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Tennis Warrior
January 2016 Article

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Rearranging Your Tennis Priorities

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Tom Veneziano

I have a challenge for you. Can you play a whole match without over-thinking or even caring at all about your mistakes? Can you give yourself the freedom to just play? No second-guessing your shots, no making an issue of mechanics, no changing strategy every fifteen minutes, just play. Whatever unfolds in that match is what you deal with. Whatever unfolds in that match is the level of your play on that day. If you cannot do this, maybe your tennis expectations need re-prioritizing.
Most players put pressure on themselves to play according to a certain ideal model of how well they play. If this paragon is not fulfilled during actual play, they can become despondent and confused. Unknowingly, these players create their own self-induced pressure by attempting to play up to their unrealistic standard.
You say, "But shouldn't I want to play a certain way? Shouldn't I want to play my best?" Of course. All players, whether amateurs or pros, desire to play a certain way in a match, if not their best. Who wouldn't! But there are two ways to approach your utopian model of play: either with your ideal model as first priority or with reality as first priority. Here we will see how an amateur and a pro manage these priorities in two fundamentally different ways.
The amateur player begins a match with a certain ideal model of play firmly fixed in his (or her) mind. As the match proceeds, he now attempts to unveil that exquisite model in his match play. If everything goes accordingly, all is well and good. But if the reality of the match veers away from that ideal model he created, frustration and confusion can take hold. While he is trying to achieve his beautiful best, too many mistakes and problems are getting in the way! How is he ever going to win?
For the amateur to win the match, the model he created must now unfold or else. Yet the details of the match are not following that model. Note that his ideal model is taking first priority in his mind, and the existing details of the match are a distant second!
In contrast, a pro goes into a match with his own ideal model, but he understands that each match is a different experience in itself. With flexibility and a relaxed mental attitude, he focuses on the reality of playing the match that unfolds in front of him on that day. As the match reveals its own particular set of circumstances, the pro adapts his play to whatever circumstances exist on the court. He works to guide this into his model game, but if he is not successful it does not matter. Whatever unfolds on that day is the match he will play.
Like the amateur, the pro would like to play according to a certain model of the way he knows he is capable of playing. But the pro never attempts to superimpose this model on the reality of the match. Experience has taught him that such inflexibility leads to frustration.
Note the subtle but critical difference between the mental priorities of the two. The amateur makes his created model the number one priority and attempts to force this model over the reality of the match details, whereas the pro makes playing the match that unfolds on that day his number one priority and guides that toward his perfect model of play.
So here is the challenge again. With your newfound knowledge, can you now play a whole match without over-thinking or caring about your mistakes? Can you give yourself the freedom to just play? What will be the reality you face that day? You can either endure constant disappointment by forcing your ideal model on the match reality, or you can embrace the confidence of adjusting to the reality of the game and let your ideal model follow suit. Prioritize to monopolize!

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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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