David’s Tennis Lesson #1: What is the Mental Game Anyway
Congratulations for taking the 1st step in improving your tennis! You are about to learn some concepts and techniques that will absolutely improve your play. Please follow through and schedule a time for me to do an evaluation of your game. This will be essential to you in finding out what you need to do to move up to the next level and beyond. If you haven’t received an email from me within 3 days, please send me one requesting your evaluation.
However, there is one thing that you need to know. I am not going to give you any instruction on the mechanics of how to stroke the ball. I will, however, give you some resources so that if you want to learn some “killer” approaches on how to play, you can explore them on your own. Here I will be giving you mental concepts and techniques only.
Before I get into the actual techniques, I need you to understand exactly what the mental game really is and how thinking (or not thinking) about winning fits into the picture.
So you will get two lessons in one here. One on the mental game and one about winning. Please be sure to read both.
You will get the remaining lessons once a week for the next 3 weeks. I am spacing them out so that you will be able to focus on one at a time and I am hoping that you will have time during the week to work on them. Be sure to spend enough time with each lesson in order to get the most from them.
However, if you are a racehorse and can handle a huge amount of information in a shorter period of time, here are the links to all the lessons. The only thing I would ask is that you work on them in order.
The above lessons are all that you will get for now. To get everything you need to know about the mental game, you will need to get my book, Playing Zen-Sational Tennis and/or my CD’s.
The following links will help you in other areas in your life should you be interested in exploring. You will never get hounded about these but you will get emails about them. Hopefully, you know that you can unsubscribe at any time.
Lessons #2, #3, and #4 are 3 out of the 5 critical Core Principles of the mental game. Many people have had extraordinary results in their play when they have put them into practice. So, please take them to heart and use them to see what kind of results you can get from them.
If you like what you are reading, you can get all the Core Principles plus much more right now on my CD and in my book, Playing Zen-Sational Tennis. Check it out here. Or, to learn more about what I teach, go here.
So, continue on and read the follow foundational information on what you need to know about playing the mental game.
In this Issue:
What is the Mental Game Anyway
The first order of business is to know what the mental game really is. Most people don’t really know what it is or how to work on it so to get started I have three questions that you need to ask yourself. Don’t worry if you can’t answer all the questions correctly. By the time you finish reading this, you will know all.
- What % of the game do you think is mental?
- What % of the time that you play and practice do you work on your mental game?
- If you were going to work on your mental game, what is it and how would you work on it?
Most people say that the mental game is anywhere from 75 to 100% and most people answer that even though they feel that the game is this percentage, they don’t practice it anywhere close to it if at all.
On the last question, most people don’t have a clue or they give me some vague answer about what the mental game is.
This last question is the really important one because if you don’t know what the mental game is, how can you even begin to practice it.
Here is my definition:
The mental game is the relationship between your “conscious mind,” your “other than conscious mind,” and your body. It is your “conscious mind” which sets the goals then it gets out of the way and lets the “other than conscious mind” direct the body, which then hits the ball and achieves the ideal play. The strength, direction, and quality of your outer tennis strokes are determined by this inner relationship. When you pursue and find this ideal mental state, you will be playing in the zone.
An example is to be found if you think about how you drive a car. Your conscious mind has a huge purpose as it has to see where you are going so that you don’t hit any other cars, people, bicycles, etc. It also has to see where the road goes and needs to read the road signs if you need to find a particular street. However, when you steer the car, hopefully you don’t think about how you move the steering wheel and I know you don’t think about how your foot presses the gas pedal or the brake pedal. You just do it.
Well, playing tennis is no different. It is just more complicated. Because we have been taught that we must control our bodies so that we can hit the ball correctly, you may not have even thought about just letting your body hit the ball without conscious control.
Your conscious mind has a role to play but you need to learn how to get it out of the way when it comes to hitting the ball. Please believe me when I tell you, your body is what hits the ball and it knows far better how to do it than the conscious mind telling it how.
As a natural by-product, your enjoyment will be enhanced. This is because you will be calmer and more relaxed, and of course, you will be playing better.
Before we get into the jobs of the conscious mind and how we figure out how to really let the body play, I want to talk a little about the ultimate goal and winning.
Why I Don’t Want You To Try To Win & The Ultimate Goal
In the mean time, would you like to learn how to win every time you play?
If this is your ultimate goal, then I have a deal for you. If I can tell you how you can win every time you play, and I can, will you pay me $10,000? No?
OK, maybe winning is not that important so how about paying me only $1,000?
Well, you can save your money because I will tell you how you can win every time anyway, and for free. In order to win every time, you just need to play a two year old. If you can’t beat a two year old every time, then you are in really big trouble.
Maybe now you can begin to see that winning may not be a goal that will bring you the most satisfaction or pleasure even though winning can be a lot of fun and is the icing on the cake.
I have a trick question for you and let’s see if you can get the answer. I can tell you who has won every match that has ever been played, and I can tell you who will win every match that will be played in the future.
How can I make this statement?
Here is the answer: The player who plays better on that given day will be the winner. So, if you play better than your opponent today, you will win. Did you get the answer right?
The point is that winning will take care of itself, and if you strive and learn to play at the top of your game and that “top” is better than your opponent, guess what, you will automatically win. And if you play twice as well as you ever had but still lose the game, most likely you will still be a happy camper. Oops, I meant to say a happy tennis player.
If you don’t like how well you played (even though you played at the top of your game), then you need to figure out how you can play better in the future. This means that you will need to practice more of both the physical and the mental game.
So, how do you play at the top of your game? By spending more and more time figuring out how to get your conscious mind out of the way so your body can play its very best. You will also find that when you practice these concepts, your body will learn faster and more easily. I can’t describe to you what this state of being feels like, but I can guide you so that you can begin to discover for yourself what it feels like and how to get there.
Let’s get back to the ultimate goal.
I believe the ultimate goal is for you to find out how to play your very best every time you play. This automatically will help you win more matches. This goal not only helps you accomplish the old goal of winning but it will happen automatically and without you thinking about it.
Thinking about winning when you are playing in a tight game is death and will not lead you very often to playing your best and not playing your best may mean that that you will lose.
Trying hard to win will not always lead you to playing your best and may not lead to winning.
Trying to not lose doesn’t work that well either.
How many times have you blown it in a tight situation? I don’t think you blew it because you weren’t trying hard to win. I believe it is because you were focusing on winning instead of focusing on the things that you needed to do to play well enough to win. I see this happen all the time even with professionals.
Do you know why thinking about winning is not productive? Do you know how it affects your body? Thinking leads to trying which leads to tension which may lead to not playing very well, especially in a tight match. Thinking about and doing what you need to do to play your very best is by far better and will lead to helping you to win more matches.
Now, I do see, from time to time, some athletes when they try really hard, it works for them and they play better. These players are far and few between. If you are one of these players, then you may not get much out of the techniques I am teaching you.
On the other hand, if you are like most of us, the harder you try, the worse it gets and this information I am presenting to you here will be your salvation, because you will learn how to “try” properly.