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March 1, 2010
In tennis, you are what you think


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Remember the basic principles for learning tennis with my system is to develop a 'feel' for different strokes along with developing mental skills through REPETITION.  Repetition of simple procedures create that 'feel' NOT an over emphasis on the technical skills and mechanics.  Click here for an article that I wrote on 'feel' vs 'mechanics' in April 2001

Tom's Online Tennis Lesson
In tennis, you are what you think

Correct choices when playing tennis can make you a winner. Below are two. Which would you choose?

1. Play tentatively
2. Go for your shots

Most players would like to play with the "go for your shots," spontaneous, intuitive mentality but instead they choose to play with a tentative, timid and cautious mentality. These two choices will always reside in your thinking your entire tennis career. The only effective thinking is to log more time in the "go for your shots" mentality and less time in the tentative and cautious mindset.

DISCLAIMER: As always, "going for your shots" does not mean you blast the ball with lightening speed! You can hit a slow drop shot and mentally be going for your shots. It is simply the absence of tentative and cautious thinking when hitting a ball - you are letting go of fear. Remember: The more you fear, the more fear controls your thinking.

The conundrum is, often you can play tentatively and win, so why should you "go for your shots"? Perhaps you won because your opponent was more tentative than you! You should let go and just play because you will ultimately reach a higher level of relaxed play, and experience increased options and increased enjoyment along the way.

Somewhere, someday, somehow you must decide to head for the courts thinking you are going to let go whether you win, lose or draw. Do it now! And then accept the way you play as your new level of relaxed, spontaneous play to be improved upon the next time. Do NOT fall into the emotional quagmire of returning to your old tentativeness just because you imagine that you play better. Stay with your new mental standard and continue to practice, practice, practice by thinking relaxed, spontaneous, "go for your shot" thoughts.

The attitude I describe above is called 'mental toughness.' Mental toughness is not allowing your emotions to control your thoughts. You are mentally overriding your emotions for the long-term goal of improving your game. And you will!

I remember when I had a breakthrough back in college from mentally playing tentatively to mentally letting go. The experience had such a profound impact that I have never forgotten the lesson. Yet it was very simple. Maybe you have had the same experience.

I was in a match playing tentatively and timidly and lost. After the match I sat down annoyed and frustrated. I thought to myself "I could have lost going for my shots and had a heck of a lot more fun. I lost playing tentatively, so what is the difference? This tentative stuff just does not make the grade." I became determined that my cautious thinking would not happen again and vowed to let go in my next matches.

The next step was to have a chat with myself about the failures that would still exist even with this new mindset. Could I cope with some of the failures that would occur playing in a more aggressive but relaxed type of play? Would I remember that failure is the road to success? If not should I then just stay a tennis wimp and go back to my comfort zone tennis? But after my last match debacle this did not even seem like an option. I was going for it. And I did!

I am here to report that going for your shots and letting go really is a heck of a lot more fun than wimpy tennis. I also started learning at a faster rate. As I continued to play, my failures decreased and my shots had more authority which had a major impact on my confidence and befuddled my opponents.

Would you like to finally rise from that cautious mental swamp? First, you must make a decision to let go. Second, you must make a decision to accept that failures are inevitable when you have made that decision to let go. The key to mastering this new realm of thinking is to accept the failures and keep swinging. Failures are the golden bridge that you must travel across to achieve your new and exciting game. All that remains is for you to decide to make the journey. Begin by thinking positively, staying relaxed and being ready to "go for your shots." As Marcus Aurelius proclaimed, "Your life is what your thoughts make it."

Your tennis pro,

Tom Veneziano




You are really "right on" and I continue to marvel at your expertise. I have played tennis my whole life and taken MANY lessons and clinics, but never has a pro even mentioned these mental practices and I am astonished. I feel lucky having gleaned so much from you and the Inner Game of Tennis, but I look at so many folks who believe that if they just keep taking lessons and drilling, they will improve. They never do and they don't seem to stop and take note of the most important component....Their Mind! I just finished Aggasi's book and LOVED it. Actually, found myself limiting the number of pages I read per day in an effort to make it last longer. At the end of his career, when he played (and won) the 5 setter with James Blake, Andre clearly knows the lesson of letting the mind go and letting your instincts and shots that you have practiced take over. He is clearly very wise and SO are you!!!! Thank you for these invaluable lessons,

Stuart McClintic


ADDENDUM:  I teach a total system of thinking in regard to stroke production and mental attitude which I cannot explain in one email.  Although each lesson can stand alone you will derive tremendous physical and mental benefit by understanding the total philosophy.  These emails, my web site, books, and tapes are part of a course in tennis, not just isolated tennis tips.  They all fit together into a system.  A system that once understood can help you not only learn tennis at a faster rate, and develop mental toughness, but also give you the knowledge necessary to help guide you and your children to a better understanding of the developmental process.

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