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Three Stages to Tennis Greatness
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:
- Self-awareness or self-consciousness,
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
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
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
"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!
Tennis Warrior Archive
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This column is copyrighted by Tom Veneziano, all rights
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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