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Tennis Warrior
May 2012 Article

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The 'I've got it' Mentality Has Got To Go!

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Tom Veneziano

One of the mental pitfalls that players unknowingly fall into is the "I've got it" mentality. To them, learning and playing tennis is not a process but a specific thing, a specific technique, a specific moment to be attained. For instance, I may be training a player on the ball machine to develop a forehand stroke and all of a sudden the player excitedly exclaims, "I got it!" What the player means is he figured out the stroke, so the shot is now his. He may have firmed up his wrist, hit the ball sooner, stepped a certain way, etc. The player believes this procedure or technique was the missing "it" and he now has the stroke of his dreams. Of course two shots later "it" is gone and the stroke is back to normal. Why? Because there is no such thing as that isolated certain something, that "it" that players so desperately desire. Finding "it" is a journey, a process, an ever-changing path toward the "feel" of a stroke.
The "it" mentality permeates most player's minds. Yet the quick fix, the instant solution, the magic moment that the tennis "it" type thrives on does not exist. If "it" existed there would be no need to implement a training program with hard work and massive repetition. Instead you need only to put your thumb this way or that way on the racket, step this way or that way on the court and presto! a Federer-like forehand suddenly appears. I've got "it!" Then if "it" disappears players simply find another coach that will fix "it." The cycle continues, always looking for the magic bullet and completely ignoring proven learning principles. I guess you could say the "I've got it" mentality has turned us all into a bunch of "itiots!"
Here is the problem with this type of thinking while developing a stroke. The quick-fix, "I've got it" mentality unknowingly overflows into all facets of a player's game. For instance, take match play. If your opponent plays confidently in the first set and beats you badly, you panic, isolate the situation and conclude, "my opponent is going to continue to play this way, I'm in trouble!" Same faulty thinking, different situation.
In match play, get the big picture by focusing on the process and the journey from beginning to end, not on isolated situations. Along the journey there are many ups and downs, successes and failures, momentum changes and loads of mental obstacles to overcome. The secret is to mentally feed all isolated situations that happen in a match into that big picture, then relax and enjoy the journey. Is that what players do? No way! To them it's not a journey, it's a series of isolated moments in which each moment determines the outcome of a match. If for one moment they are playing poorly, their mind is consumed by thoughts of failure. They think, "It's gone," "I've lost it," "It is all an exercise in futility!"
Players cannot even warm-up correctly without letting this "I've got it" mentality get in the way. Tennis strokes to many players just exist, they do not require a slow, warm-up PROCESS to develop the timing and rhythm. Instead they warm-up by banging the ball all over the place, hitting the ball with the same intensity as in a match they just finished the day before. If I ask them why they are warming-up like they're in the fifth set at Wimbledon, what I am likely to hear is, "That's the way I'm going to play in a match." So much for the process!
Stop isolating situations with the "I've got it" mentality when learning, playing, warming-up or in any other tennis scenario. Learning strokes is a process, match play is a process, warming-up is a process. Everything in tennis is a process, a journey that requires time, patience, flexibility and a relaxed mental attitude. Stop thinking that everything is an absolute. Just because you are playing poorly at the moment does not mean you will stay that way. Just because your opponent has hit some great shots does not mean they will continue. Just because you are losing does not mean it's fatal. But do stay alert! Just because you are playing well does not mean you will continue. Just because your opponent can't hit the broad side of a barn does not mean they will stay that way. And just because you are winning does not mean you are on your way to Wimbledon!
There are no absolutes in tennis, so STOP thinking that way. "It" is always a journey. If you do not believe me, watch Federer play a match. It's all mountains and valleys. No need to panic, just enjoy the ride.

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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.


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