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Tennis Warrior
August 2013 Article

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In tennis, you are what you think

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Tom Veneziano

Correct choices when playing tennis can make you a winner. Below are two. Which would you choose?
1. Play tentatively
2. Go for your shots
Most players would like to play with the "go for your shots," spontaneous, intuitive mentality, but instead they choose to play with a tentative, timid and cautious mentality. These two choices will always reside in your thinking your entire tennis career. The only effective thinking is to log more time in the "go for your shots" mentality and less time in the tentative and cautious mindset.
DISCLAIMER: As always, "going for your shots" does not mean you blast the ball with lightening speed! You can hit a slow drop shot and mentally be going for your shots. It is simply the absence of tentative and cautious thinking when hitting a ball -- you are letting go of fear. Remember: The more you fear, the more fear controls your thinking.
The conundrum is, often you can play tentatively and win, so why should you "go for your shots?" Perhaps you won because your opponent was more tentative than you! You should let go and just play because you will ultimately reach a higher level of relaxed play, and experience increased options and increased enjoyment along the way.
Somewhere, someday, somehow you must decide to head for the courts thinking you are going to let go whether you win, lose or draw. Do it now! And then accept the way you play as your new level of relaxed, spontaneous play, to be improved upon the next time. Do NOT fall into the emotional quagmire of returning to your old tentativeness just because you imagine that you play better. Stay with your new mental standard and continue to practice, practice, practice by thinking relaxed, spontaneous, "go for your shot" thoughts.
The attitude I describe above is called "mental toughness." Mental toughness is not allowing your emotions to control your thoughts. You are mentally overriding your emotions for the long-term goal of improving your game. And you will!
I remember when I had a breakthrough back in college, from mentally playing tentatively, to mentally letting go. The experience had such a profound impact that I have never forgotten the lesson. Yet it was very simple. Maybe you have had the same experience.
I was in a match playing tentatively and timidly and lost. After the match I sat down annoyed and frustrated. I thought to myself, "I could have lost going for my shots and had a heck of a lot more fun. I lost playing tentatively, so what is the difference? This tentative stuff just does not make the grade." I became determined that my cautious thinking would not happen again and vowed to let go in my next matches.
The next step was to have a chat with myself about the failures that would still exist even with this new mindset. Could I cope with some of the failures that would occur playing in a more aggressive but relaxed type of play? Would I remember that failure is the road to success? If not should I then just stay a tennis wimp and go back to my comfort zone tennis? But after my last match debacle, this did not even seem like an option. I was going for it. And I did!
I am here to report that going for your shots and letting go really is a heck of a lot more fun than wimpy tennis. I also started learning at a faster rate. As I continued to play, my failures decreased and my shots had more authority which had a major impact on my confidence and befuddled my opponents.
Would you like to finally rise from that cautious mental swamp? First, you must make a decision to let go. Second, you must make a decision to accept that failures are inevitable when you have made that decision to let go. The key to mastering this new realm of thinking is to accept the failures and keep swinging. Failures are the golden bridge that you must travel across to achieve your new and exciting game. All that remains is for you to decide to make the journey. Begin by thinking positively, staying relaxed and being ready to "go for your shots." As Marcus Aurelius proclaimed, "Your life is what your thoughts make it."

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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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