Getting Into the Zone
A new DVD claims you can practice your way there.
Watch the ball. It’s one of the most frequently given commands in tennis. But what would you think if someone told you you’re watching it the wrong way?
That’s what Denver teaching pro Scott Ford says. Not only that, he claims that by learning to use your eyes more efficiently you can teach yourself to get into the “zone,” that elusive state where time seems to slow down and your strokes become almost effortless.
That’s a big claim, so I decided to take him up on it. We arranged for a personal lesson, I got a copy of his DVD, Welcome to the Zone, and for a year I tested his theories.
Ford’s teaching methods are built around an understanding of the way our eyes work. Neuroscientists say we navigate through the world using two separate but complementary visual systems.
One, commonly called the “What Pathway,” is concerned with object identification – it’s the one you engage when someone tells you to look at something. The other, the “Where Pathway,” processes spatial information such as motion and depth perception. It’s the system that enables you to react quickly, without thinking, when someone hits a tennis ball at your head.
Using exercises designed by Ford to enable players to use these two visual systems more efficiently, particularly the underutilized Where Pathway, I found I could, in fact, get into a zone state rather easily when I rallied. But when I tried to compete using his technique, I had a much harder time, as he told me I would.
Even so, with patience I eventually developed the skill to play almost entire matches using Ford’s system and I found myself getting into the zone with regularity. Though it’s no panacea for faulty strokes or poor fitness, the exercises in Ford’s DVD (or at his website, arête-sports.com) can, with diligence and practice, enable you to maximize the skills you already have.
Associate Editor, TENNIS Magazine