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Tennis Warrior
August 2014 Article

Tennis Warrior Archive

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Three Stages to Tennis Greatness

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Tom Veneziano

In the fictional story "The Legend of Bagger Vance" by Steven Pressfield, the author identifies three stages a player must go through to develop the Authentic Swing. Although this book was about golf, with a little modification the three stages apply perfectly to tennis and the Warrior System.
The Authentic Swing is a player's own individual, natural and instinctive swing that only he or she possesses, which is achieved in three stages:

  1. Pre-self-consciousness,
  2. Self-awareness or self-consciousness,
  3. Unconscious.

The pre-self-conscious stage relates to a child who has no fear of missing. He (or she) swings in unbridled freedom with a natural, relaxed stroke. As the book explains, "He doesn't think about what he is doing, he simply picks up the club and swings. This demonstrates deep wisdom, because it expresses faith in the existence of the Swing, it launches itself fearlessly into the Void."
This is the perfect thinking to bring out the best in a player's game. Unfortunately, players do not remain in this state of mind very long. Slowly, as the player ages, self-awareness or self-consciousness seeps into the mind and plays a major role in thwarting the perfect mental attitude.
The author's description of the second stage says it best:
"In this stage, we realize we possess an Authentic Swing, but we can't repeat it. Some days we can't find it at all. Our frustration mounts. We begin to study, to seek instruction, to strive by dint of effort to mold and control our motion. This as every golfer knows leads only to despair. We cannot overcome golf by force of will."

The self-awareness stage is where most players park their game for much of their tennis career. They try to overcome tennis by molding and controlling their motion by force of will! The Tennis Warrior System is designed to help players out of this plight, but most players fight it tooth and nail. Why? Let's go to stage three for some answers.
In stage three a player learns to let go, trust the swing and play from the unconscious. He or she surrenders control of their conscious mind to the unconscious and lets the stroke happen. Many players simply have trouble setting aside their conscious minds to achieve this goal. Technical control continues to dominate. These are the main reasons players get stuck in the quagmire of stage two. But there is a better way, as described in the book:
"The path of beating balls defeats the player, as it must, until he surrenders at last and allows his swing to swing itself. The path of study and dissection leads only to paralysis, until the player likewise surrenders and allows his overloaded brain to set down its burden, till in empty purity it remembers how to swing."

Have you learned to surrender to the game and let your strokes work by themselves? Have you challenged your conscious mind to stay out of the way? If so, does every failure or mistake entice you to take back conscious control? Do you then follow conscious control with a host of internal technical commands? Paralysis by analysis strikes again!
There is a simpler solution. Think back to the way you thought when you learned how to walk. Think back to the way you thought when you learned how to ride a bicycle. You say, "I don't remember thinking much of anything." Exactly! All you remember is lots of practice. Did you fail? Sure you did, all the time. What did you do? You got up and did it again and again and again. You surrendered to letting it happen and it did. Your Authentic Walk developed. You learned to ride a bicycle.
The genius of the mindset you displayed then must be tapped into again. I say genius because it is the same mindset that all great Champions adopt. That youthful willingness to just hit the ball, to just play, to just perform. Mistakes and failures be damned!

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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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