Effortless Tennis - Innovative Tennis Instruction



We have known Brent for 12 years and have taken lessons from him for 10 years. When we first started with Brent we played at approximately a 2.5 USTA rating, even though we had been playing for nearly 15 years. Although we had taken lessons from various tennis professionals prior to starting with Brent, we were at a point in our tennis game where our improvements were coming at a very slow pace.

Brent introduced us to Effortless Tennis. The transition from a competitive game to a relaxed, cooperative and joyful game of tennis has not been easily obtained, however the methods have proven correct.

Over the last several years Brent has taught us how to breathe properly, allowing us to stay relaxed and focused under the most adverse conditions. He has taught us how not to be intimidated when playing the game with other players. We have applied these philosophies to many other aspects of our lives. They have benefited us both professionally as well as personally.

My wife and I are currently playing with a USTA rating of 4.0 . We believe our ratings would be higher if we had started with Brent from the beginning.

We support and recommend Brent’s style of teaching for everyone. We especially think that if a child were to begin lessons from Brent at an early age, that child could be as good as he or she chooses to be. Brent is not only our tennis professional, we also consider him a very special friend. He maintains a high level of professionalism and has high values. We think any person, especially children, will benefit immensely from the teaching of Brent, not only from the sport of tennis but more importantly in the sportsmanship of all games.

Rick & Kim Clark
San Anselmo, CA

I’m writing to express my appreciation for your enjoyable and productive tennis instruction. Not only did I enjoy it; you clearly did, too. I find it rare to encounter a teacher who combines the head, heart, and skills with an expanded perspective.

Your “Effortless Tennis” addresses the practical realities of learning the skills and principles of tennis; but more than that, it bridges tennis and life. In other words, like the old martial arts master, Zen teachers, and the Greek sages, you teach not only an effort-less approach to sport, but to living well.

Whether someone wishes to learn tennis as a recreational activity or seeks the highest reaches of professional ranks, I believe that you rise above most teachers with your emphasis on skill mastery before competitive focus. I know, from our conversations, that your cooperative mind-set not only enhances the joy of the game, but helps one to achieve true victory.

I thank you, congratulate you, admire you, and encourage you to continue your mission to show how to combine breath, relaxation and a sense of joy, turning tennis into an art as well as a path of personal discovery.

Dan Millman
author, "Way of the Peaceful Warrior", "Body Mind Mastery", and many other enlightening books,
San Rafael, CA

Losing Battle?
I have been playing tennis for 14 years. I played for my high school team and had planned to play for a college team. I ended up helping coach intermediate and advance players in college, but not playing. The reason, winning was always what I was thinking about, but I didn’t know how to do it. When I didn’t win, I felt that I was a failure—this only increased my self-esteem problem on court and I kept losing. It was a vicious circle. Up until now this has been my problem, and I am just beginning to resolve it.

During my whole tennis career, everyone told me what a great player I was, how I should win and there was a great deal of pressure put on my by myself and coaches etc. No one told me how to win or what the real reason for playing tennis was. I ended up just playing friends and making it a hobby when I had planned to do a lot more with it. I just couldn’t figure out why I couldn’t win on a consistent basis. The reason—I was putting too much emphasis from the beginning on winning, not concentrating on the fundamentals and not realizing that tennis is supposed to be fun. I had started almost immediately in competition after learning the game and this did not help.

This year I started working with Brent and his Effortless Tennis program. Although we are changing some things in my game (almost everyone needs to do that since we all fall into bad habits) we are mostly changing my attitude towards tennis. When I start getting angry at myself for missing a shot or losing a point, Brent asks “How’s the fun factor?” which always makes me laugh and loosens me up. This then makes me play better because I really start to relax. Tennis is fun and that is the reason we play it, isn’t it? Unfortunately, when it isn’t fun it is because you are putting too much pressure on yourself to win. When you do this it is only a losing battle and I have found this out the hard way. Effortless Tennis is changing my game and my mind for the better and I wish that this program and Brent had been around when I was learning tennis—maybe then I would have lived up to my dreams in the game.

Lisa Hanks
Fairfax, CA

I began playing tennis in junior high school about 22 years ago. I was certainly enthusiastic and enjoyed the sport, but always experienced my efforts as fighting an uphill battle against clumsiness and sloth. I wanted to play tennis better and more often, but actual reality was that I found it a lot easier to succeed at academics and give up sports. Some people have math anxiety—I had "athletic anxiety;" I could not visualize myself as succeeding at any sport consistently. There was some fundamental component of being physically adroit that I had not gotten. The difficult, irregular and awkward way I played confirmed my belief that I was not cut-out for sports.

Nonetheless, I persisted, and continued to play tennis intermittently over the years, picking it up, dropping it again, never quite willing to give up yet never developing any real skill nor enjoying the game much. However, about 21/2 years ago I found a tennis instructor with a different approach to teaching: Brent Zeller. In effect, Brent has a system which starts back at the beginning of tennis training recognizing that I—and apparently many people—do not miraculously grasp all the fundamentals of a sport at once. Physical skills build atop previously acquired physical skills, and if we miss a step we may be able to compensate, yet we will have inhibited our ability to make much progress.

Rather than allowing steps in learning to be missed, Brent emphasizes what he calls Effortless Tennis, in which he breaks the complex moves of each stroke into a series of fundamental actions which we can practice until the correct way to make each motion is automatic. And the process proceeds very slowly—with a great emphasis on learning the proper form, and a sharp de-emphasis on competitive pressure.

So, bottom line, what are the results? Have I become a tennis robot executing a repertoire of boring, mechanical moves? Actually, no. The slow, steady concentration on fundamentals has given me a base that I never had before. Now, when I play, I have the freedom that comes from not having to think consciously about each motion I make. And this is very interesting, because it has allowed me to discover a part of myself that I could not see before. I no longer judge my athletic abilities on the basis of quick successes or instant failures—but I know from my own experience that I can develop a skill, and ability to remain calm and concentrated.

The benefits are persistent. I’ve learned a new way to learn and a new respect for my athletic abilities. Though I moved about 6 months ago to Seattle, I have continued to apply the principles of slow, observant learning—and I no play tennis several times each week. Relentlessly I keep getting better. What is most important to me is that I am enjoying the sport—I’ve gone from “athletic anxiety” to athletic enthusiasm.

Andrew Layman
Seattle, WA

As the father of one of Brent’s students, I have had ample opportunity, over the last two years, to observe my sixteen year old daughter’s remarkable growth both as a tennis player and as an athlete. Ashley took up tennis during the summer just prior to her freshman year by attending a two week beginner’s tennis camp. Then, on a dare, she went out for the high school girls tennis team. Ashley had neither the skills nor the athletic background to begin competing but, being a member of a weak team, she was able to earn a varsity letter.

Ashley began working with Brent and his cooperative tennis system the following summer. It was a good match because it was based entirely on skills development and the mental aspects of the game rather than competition. Brent is an excellent communicator and works very well with teenagers. He kept Ashley motivated during those early days by teaching her the principles of Effortless Tennis. He explained to Ashley that she could become a competitive tennis player but she would have to build a foundation of skills first.

Ashley agreed and what followed has been extraordinary to observe. After only one summer with Brent, Ashley was named the most improved player on the varsity team. This year as a singles player the quality of her entire game is elevated. Further, she is mentally stronger and more prepared for competition than ever before.

What is important to note is that Brent has taught Ashley, and his other students, much more than basic tennis skills and the mental aspects of the game, he has instilled important life skills such as patience, perseverance, self-motivation, and personal responsibility. I firmly believe that Ashley’s success in tennis is due in great measure to Brent and his method of teaching. If it takes a village to raise a child, I feel fortunate that Brent is a part of our village. For the good of the kids, I strongly urge you to support his program.

Harley Christensen
San Rafael, CA

I have been a participant in Brent Zeller’s tennis program, Effortless Tennis, since March of 1996. I have been an active tennis player since 1989. Brent’s program has been extremely helpful to me. Brent has taught tennis skills in a cooperative environment, while removing the pressure of competitive situations. It has provided a much better learning experience than other programs that I have participated in, where the emphasis is on winning and beating the other players. I have found, through Brent’s program, that it is best to first acquire tennis skills before jumping blindly into competitive situations.

A large part of Brent’s instruction is on the mental aspect of the game, how to breathe, how to mentally approach the game so as to hit the ball solidly and in control with every stroke, Once you take the aspect of winning and losing out of the equation, you can learn more about yourself and your game and how to improve both.

I have invested 2 hours most every Sunday with Brent since 1996, and his program has been very valuable to me and has greatly increased my abilities as a tennis player. I doubt I will ever outgrow this program as these is so much to learn of this aspect in the game of tennis.

Eric Engstrom
Corte Madera, CA

I just wanted to let you know that your Effortless Tennis approach works! I’ve shied away from competitive sports since I was a little girl. Far too often I was thrown into a sporting situation without the essential skills. Whether from a lack of time or knowledge on the part of my teachers and coaches, I developed a fear of participating. While in high school I wanted to play tennis, but by then I had sufficient negative programming that I didn’t even try. From my first lesson with you almost four years ago, you taught non-competitive tennis, stressing the idea that all of us can learn sports and be successful with a positive approach.

Well, your patient non-competitive coaching and belief in “muscle memory” has withstood my two-year absence from your program. You said that the muscles would remember what to do and eventually the movements would come without thinking. I recently returned to you clinic and much to my amazement, my first strokes and serves were as if there had been no time lapse. Indeed, my muscles remembered.

Effortless Tennis builds life-long skills. Your non-competitive approach should be taught in schools so that our youth may experience the joy of learning and playing sports from an early age. Not only would they be better athletes, but the confidence and self-esteem gained can only have a positive effect on their lives.

Tressa Breslin
Mill Valley, CA

In January of 1993 I was introduced to a new concept of training to become a more accomplished tennis player. The Effortless Tennis concept developed by Brent Zeller has helped my game beyond my wildest dreams. I have played tennis for close to thirty years and all of a sudden realized that I very rarely look at the ball. The 10 steps to improve your tennis listed on the Effortless Test List have had an enormous impact on me. First of all, I now see the ball most of the time - my court coverage has improved to a degree that often baffles my opponents - my footwork improved (I no longer grow roots while waiting for the ball!!) and above all my enjoyment of the sport is exactly where it should be. Believe me, Brent Zeller’s philosophy works.

I wish this concept would be employed by all tennis professionals, especially when instructing children. The results would be astounding.

Marianne Strotz
Marin Open Singles League
Tiburon, CA

My experience with Effortless Tennis was extremely positive. Not only did this evolutionary approach to the game of tennis help me become a stronger player, it helped me manifest a deep appreciation for playing the game. Effortless Tennis taught me to relax and enjoy each shot, to breathe and focus mentally as I honed solid physical skills. By simultaneously learning the mental and physical components of the game, my ability to play continually transcended itself.

As a member of the victorious 1991 Sir Francis Drake High varsity tennis team, I feel confident in speaking about the success of Effortless Tennis. Our large and eager, yet under skilled freshman class was introduced to this method of coaching in 1988. During our freshman season we lost every match except for one. However, through Effortless Tennis we learned to forget about defeat, even to forget about victory, and to concentrate on each ball as it came. Over the course of the ensuing years we underwent an incredible transformation. Our skills improved, our attitudes improved, our ability to enjoy ourselves on the court became natural, and the outcome took care of itself. As seniors we were undefeated, beating a team that hadn't lost a championship in at least a decade.

For me, this approach to the game has extended well beyond the tennis court. It has enabled me to deal with the game of life in a profound way. I breathe, I meditate, I focus on tasks at hand, I improve my skills, I enjoy it. Although it may get difficult at times, I am not worried about its outcome.

Jacob Simon
1991 Drake High Tennis team
Fairfax, CA

I have been a student of Brent Zeller’s Effortless Tennis program since 1988 when I started playing for Drake High. The Effortless Tennis program not only drastically helped my game, it turned our loosing team into MCAL undefeated champions. In addition, Brent’s program made tennis more enjoyable, which is by far the most valuable gift that I received.

Brent worked closely with our team starting in 1988. Our practices were immediately transformed from monotonous and sometimes frustrating to fun and challenging. The effortless philosophy helped us to develop our game, without feeling the overwhelming pressure to win. Winning became the natural outcome of doing something that we truly enjoyed. Our team was young, mostly freshman, which meant that we had tremendous potential to pull together by our senior year. We lost most of our matches that first year but we never got too down on ourselves. Brent continually raised our morale by imparting his effortless philosophy. He would sit us down and just talk to us about the game. He would tell us how important it is to put our emphasis on having fun and to take the game one ball at a time. These words of wisdom got us through many matches, especially tough matches. Most players give up on a game if they are down 40-love, even at 30-love they’d already be thinking about the next game. When you are playing effortlessly, the score doesn’t intimidate you and cause you to self-destruct, you just play one ball at a time, with your complete focus on the present moment.

By our senior year we were a force to be reckoned with. It was like we had gone through a major growth spurt, the once tiny Drake High tennis team was standing tall and proud. We glided into the finals where we faced Redwood High, a team that had won the MCAL championship for the last 13 years. The match was close, it came down to the final doubles team, but the victory was ours. The 4 years of practice under Brent’s mastery and committed guidance to our team bestowed us with the physical, mental, and emotional strength to pull off the upset.

I highly recommend Brent Zeller, he is an exceptional coach and teacher who has created a philosophy that has the potential to revolutionize tennis.

John Paradiso
Drake High tennis team 1991
Woodacre, CA

I started the Sir Francis Drake High Tennis team during my sophomore year. That year I was placed number eighteen on the roster, dead last. Prior to this I had played sparingly with a couple of friends, always in the form of sets, never practicing the fundamentals.

Brent Zeller with his Effortless Tennis program taught me the fundamentals I never learned. A lot of people shy away from drills and prefer to play sets. Those people don’t ingrain a solid foundation to their game. Brent helped me understand that the energy I was putting into playing sets, while good for match experience, could be more gratifying if I used it to practice and hone my skills.

Brent emphasized having fun and made me realize that enjoyment wasn’t something that one felt just because he/she won a match. He taught me to appreciate the learning process and find my joy of the game while I was playing, not in the result. If I didn’t play to my potential, I found that I was less self-critical and could forgive myself easier and move on. I learned to find or maintain a freedom in myself to grow and not stagnate myself through “shoulda, coulda, woulda’s.”

In my 3 years working with Brent and his Effortless program I grew tremendously as well as the whole team. Brent really helped the team turn around its attitude and behavior. Match play became much more fun. The team became much more consistent on the court and it really showed in our record—during my senior year the team went undefeated and beat perennial power Redwood. Personally I experienced much growth—I went from number 18 to number 3 in just 3 short years, with only a few graduations during those years. I had a win-loss record of 12-3 and was voted most improved player and co-captain of the team.

Effortless Tennis taught me to use the power of my playing partner off my racquet with timing, weight transfer and use of breath. This saved my own energy, put my body at less risk for injury and took me out of a position of engaging in a power struggle to see who could “slug it out.” I was using way less energy than my partner, yet I was hitting just as hard and usually more accurately.

The Effortless program is powerful, because it transcends the succeed or fail mind set. In Effortless Tennis there is no option to fail. It does not exist. The mind of an Effortless player is not looking for ways to beat oneself, as so many people unconsciously do with self-deprecating thoughts, but to look for ways to get out of one’s way and create a healthy, encouraging, stable mind set.

This more harmonious way of thinking also helped me in daily life off the court. It challenged me with new ideas and ways of approaching life. Rather than letting stressful moments get the best of me, I apply Effortless ways of thinking to work with them. My patience and focus has grown since I worked with Brent. Effortless Tennis is about balance on the court and it can carry into your daily actions off the court.

I am grateful and owe a big thanks to Brent Zeller and his Effortless program for helping me realize my potential.

John Patterson
Drake High team 1991
Santa Barbara, CA

I started to work with the Effortless Tennis approach in 1994. I had played tennis on and off for years but without very good instruction. I also had a bad case of “John McEnroe” disease. I would become angry and throw my racquet when I could not hit the ball properly which was pretty often.

We started by hitting the ball softly at short distances until I felt comfortable with the basic forehand and backhand stroke. The emphasis on relaxation and letting the smooth motion of the stroke provide all the momentum for the ball allowed me to relax and really enjoy playing. I learned how to enjoy the “learning process” and move onto the next step only after feeling very comfortable with the current strokes. I also learned to play cooperatively with my tennis partner. Hitting the ball to a point that would stretch their tennis game instead of trying to hit it past them has immeasurably improved my consistency, accuracy and my love of the game.

After 1994, I moved to New York for 3 years and then to Los Angeles. I periodically go to the Bay Area to take lessons with Brent. Because the basic approach to tennis strokes is so relaxed and easy, I’m able to take the lessons home and work with them easily. I can’t wait to get up in the morning and go out and play tennis, usually with a smile on my face.

Nina Rote
Los Angeles, CA

Some years ago I decided to learn a new sport. I had been a long distance runner for many years and was looking for something which required technical skill and was mentally challenging. In high school I had played football, basketball and run track. I had experienced the excitement of victory and the frustration of defeat. What I most enjoyed about sport was the participation and having fun with my teammates. Over the years I had thought about tennis but never got into it. I believed I was too old to ever become good at the game. Deciding to try tennis anyway, I knew that I would require some instruction. A friend introduced me to Brent Zeller and I took my first lesson. I was 29.

I approached the lesson with a total beginner’s attitude, being completely open and ready to learn. From the beginning, Brent systematically and methodically instructed me in the fundamentals of the game. In his relaxed and supportive learning environment I progressed at a steady and gradual rate. Though I wanted quicker results, I got a lesson in patience and perseverance.

Over the years I continued my commitment to the long-term learning process with continuous improvement in my strokes and footwork. It was this commitment to learning more than to winning that really held my interest in the sport. My interest with the learning process inspired me to want to become a tennis instructor in 1987, only a year after I began to play. I realized that with Brent’s information, I could become an instructor of Effortless Tennis.

I began to assist Brent with his workshops and entered into a whole new learning experience-that of becoming a tennis instructor-as well as learning to play the game myself. Since the method focused on the basics and fundamentals of the sport, learning to teach progressed in the same gradual and steady manner as playing. For years we taught group lessons locally, statewide, and in Mexico. The opportunity to teach others as well as play improved my game dramatically. I also witnessed excellent results in all of our students while having a lot of fun playing cooperatively.

My competitive game has had its usual ups and downs. I have spent much time exploring my psychological relationship to winning and losing. Through Brent’s guidance, I have seen that winning is not the most important thing in sport. For me, competition is now a choice rather than a requirement for success. This freedom to choose has made all the difference in my enjoyment of the game.

Ron Eliggi
Napa, CA

I joined Brent Zeller’s Effortless Tennis program four years ago as a beginning 3.5 level player. I had played for over ten years with occasional lessons and a lot of practice but without a clear sense of how or why to improve. Nor did I believe that I could improve in some reasonable amount of time given the difficulty of the sport.

I am a 42 year-old architect and a serious “club” player. I spend as much time as I can either practicing, playing matches or competing in USTA tournaments. The four years of work in Brent’s program have helped me to “rethink” the game that I thought I knew. Intense practice two or three times a month in a cooperative, though challenging, non-competitive environment has in turn actually improved my play in competitive matches. During the stress of match play I can draw upon my real experience of those many hours of hitting many, many balls in a relaxed way and transfer that feeling and that focus to the match with usually positive results. As a result, I have since significantly raised my level of play to that of a 4.5 level player.

While at this point I may sometimes lack the consistency needed to play at still higher levels, my experience in the Effortless Tennis program gives me confidence in my ability to stay focused and relaxed during both practice and matches and to realize that the power, consistency and better “game” will naturally follow.

Anthony Grand
Berkeley, CA

Attitude Adjustment
As a USPTA teaching pro, I decided to take a lesson from a fellow USPTA pro. No easy task, mind you, as ego always makes one think twice—talk about an attitude!

What I discovered was another approach to teaching tennis beyond any of my expectations. It is called Effortless Tennis and is pioneered by Brent Zeller. Since I describe myself as intense, you can well imagine my feelings about the word effortless, especially in connection to tennis. Well, as the lesson progressed I found the “effortless” approach to be fun and full of merit for both the teacher and the student. In short, the effortless method de-emphasizes competition and focuses on fundamentals, (with the emphasis on fun)! With this method you improve the ”fun factor” and are, and really feel you are, a winner at any level.

Shawn Cole
Tiburon, CA

My husband Leo and I have been participating in Brent Zeller’s “Effortless Tennis” classes for approximately 9 months. We’d had a few prior experiences with the game. Leo took tennis in junior college 25 years ago and while he liked the activity, he didn’t care for the rigid, rigorous method of instruction. I attended a few adult ed classes 15 years ago, and once a friend tried to teach me, both were frustrating failures. Together Leo and I had a few lessons with a local pro about 5 years ago. For whatever reasons, none of these attempts worked for us and I, at least, came away certain I just didn’t have it in me to become any kind of tennis player at all.

Then we discover Brent and his “Effortless Tennis.” After only a few lessons (with 3 to 5 others in the class), we knew we’d finally found a teacher whose gentle, non-competitive approach, impeccable technique, and consistently patient and inspiring manner is producing no less than miraculous results for me, and has allowed Leo to at last enjoy playing tennis.

What I appreciate most about Brent’s teaching philosophy—aside from the fact that it works!—is how much FUN it makes tennis. In his class you get to play a lot, and the feel and sound of your racquet hitting that ball right is extremely satisfying. You come away feeling good and accomplished and like you want to go out and play again.

Barbara den Ouden
Lagunitas, CA

I want to lend my wholehearted support to Brent Zeller and his Effortless Tennis program. I have known Brent for many years. He has been my tennis coach and friend, as well. I have had several coaches over the years, but I can say that Brent is one of the best.

Through the years, when I had injuries, I went to Brent because I knew that he would work with me through the injury. His patience and good humor went a long way in helping me to heal.

It is not only his tennis skills that make him exceptional, but it is also his philosophy of life. He has strong opinions and his heart is always in the right place.

Diane Bagley
San Rafael, CA


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