Some people are not going to change the way they use their eyes on the tennis court no matter what the potential improvement. Too much concentration required. They want the peak performance part, but not the concentration part. Unfortunately, you can’t have one without the other.
That’s what gets me sometimes about teaching people how to play tennis in the zone. They don’t know what is involved in creating their peak performance state, so when they find out that they have to concentrate more deeply and use their minds differently, they end up deciding their peak performance state is too hard to get into, takes too much concentration, too much mental effort.
They would much rather get into their peak performance state some other way; some way that allows them to play at a higher level but not have to concentrate at a higher level. They want to play to their full potential without the hassles of fully concentrating. They want the full potential of their body sans the full potential of their mind.
Sorry. Not gonna happen. Your full potential state, the human full potential experience, is an experience of body, mind and spirit. You can’t just have a peak physical experience without the assistance of your brain/mind continuum. Nor can you enter into your peak performance state without including the spiritual dimension of the game. So for those players who want the higher level physical performance of the zone but don’t want to concentrate at a higher level and don’t want to include the spiritual dimension, then they have a long and frustrating road ahead of them; a road that will not include their peak performance state, not to mention a road without the thrill of a full potential experience.
Of course, there are also those who are willing to take on the parallel mode process’s learning curve, and they are the ones who will continue to “come to class” as it were. The human peak performance state, the human full potential experience, becomes the main reason for coming to class, the reason for continuing with the parallel mode process. Better performance is a given; it’s the full potential connection, the one-to-one connection with the game that becomes the driving force for continuing with the parallel mode process.
What you learn about the game is important. What you learn about yourself is more important. The game of tennis is a logically structured environment, filled with rules and regulations, do’s and don’ts, processes and outcomes, wins and losses. But mostly tennis is a fast-paced, problem-solving, contact sequence environment in which you, as a VCM operating system, must solve the problem of creating a positive contact event.
Contact is the event that is created when the movement of the ball and the countermovement of your racquet come together at a common point in space and time. Every contact event results in the perpetuation of the ball’s movement.
Positive contact results in the positive perpetuation of the ball’s movement, meaning the ball goes over the net and lands in the court.
Negative contact results in the negative perpetuation of the ball’s movement, meaning the ball goes into the net or lands out of bounds.
Contact (+) = movement (+) = ball goes in
Contact (-) = movement (-) = ball goes out
Pretty basic stuff.
Here’s some more:
Movement (+) = the point continues
Movement (-) = the point ends, you lose
Solving the problem of creating positive contact is the task of the human VCM operating system in the game of tennis, and it has to come up with a new solution every time your opponent solves the problem and creates positive contact over there on the other side of the net. This problem solving task can take a few seconds or less than a second depending on how fast and how far the ball is moving.
To solve the problem of positive contact, your brain takes the visual information it receives from your eyes, processes that information, and then sends out motor information to your body that results in a countermovement (a stroke) that in turn creates a contact event between the ball and your racquet. Assuming the visual information sent to your brain by your eyes was accurate information, then your brain will process that accurate visual information and output accurate motor information to your body. That will result in an accurate countermovement (stroke) that will create a positive contact event.
Problem solved. You hit the ball back over the net and into the court. The rally continues. Now it’s your opponent’s turn to solve the problem of positive contact.
Of course, your eyes could send inaccurate visual information to your brain, in which case your brain will process that inaccurate information – and here’s the kicker – your brain doesn’t know whether that information is accurate or inaccurate; it just processes the information it receives and then outputs relative motor information to your body. So if the visual information your brain is processing is inaccurate, then the relative motor information your brain outputs to your body will also be inaccurate, which results in an inaccurate countermovement (stroke) that will create an inaccurate or negative contact event.
Problem solved, you created contact, but you created negative contact. The ball either goes into the net or out of bounds. The rally ends. You lose. Right then, right there, you lose the point. No second chance to figure out where your problem-solving mechanism screwed up. But it did. Somewhere along the visual/cognitive/motor chain something went wrong.
Let’s work backwards. You created negative contact, which means your countermovement was inaccurate; your stroke was off. You could look for the answer in your stroke, in your countermovement’s technique. But does finding the errors in your technique really get to the heart of the problem? Does fixing an error in your technique also fix the error that caused your technique to be inaccurate?
An error in the performance of your technique is a symptom of a deeper, causal error; an error that is not caused by bad technique, but rather is caused by the operating system that performs that technique.
You obviously want to hit that biomechanically sound modern forehand that your pro has been teaching you, but it’s your VCM operating system that has to put that biomechanically sound stroking pattern together so that it relates in space and time to the movement of the ball and creates an event of positive contact.
You can have the best biomechanics in the world, but if your operating system screws up in the accuracy of its input/processing/output, then the result will be that you look incredibly good as you hit the ball into the net with your biomechanically sound modern forehand.
Being biomechanically sound is not the same thing as being operationally sound. One deals with the technique of your countermovements, the other deals with your spatial and temporal relationship of your countermovements to action in the environment.
There is nothing wrong with being biomechanically sound in your techniques. Sound biomechanics will certainly improve your technique. But sound biomechanics will not necessarily improve the performance of your techniques in the fast-moving spatial and temporal arena that is the game of tennis.
How well your countermovements relate in space and time to the spatial and temporal movement of the ball is not a function of sound biomechanical dynamics. Rather it is a function of sound operational dynamics.
The accuracy of your visual input determines the accuracy of your cognitive processing and, in turn, the accuracy of your brain’s relative motor output to your body. And it is the accuracy of that motor output that determines the accuracy of those sound biomechanical techniques you are trying to perform. Perhaps, along with learning sound biomechanical dynamics, you might want to spend some time learning sound operational dynamics. Sound biomechanical dynamics do not make your operating system perform more accurately. But a sound operational dynamics will definitely make your biomechanics perform more accurately.