Keys to Peak Performance
This is, without a doubt, the most important piece of the peak
performance puzzle. If someone is not enjoying themselves while
they are playing, they are performing at less than their potential.
People can sometimes play well when they are angry or fearful,
but they can not play their absolute best. Absolute best only
comes when you are experiencing joy. This is not joy after winning
a point or a match, but joy each time you are rallying and most
importantly at contact.
In order to play your very best you must be relaxed. Alert, yet
relaxed. Not only do people react faster when they are relaxed,
they are also able to see and assess situations more quickly
and clearlyand if all that weret reason enough to
relax, learning is easier and faster when you are relaxed. This
is one of the most important parts of Effortless Tennis. It was
only when competition was removed from the program that it became
clear how critical relaxation was to peak performance. Only in
a cooperative environment is it possible for someone to experience
true relaxation. It just wont happen in competition.
Tennis is a moving meditation. One must stay focused on the ball
while running all over the court. Meditation is difficult when
there are no external distractions, it is even more challenging
when you must follow the ball and run after it. The concentration
it takes to be a great player is phenomenal. Developing great
concentration takes years. It is one of the most difficult challenges.
Our minds like to wander. It is easy to project into the future
or linger in the past, but we can train our minds to stay focused
in the present.
The ability to suppress annoyance when confronted with delay.
To be good at anything challenging takes years of work. During
that time it is easy to lose patience with the process and move
on to something else. This is a key to life. If you can maintain
patience anything is possible.
That ability to stay with something despite difficulties or obstacles.
No matter what you want to learn or do, this is one of the skills
needed to achieve your goal. There will be what seem like a myriad
of obstacles, but if you can stay focused on your goal it will
happen. It sometimes takes longer than we would like.
This is the key that separates success from failure. There may
be people that will help encourage you to do something, but basically
it must be your own motivation that gets you there. If you cant
motivate yourself, no one is going to be able to do it for you.
You are the one that has to put in the practice time. No excuses.
7. Cellular Memory
Every time you swing the racquet and move the body it leaves
an imprint of that action in the mind and body. Every time that
action is repeated it reinforces that imprint. After a certain
amount of repetition, that action becomes a habit that will repeat
automatically, without having to think about it. This is why
it is so important, from the beginning, to program efficient
movements into the subconscious, because once a habit is formed,
change is much more difficult.
There is also mental and emotional cellular memory. If someone
experiences anxiety or fear as the ball is coming to them, that
reaction will also be recorded in the subconscious. When someone
sees the ball coming to that spot, that emotion is triggered
automatically. It is very difficult to hit good shots when anxious
8. Hand/Eye Coordination (Tracking the Ball)
There are very few places where one has to react consistently
as fast as one does on a tennis court. Over the course of time,
with practice, hand/eye coordination will improve dramatically,
but it takes time. Keeping your eye on the ball is mostly a matter
of focus, concentration. Your eyes leave the ball, but it is
actually your mind leaving the ball. The eyes are the key to
timing your shot. All information we are getting is coming through
our eyes. If our mind is distracted with some other thought,
it is like the camera to our eyes is turned off, we are not getting
any information at that time. It is common for people, just before
they actually contact the ball l, to look up to see where their
shot is going. Theyve watched the ball 99% of the way,
but that last percent can be very important.
9. Stroke Mechanics
To be able to hit the ball into the court on a consistent basis
requires efficient stroke mechanics. The contact point has to
be precise, the angle of the racquet face just right, and the
speed of the swing in synch with the ball. The difference between
success and failure is fractions of a second and a few degrees
of angle. Over the course of time, if you wish to play better
players, it is necessary to make your strokes more and more efficient.
Having efficient strokes is a long-term project, but well worth
the time invested. Stroke mechanics is a matter of physics. The
body moves in certain ways that make hitting the ball seemingly
effortless. There are millions of ways to hit a ball, but what
we are looking for is the most efficient forms so that we can
react fast enough to hit very fast balls.
Just as there are most efficient stroking patterns there are
also most efficient footwork patterns. At higher levels of the
game you dont have time to take even one extra step. An
important part of footwork is weight transfer. To hit a solid
shot it is necessary to transfer our weight into the ball, from
our back foot to our front foot, at the ideal contact point and
at the ideal moment in time. This is quite challenging to do
We need to have good rhythm to play good tennis. Good rhythm
means good timing, and as the saying goes "timing is everything".
It's true. There is one ideal moment to hit each shot. A tenth
of a second is a long time in tennis, and sometimes when we are
off by a tenth of a second that is too much. To generate maximum
velocity with minimum expenditure of energy requires contacting
the ball at the one moment when the ball is at the ideal contact
point. Just as we do not want to be late when hitting a shot,
we don't want to be early either. As our skills develop we are
better able to see the ball so that we are better able to time
when to hit the shot. Timing is interrelated with hand/eye coordination.
We must be able to track the ball and keep ourself focused on
the ball simultaneously in order to be "in rhythm".
Regulating your breathing allows more efficient use of your energy.
The skill of breathing while you play is often overlooked. Most
people hold their breath at the moment of contact. People are
so busy trying to hit the ball that they forget to breathe until
they are gasping for air. Holding your breath at contact means
you are tightening muscles as you are hitting the ball. It seems
like tightening your muscles would create more power, but what
is actually happening is that the tightening decelerates the
racquet thereby diminishing power. Over the last dozen years
or so exhaling on contact has been championed by many of the
mental training experts in the game. The new piece of the puzzle
from Effortless Tennis is inhaling as your partner contacts the
ball, timing your inhale to continue until you exhale as you
contact the ball. Soft inhale, soft exhale.
This is the final key to peak performance. If you are not sure
you are going to be able to get to the ball and hit it back in
the court, you are decreasing your chances of making the shot.
Confidence does not come from some false bravado, but from an
internal knowing that you have the skills necessary to be successful.
When you have developed the other keys, confidence will take
care of itself. Confidence is the end result of doing the work.
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