Monday, March 24, 2008

Flawed Tennis Form? Or Flawed Tennis Thinking?

How many times have you seen a tennis player miss a shot and walk back to the baseline taking a practice swing? When was the last time you did this yourself? You're thinking that you missed the shot because of some flaw in your swing, and that's why you're practicing it.

If we could somehow search the brain of every tennis player in the world, we'd find in most the belief that errors are caused flawed form.

If that's true, then you would never miss a shot if you achieve perfect form.

Golfers think the same way. And this thinking is what underlies the common obsession with form in both sports. The "perfect swing" then becomes a sort of Holy Grail that all pursue for as long as they play the game.

It's an exercise in frustration and futility. In fact, players learn learn in spite of, not because of, their efforts to perfect their form.

That's because this thinking is what's flawed. It is NOT true that you miss a shot because of some flaw in your form. No amount of perfecting your form will enable you to play error-free tennis. And there is no such thing as "perfect form."

Tomaz Mencinger has a good two-part instructional article on the subject, The Biggest Tennis Myth that's Hurting Your Game and Why Tennis Players Obsess So Much About Tennis Instruction.

OK, so here's the Big Myth:

If I miss the ball, I must have done something technically wrong (meaning I moved my body parts in the wrong way). Thus, if I can correct that mistake (move my body parts "correctly"), then I will not miss the ball again.

Based on this myth, we tennis coaches have been earning money giving tennis lessons for decades.

Based on this myth, club and professional tennis players have wasted millions of dollars and thousands of hours, all on trying to improve their game. Without much effect, of course...

Read the rest, and next time I'll come back with some thoughts of my own on the subject.

Part 2

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At 11:13 PM, Anonymous Tomaz said...

Thanks for the mention, Kathy.

Here's what I'd like to see a player do after hitting into the net: point with his finger in the direction ABOVE the net.

That will solve the problem, right? Just hitting higher...


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