Thursday, August 07, 2008

The secret to mind speed

Well, it’s been a while since my last post because it's been a VERY busy summer where I have spent considerable time exploring some business opportunities (such as laying the groundwork for a future high-performance tennis academy) as well as coaching some very promising female players.

Anyway, the adventures I’ve had on the tennis side of things has prompted me to consider starting a new blog—as there were so many interesting events and happening both on and off of the court that lie outside the scope of the “mind speed, leg speed and racket speed” focus of this blog that are worth recounting for the learning value that they possess.

So, look out for a blog called “10S Radical” on WordPress in the coming weeks (sorry, Blogger, but I thought it was time to try another blogging platform mainly to find out if the “grass is really greener” on the other side of the blogging fence!). Expect more commentary (and controversy) about the sport at large (especially regarding the non-speed issues surrounding our problems with developing top tennis players) as well as the occasional rant from the “10S Radical”.

On to the subject of today’s post…

It’s been a while since we touched on the mental aspect of the sport, and as a result of the coaching experiences I’ve had so far this summer, it seemed to me like a good time to return to the subject of “mind speed”.

I first broached the subject of “mind speed” in the very first post of this blog…

Whoa! Mind speed? What does that have to do with being a successful tennis player, you say?

Having a quick, agile, and focused mind is the starting point of being a high-performance competitor...

Your brain is the "master and commander" of your fantastic body machine. Your body does not move on its own! The body moves only under the direction of the mind, so if your mind is too slow to process what's happening when you're playing a competitive tennis point, you're already behind the proverbial "8-ball".

A fast mind is a mind that is clear of any and all distractions and is only focused what's going on right now, in the present. A fast mind pays attention only to what's going to help the player play the(ir) best possible right then and there. A "fast mind" in tennis is the product of mental discipline or "mental toughness" as it is commonly called.

A fast mind pays little or no attention to anything that distracts it from the task at hand (that's the definition of "being focused", right?), because these distractions (winning and losing, girl/boyfriend issues, parent issues, wondering about where to eat later, which bar to visit later, etc.) are what turns a fast mind into a slow one.

A slow, distracted, and undisciplined mind slows down the legs and racket, so it's really a triple whammy! With a slow mind, you can't produce the physical skills and consistency of execution to string together enough points to win a tennis match... It is no wonder players who lack mental discipline perform poorly and don't achieve the results they're really capable of.”

What then is the secret to “mind speed”?

The “secret” is the ability to focus on the task at hand, rather than say, the final outcome of the point or match.

You need to develop the ability to pay as much attention as possible to what you’re trying to do at the moment you do it, and leave everything else behind. Whether you're executing a drill or playing a point in a match, every ounce of concentration you can muster needs to be placed only on what you're doing at that very moment and nowhere else.

When the point or drill is over, that is the moment to “time travel” and allow yourself go back to the (immediate) past to mentally review the point or exercise that just concluded. Then, you need the ability to switch gears and “time travel” into the future where you can plan what to do (remember to keep things simple) on the next point (or drill).

Once the next point starts, you need to develop the discipline to re-focus all your attention only to what’s happening right then and there. Let your thoughts wander anywhere beyond what you need to do right then and there, and you won’t play anywhere near what you’re capable of.

Bottom line is, in order to perform your best, to play to your highest level, you will need to learn how to repeat this “focusing cycle” for each and every point, as well as consciously “dial down” the intensity of your focus at appropriate moments (i.e. during changeovers) by employing one of several relaxation techniques (we’ll get into this subject in more details in future posts).

How do you develop this ability to control your focus?

Well, there are a fantastic number of books and articles devoted to the subject, but for all practical intents and purposes, the first step is to understand and acknowledge that the ability to control your focus—your ability to control your mind—is a crucial step to becoming a successful tennis competitor.

The great majority of tournament players acknowledge that they need to have technically sound, consistent and powerful strokes, but only a few truly accept and understand that they must also train and develop their mental skills to a similar, if not higher level, in order to fulfill their true competitive potential (and isn't it funny how these players who are willing to train their mental skills tend to be the ones with a need for a “trophy room” at home).

Always remember that the mind controls the body, otherwise, you will receive frequent, object lessons about who’s really in charge when it comes to determining your performance level especially once the match starts.



At 12:09 PM, Blogger shafiq said...

Speed Master :

Mach 4 is a book written by Phd\writer Anne Smith

She is talking about the mental skill of tennis as important as your groundstokes. You are on right Path. Please keep enlighten us.



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