News & Features
What a Feeling!
by Paul Thomson, Drake Women's Tennis, 2 January 2012
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Have you ever been in the perfect zone, felt the mojo... or even just been in the groove? It's that point in your game where everything else is absent; no crowd noise, no idle thoughts in your head, nothing in your vision accept the ball. It's a state of Zen a place of total consciousness, your body is calm and your mind at peace. It's a magical place. It's a euphoric feeling that some never reach. But those that do - and can do it consistently - are the ones who can take their games to the next level. This zone comes from extensive training and developing the ability to be comfortable in any situation. It is done by being focused - not on the thought process of the moment, but by the awareness and the sensation of the moment.
Coach Thomson with his Drake
courtesy, Drake Athletics
Tennis is a game of skill, strategy, physical toughness and mental and emotional focus. But tennis is also very much a game of feeling. For years I have heard coaches use the term "action-reaction" in regards to what to do next on the court. I have never really liked that model. I teach "action-response" - which I think is a more fitting description of the battles on the tennis courts. A reaction is knee jerk... spur of the moment... unplanned... and often uncontrolled. A response is a trained, learned, conditioned, result to what is in front of you. This comes from hours of training not just hitting balls but by being aware of what it feels like while you are training and by seeing the results. It's the difference between being in a burning building and running around not knowing where the emergency exits are and breathing in smoke, versus calmly walking down the stairs, staying as low as you can below the smoke, getting out, and calling 911.
This is precisely why players must train hours upon hours hitting different balls in different situations on the practice courts. They are not just getting better at ball striking. They are ingraining those responses into their conscious self. Players - the very good ones - know by experience and feel what ball to hit back or shot to take based on court position, spin of the ball, angle, depth, height etc. They don't have to think about it or process it. They feel it. They feel it by knowing where they are on the court, their balance, body position, and from being in that same spot thousands of times before and programing the right responses into their games. They pay attention to details during training and from previous experiences on the courts.
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