How to Win in Tennis…and in Life

Contributor: Mark Chung

On the surface it seems like these are completely unrelated topics, but a closer look underneath the surface will reveal some useful lessons and advice for those who read on. I’ve found that connecting seemingly unrelated topics to tennis is a powerful way to open the mind to opportunities of growth and so today I will share what I’ve found to be useful tennis and life tips from two people I greatly admire as well as an ancient Asian philosophy.

“In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert’s there are few.”

Shunryu Suzuki, a Zen Buddhist teacher and author, is famous for noting that a beginner’s mind is most open to possibility. Let’s think about it for a second. If you find yourself to be an expert in a certain field, you might have 10 years’ experience in that field and perhaps have seen every situation imaginable. Studies show people who are “experts” in their field have developed very specific, well-defined neurological networks in their brain. What does this mean? Basically, they trained their brains to operate in a consistent, repetitive manner – one which is perhaps not necessarily open to (or less likely to) change. This is fine, but if you’ve formed this behavior over a long period of time, this behavior may actually work against you. How so? Let’s pretend you were an expert marketing manager in the 90’s and you knew how to reach your audience through radio, TV and newspaper. This may have been fine in the 90’s, but with the rapid change in technology and rise in social media, your ability to adopt a new way of marketing may be greatly hindered if you did not know how to “adopt a beginner’s mindset” and see new, cost-efficient and effective opportunities to reach your audience using social media.

Just as in tennis, though receiving coaching is a great way to get started, I’d argue having only one coach or adopting only one style of play may be detrimental to your development as a player. Opening your mind to receiving advice from a multitude of coaches or adopting styles of play or strategies from a number of players you admire may help you improve.

“ I fear not the man who has practiced 10,000 kicks once, but I fear the man who has practiced one kick 10,000 times.”

Everyone knows Bruce Lee. If you don’t know who Bruce Lee is, well, you NEED to look him up. In short, Bruce Lee is an American-born Chinese martial artist and actor who popularized Chinese martial arts films in the U.S. He is known for his many martial arts films as well as his philosophical insights. The above quote is key because it illustrates the importance of repetition and intentional practice. In martial arts, all it takes is that one right kick or punch to knock an opponent out. With tennis, though not as dramatic, it is important to be patient and wait for that right shot. For example, if during a rally your opponent hits a weak shot near your service line, you suddenly have the ability to take control and dictate the point. This might mean you hit a forehand down-the-line to finish the point or a low slice to his two-handed backhand to force him to hit a difficult shot and hopefully a forced error. Intentionally practicing these shots a multitude of times almost creates a habit for which you don’t need to think. All you need to do is repeat what you’ve done in practice 10,000 times and your odds of winning that point (and hopefully the match) will increase in your favor.

“ You are the average of the 5 people you hang out with the most.”

Ok, so Tony Robbins is not credited for saying this, but his mentor, Jim Rohn is. Jim was a famous entrepreneur and motivational speaker who’s influenced numerous successful entrepreneurs. One of his most well-known quotes is the one above which I’ve heard Tony Robbins say  numerous times. There is a lot of truth in this saying. Think about it, if you hung out every day with a bunch of people who love to drink wine, for instance. You’d probably end up drinking wine often. Think back to your childhood days of the friends you hung out with. You tended to adopt some of their behaviors right? This also true of tennis. If you hang out with other people at the same skill level as you, you may not see much improvement in your game.

If your goal is to improve your game and be a better player, hang out or play with people who kick your butt four times out of five. Yeah winning is nice, but winning is even better after going through the process of improving. Let’s just say you know your mental game is weak (ie. You get frustrated and angry easily), your forehand is inconsistent and your conditioning is not where you’d like it to be. If you wanted to improve your mental game, play with people whose skill may not necessarily be superior to yours, but through persistence and the ability to mentally stay in the game, tend to beat you often. If your forehand isn’t inconsistent, find someone whose forehand isn’t necessarily Nadal-like, but at least hits successful forehands 9 times out of 10. If your conditioning is poor, play with someone who beats up on you simply because they can chase every ball down you hit back at them. By intentionally finding and playing with people who emulate missing components of your game on a consistent basis, you will soon find yourself improving in the areas you were previously poor in. Consistency is the keyword though. Doing it infrequently will not produce results. Make it a point to play with these individuals multiple times a week, set a schedule and stick to it until you see meaningful results.

How Open Court Club Can Help

At Open Court Club, we’ve assembled a community of people who range widely in skills and strengths. We’ve got beginners to advanced players (5.0+) of all ages. Let’s say you are a 3.5 player but you want to get to a 4.0 level, you can connect with someone who is a 4.0 (or higher) and pay them for their time to come out and work you on the court. The charge is there to both incentivize the higher level player to meetup as well as the lower level player to get their money’s worth. Alternatively, if getting your butt kicked isn’t your cup of tea, you can also connect with players who are rated at the same level as you and arrange to meetup and hit for FREE! Check us out here: Open Court Club


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