Sweaty palms, gasping for air, my knees were shaking under the bright UCSD lights. How could a day so irresistably beautiful turn into a nightmare?
I was up 5-1 at the Intramural championships and dominating this guy with my crushing groundstrokes and swift transition game. If it weren’t for the fact that I didn’t have a swiss accent, I could have sworn I was Roger Federer that night. I was feeling unstoppable. Every shot I hit was GOLD. Then, something happened inside of me that changed me forever. It wasn’t much until much later that I discovered how it all went terribly wrong.
One missed forehand put away, then an overhead that sounded like I dropped a frying pan and he was picking up steam. He fired two serve return winners in a row and before I blinked, I had been broken. 5-2.
What followed was a blurry haze of unforced errors, and what seemed to be miraculous play from my suddenly impenetrable opponent. His serves turned into bombs that I couldn’t get my strings on, my volleys were dumped into the net… it was like I was trying to hit the ball with a thimble on a stick. I ended up losing the set 7-6 (5). It was the most crushing defeat of my tennis career, and I had CHOKED. What’s worse, I knew I had choked. I felt demoralized, weak both mentally and physically, and somehow less of a man.
Has this ever happened to you? Have you ever been serving for the match and suddenly everything you hit sails long? Have you ever asked yourself WHY?
It’s so easy to be cruising in a match, when our inner demon comes in and tells us “oh boy, you’ve really got her. Don’t BLOW it.”
I would have given anything for the answer in that moment of supreme choking. In fact, if I could turn back the clock with what I know now, I’m positive I would have finished him off 6-1. But it took me YEARS, to learn WHY I choked, and several more to discover the art of relaxed concentration I’m going to share with you.
So, I’m writing this to offer you one of the secrets that I learned after that fateful night. This one tip alone could change your ability to succeed on the tennis court (and in life) forever.
If you have a drum handy, can I have a drumroll… VISUALIZE!
You see, after the agonizing pain from that loss subsided, I became curious about peak performance. I began watching seminars and reading countless books on being at your best and they all recommended the same prescription.
The secret that many of us don’t know about visualization is that, in the brain, there is virtually NO difference between what is REAL and what is VIVIDLY imagined. NASA actually conducted studies on this, and all the research points to the fact that if you can “see” it in your head, your body will “know” how to DO it.
Many of you may say, well that sounds great, Ramon, but I can’t visualize”. I hear you. My thought is… remember the last time you were fantasizing about that good looking guy or girl that you saw at the bar? THAT’S visualizing, baby. The secret is to PRACTICE it, and learn to CONTROL it. Best of all, anybody can do it, especially YOU. Here’s what to do:
1. Pick a time when you have 10-15 minutes free from distraction (bedtime is great because the last few things you think before bed is like a marinade that REALLY programs your subconscious mind)
2. Get relaxed. Put on some gentle music for a couple of minutes, or simply focus on your breath until you begin to FEEL totally relaxed.
3. Rehearse your outcome. See yourself playing the most unbelievable match of your life. Picture yourself winning every point.
4. Use VIVD detail. The more you give your brain to work with, the more effective it will be. FEEL the wind on your skin. SEE the ball shoot past your opponent. NOTICE how AMAZING it feels to win point after point after point. Then see yourself shaking your opponents hand after you come out on top.
5. Repeat this as much as you’d like. This technique is so effective that people who visualized shooting baskets (but didn’t actually shoot them) outperformed similarly skilled people who actually, physically PRACTICED shooting them!!! Amazing, right?
So, if you’re ready to get a competitive advantage on the court, practice this tonight and just notice what happens. If your opponent says “How did you DO that???” You can smile and shrug it off… knowing that you have a secret that is incredibly POWERFUL, yet quite SIMPLE.
Finally, if you found this helpful, I’d love to hear from you. Shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and share your stories. This stuff really motivates me to keep helping you guys become the best players you can be!
If you’d like to be on my email list, let me know, and we’ll connect again soon!
Bye for now,