booklets, a website and tons of articles to explain the principles that I have accumulated for all these years.
The Tennis Warrior System just keeps growing and I thank all of you for being a huge part of the Tennis Warrior success. Many of you grabbed onto the Warrior principles and made them a part of your tennis life as well as your everyday life. For this, I thank you.
And that's how it all began.