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Tennis Warrior
November 2011 Article

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Are You Herd Bound or a Maverick?

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Tom Veneziano

In 1870 Sam Maverick inherited land in Texas from an uncle. Already a successful businessman, he was uninterested in any ranching pursuit. Thus the cattle roaming free on his land were never branded. Whenever cowboys saw a cow with no brand, they would exclaim, "Oh, that's a maverick!" This came to mean anyone who sets an independent course.
 
Principle: To be a better player or to be a mentally tougher player, do the opposite of what most players are doing.
 
Does this sound strange? Well it's true! The majority of players have a certain way to learn, practice, play and think. Do these players represent the Champion's mentality... I don't think so! Why would you want to learn, practice, play and think like them? Yet that is exactly what most players do. They have the follow-the-herd mentality -- if everyone is doing it, it must be right! But think about it, does a Champion think like everyone else?
 
So, what is the opposite of what most players are doing? Let's compare the herd mentality with the Champion mentality.
 
LEARNING
 
The Herd:
As we have discussed many times, most players are learning by over-emphasizing and over-doing mechanics. This method of learning is rooted in the tennis community and will never change. Why? Because this method appears to make sense, it's traditional, it offers technical excuses for failures and can be superficially understood by most players.
 
The Champion:
What are future champions doing? They usually begin as small children and are so busy having fun hitting thousands and thousands of tennis balls that they are not over-thinking the mechanics. The hour-long lesson they endure every week does little for their game. The hours and hours of play, outside of their lesson, are what truly develop their individual style, form and creativity. They are not branded with someone else's style. Like Bjorn Borg in the past, and Roger Federer of the present, they will define what's right in tennis. These two Champions have changed the face of tennis. They have learned by observation, imitation and repetition. This is the complete opposite of the traditional methods of learning rooted in excessive technique.
 
Learn like a Champion... do the opposite of what most players are doing. Be a maverick!
 
PRACTICING
 
The Herd:
Most players practice to win in practice, not to improve. And when they do practice to improve, they only want to improve their strengths! Odd, but it's true. Many players cannot handle failures even in practice. All they want to do is practice what they can do successfully. As the great golf instructor Harvey Penick once said, "In golf your strengths and weaknesses will always be there. If you could improve your weakness, you could improve your game. The irony is that people prefer to practice their strengths." In addition, average players are cavalier during their practice sessions and do not maintain an intense focus. Their practice sessions are no more than hitting a few balls and playing a few matches.
 
The Champion:
The Champion practices to improve and lets winning take care of itself. His or her practice sessions require intense focus and he or she is always working on molding weaknesses into strengths. Repetition is the order of the day. Constant repetition with drills, strokes, point play and practice matches. Hitting lots of balls helps to internalize the necessary feel that will elevate his or her game in match play. The Champion practices consistently with a focused purpose knowing that few others are doing the same.
 
Practice like a Champion... do the opposite of what most players are doing. Be a maverick!
 
PLAYING
 
The Herd:
In match play, most players let failures dictate their mental attitude and their strategy. They experience one or two failures and immediately begin over-thinking their strokes and strategy. This in turn makes them 'tight,' and tentative play begins to seep into their minds. They see match play as a threat, not a challenge. They still believe that to fail is wrong and failure is not a part of winning. If they lose a few matches in a row they will even think about quitting. They whine, "after all my hard work!" They believe they are a victim of their match-play circumstances.
 
The Champion:
Supreme players clearly understand that failure is a blip on the map of success -- no more, no less. In match play their minds dominate over the emotional sting of failure and determine their mental attitude. This in turn keeps them free to just play without over-thinking. If they lose a few matches in a row they simply intensify their practice sessions. Like ordinary players they still have thoughts of self-doubt, discouragement and despair, but unlike most players they instantly and intuitively suppress these feelings. They believe they have control over these emotions and they alone are responsible to exert that control.
 
Play like a Champion... do the opposite of what most players are doing. Be a maverick!
 
Learn, practice, play and think like the herd and you will develop herd-like habits. Learn, practice, play and think like a Champion and you will develop the mind of a Champion. You will be a maverick and win more!
 

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Tennis Warrior Archive

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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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