Tuesday, November 22, 2022
Reprise: Tennis Book Review - The Rise of Superman: Decoding the Science of Ultimate Human Performance, by Steven Kotler
Tennis players call it "being in the zone." Marathoners call it "runner's high." Action and adventure athletes call it "the flow". Psychologists call it "optimal performance."
What is it? It's a mental state of effortless decision-making and intense creativity. And it results in supreme performance.
Some describe it as a zone where action and awareness converge, and become heightened. And time itself dilates and distorts - meaning it sometimes seems to move slower and sometimes faster, depending on what helps to achieve the task at hand. People say that your sense of "individual self" disappears. And your awareness, almost mystically, merges with the universe.
And it's experienced by not only athletes but also musicians, architects, engineers, artists, authors and many others. It applies not only to sports but also to art, poetry, music, writing and other fields. Indeed, anyone engaged in a great human challenge requiring supreme creativity and energy can potentially experience it.
How does it work? And how do you achieve it?
Those are the questions this book seeks to answer by exploring the science of this state known as: "the flow."
Steven Kotler is a sports journalist who chooses to examine "the flow" through investigating "extreme" athletes who perform under pressure in "high-risk" sports. Examples of these are mega-wave surfing, big-ramp skateboarding, and free mountain-climbing (done with no ropes). And he reviews and analyzes more than 10 years of scientific research into the topic.
His conclusion: "The flow" is a definable and knowable state of behavior. It can be "decoded." And its blueprint can be followed by all of us to try and reach higher performance levels in any human activity.
And while it may be true that most of us may never reach the supreme level of "genius" or "legend' --- the bottom line still is that we all embody the capacity to rise up a little closer to "Superman."
A few suggested Flow Conditions and Triggers:
Kotler proposes that this special state requires certain FLOW CONDITIONS.
*The sense of "individual self" vanishes
*Time dilates and distorts
*A state of fearlessness to the body and in the mind
*All "non-essentials" to the task at hand fall away
And that to help us get there we focus on practical points called FLOW TRIGGERS.
*Letting go of your surroundings
*Staying in the Present
*Ultra focus on the task or object at hand
*Visualizing optimal performance
You Tube Video (12:42):
"What the Science of Flow Can Teach Us About Limitless Performance" (Steven Kotler)
Tuesday, September 27, 2022
Saturday, September 24, 2022
Monday, September 12, 2022
Sunday, September 11, 2022
Monday, September 5, 2022
Saturday, September 3, 2022
Friday, August 12, 2022
I. Introduction: Tennis as "Just a Game"
II. Advancing Equality and Equal Opportunity
1. Richard "Pancho" Gonzalez (Man with a Racket)
2. Arthur Ashe (Citizen of the World)
3. Billie Jean King (Queen of Tennis and Social Change)
III. Promoting Social Causes and Combatting Societal Problems
IV. Conclusion: Tennis as More than a Game
*Advance equality and equal opportunity
*Promote social causes and combat societal problems
Gonzalez was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 1968. Today, the Richard Pancho Gonzalez Youth Foundation carries on the work of developing tennis youth in his name.
Building on the trailblazing examples of Gonzalez, Ashe and King, tennis has evolved into a new phenomenon. Today, players often use their tennis voice and platform to help serve as a vehicle for social change.
One example is Serena Williams, 23 time Grand Slam champion, who has consistently supported the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement which seeks to uplift the lives of young African-American men and others.
In October 2015, Serena wrote: "So to those of you involved in equality movements such as BLM, I say this: Keep it up! We can keep working even more to increase equality."
Today, the Serena Ventures Fund offers more than $100 million in venture capital to support qualifying minority and women start-up businesses and help level the playing field.
Along those lines, 4 time Grand Slam champion Naomi Osaka at the 2020 U.S. Open highlighted episodes of recent racial injustice. She wore Covid masks showcasing the names of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and others. Osaka commented: "I'm a vessel to spread awareness." And she carried that message long after she won the championship that year.
Moving on higher, other Global Challenges such as addressing Climate Change and standing up for Peace and against War have been championed by many players and groups in the tennis community.
For instance, Novak Djokovic, Dominic Thiem and many others have voiced and warned about the issue of Climate Change, the accelerating danger to our planet from extreme weather arising from carbon emissions.
Djokovic, and the four Grand Slam Championships, have supported various efforts to combat climate change, including the U.N.'s "Sports for Climate Change Action". This global program advocates an environmentally-friendly lifestyle, in a bold effort to save the Earth for the next generation.
Meanwhile, peace and war issues became urgent after the Russian invasion into Ukraine in February 2022. World Number one Daniil Medvedev of Russia stood up for Peace and against violent conflict, explaining that "tennis sometimes is not that important" and "by being a tennis player, I want to promote peace all over the world."
World Number five and fellow Russian Andrey Rublev added his voice to the Anti-War cause and remarked: "You realize how important it is to have peace in the world and to respect each other no matter what and to be united."
Beyond simply voicing causes, the tennis community collectively has done even more: it has raised money, recruited resources and helped build solutions to societal problems. For example, after the Indian Ocean Tsunami in 2005, the ATP, WTA and others rallied to raise funds for disaster relief. Players auctioned off signed rackets, donated part of their winnings and and staged charity matches.
The same happened again many times such as after the disasters of: the Japan Earthquake in 2011, the Australian Wildfires in early 2020, the Global Pandemic in 2020-21, and the Ukraine-Russia war of 2022. In this way and over the years, the tennis community has secured millions of dollars and other massive disaster assistance after tragedy.
Monday, July 11, 2022
Novak Djokovic, 2022 Wimbledon Champion, paraphrased from his Semi-Final Press Conference on July 08, 2022
Monday, July 4, 2022
- Tracy Austin, U.S. Open Champion, World No. 1
started this Blog many years ago with a simple idea –
to help show that tennis is timeless, and that it reflects lessons for sports, business, school and life itself.
Shakespeare wrote the immortal words: “All the world’s a stage, and the men and women merely players.” And the same is true for tennis.
Tennis is a stage – a platform – to learn, practice, develop, strategize, execute, manage pressure, solve problems.
Consider that many on-court skills carry over and apply to many other aspects of life's activities: balance, relaxation, rhythm, energy, timing, control, focus, passion, purpose, mental strength.
But beyond carry-over skills and life lessons, I believe that tennis is timeless for yet another and more profound reason - it is a metaphor for life itself, and the human condition. And as long as we are all around, I believe that tennis will endure.
Andre Agassi, Eight-time Grand Slam Champion, reminded us that tennis literally uses the “language of life”: advantage, service, hold, play, break, fault, love.
But even more, Agassi went on to remark: “Every match is a life in miniature . . . any hour can be our finest. Or our darkest. It’s our choice.”
The tennis court is thus like life’s canvas – reflecting fierce battles, mighty challenges, true accomplishments, ignominious defeats and magnificent victories.
And showcasing the whole range of human passions – courage, fear, despair, surrender, indomitable fighting spirit, hope and much more.
As examples, let’s look at three (3) professional matches which reflect the sport as its best, and which exhibit its human drama and lessons.
1. Wimbledon 1979 Championship Final: Arthur Ashe (USA) def. Jimmy Connors (USA), 6-1, 6-1, 5-7, 6-4
Timeless Lesson: Strategy meets execution to produce ultimate victory
Few contests reach the legendary and epochal status in any sport as this match. Almost five decades later, many regard this match as the tennis equal of Muhammad Ali’s “Rope-a-Dope” triumph over World Champion George Foreman in their "Rumble-in-the-Jungle" in 1974.
Coming into the match, the heavily-favored and youthful Jimmy Connors was 22 years-old and in his prime. Connors was the defending Wimbledon Champion and World No. 1, and playing some of his best tennis. Arthur Ashe was the sentimental fan favorite but, at age 32, nearing the twilight of his distinguished career. And he had been soundly defeated by Connors a few months earlier in Johannesburg at the South Africa Championships. Most analysts rated Ashe’s prospects for victory quite low.
Ashe and his team developed a three part strategy to counter-act the power-hitting counterpunching game of Connors: 1. Slow the pace to the Connors forehand, with chip and dink shots, to offset his power game; 2. Hit balls shorter to bring Connors into the net where his game was weaker; 3. Lob often over the rushing Connors coming to net. The challenge was to stay focused and execute.
It worked magnificently. Ashe jumped out to a big lead in the first two sets, 6-1, 6-1. Connors fought back viciously in a tight and tense third set, 7-5. But in a close fourth set, Ashe re-doubled his efforts at off-pace shots and lobs, and finally prevailed 6-4, and won the match.
Courageous execution of a thoughtful strategy paid off in a Wimbledon Championship title. Ashe became the first African-American man to win Wimbledon.
2. Australian Open 2010 Semi-Final: Marat Safin (RUS) def. Roger Federer (SUI), 5-7, 6-4, 5-7, 7-6 (6), 9-7
Timeless Lessons: Respect, not awe, for a superior opponent; Intentionality behind every shot; belief in your ultimate victory
17,000+ fans began assembling for the highly-anticipated semi-final match between two tennis giants at AO 2010. They and millions of world-wide viewers on television were to be treated to a blockbuster 4 ½ hour thriller - featuring world-class shot-making, dogged fighting spirit and suspenseful swings of momentum until the final point.
Marat Safin, former World Number 1 and 2000 U.S. Open Champion faced the seemingly invincible Roger Federer, World Number 1 and 4-time Grand Slam Champion on a 26 match winning streak. Safin lost a tight first set, and then fought back to win the second set and level the match. The pressure did not let up in tense third and fourth sets, with Federer raising his play level and taking the third set. Safin followed by finding new belief in his game and capturing the fourth set in a nailbiter tiebreak.
The fifth set was a battle royal which extended into overtime games. Every point was a titanic struggle as each player would punish any weak shot to end the point. Both players exchanged magnificent forehands and backhands. Safin found a way to elevate his game to its apex, and moved into the lead earning multiple match points. Federer, serving to stay in the match at 8-7 for Safin, showed cracks and fell behind. He valiantly fought off numerous match points but fell short. By breaking serve, Safin closed out the match at 9-7 in the fifth.
What can be learned? Safin’s play and methods illustrate lessons for us all. Despite Safin’s monster serve and powerful forehands, Federer took control early with an arsenal of shots, including baseline winners, drop shots and volleys. At times, Federer’s shot-making was beyond sublime and a thing of beauty to watch. But Safin remained unfazed. He held on and his power game eventually took hold. Commentator Patrick McEnroe observed that Safin’s attitude towards Federer was the right one: “respect” for each of his opponent’s shots, but not unbridled “awe” of the person himself, for that might intimidate you into a loss.
shot executed by Safin plainly had great intention and purpose behind it, regardless
of whether he won or lost the point. Throughout the match, Safin in his mind never
surrendered, despite coming from behind for most of the match against an
apparently superior opponent with a better record. His belief in ultimate victory
was on clear display – and was pivotal and decisive for his win.
3. Wimbledon 2010 First Round: John Isner (USA) def. Nicolas Mahut (FRA), 6-4, 3-6, 6-7, 7-6, 70-68
Timeless Lessons: The indomitable heights of the human spirit, and the limits of human endurance
Wimbledon 2010 began as it always does - with global excitement and anticipation. John Isner and Nicolas Mahut were assigned to Court 18 at the All England Club for their First Round match. Little did they or anyone suspect that theirs would showcase a match for the ages. It became the longest match in tennis history, spanning 11 hours and 5 minutes, stretched out over 3 days.
Isner was the young big serving American power hitter, and Mahut the fierce French doubles champion specialist. They played a close match through four sets, trading sets to reach a final fifth set. But because of loss of natural light, play had to be suspended until the next day for what became their towering fifth set. Wimbledon at that time did not recognize a fifth set tiebreak. So the players were called on to simply play on - until one player or the other won the fifth set by two games – and thus the match.
In the fifth set, each player held their serve – and kept holding it. The score reached 6 all, then 7 all, then 8 all. And then it went on and on and on, moving into the 20s, 30s, 40s, 50s and then 60s, with no end in seeming sight. The commentators, fans and worldwide viewers were stupefied. In fact, the electronic scoreboard itself stopped working at 47-47, and had to be re-programmed. And due to loss of natural light by evening, play had to be suspended and resumed the following day. All told, each player held serve an incredible 168 consecutive games and hit over 100 aces.
Neither player gave up or gave in. They reached their physical exhaustion point, and then went beyond. Finally, on the third day, Isner held serve in the 137th game of the set, at 69-68. Mahut valiantly fought to hold serve on his game but finally fell short. Isner broke serve at 70-68. And closed out the longest ever tennis match. Today, a plaque hangs at Court 18 to honor both players, their monumental effort and the history-making match.
What was shown on those 3 days on Court 18 by Isner and Mahut was far more than a tennis match or sporting contest. What was showcased was the indomitable heights of the human spirt, and the limits of human endurance.
These timeless matches have stood the test of time, more for what they taught us than the results.
They - and many others at all levels of play and over the years and across the generations - undeniably illustrate an enduring truth: Tennis is timeless!
Sunday, July 3, 2022
Friday, July 1, 2022
After the late Bud Collins, Richard A. Hillway is considered one of our preeminent tennis historians, committed to the highest standards of primary source research.
Written with Co-Author and British tennis historian Richard T. Everitt, Hillway's book "The Birth of Lawn Tennis" is a massive and seminal tome on the origins of the game based on 20 years of research and study.
Lavishly illustrated with historical photographs and images, this masterwork takes the reader through the early history of what was then called 'lawn tennis" - first introduced and later popularized by Major Walter Clopton Wingfield in London in 1874.
Hillway's book reaffirms Wingfield's pioneering and pivotal role in the development of the game. And the book goes on to record events in the game's first years, leading up the maiden Wimbledon Championship in 1877, and tracks the players, officials and rules.
A unique contribution of the book is to help dispel persistent myths and false narratives which have sprung up about the game over time, some of which still appear to circulate today.
For example, it disproves false stories such as the one that lawn tennis originated in Birmingham, England in 1859 with Harry Gem and Augurio Perera. And the false story that lawn tennis was first brought to America in 1874 by Mary Outerbridge.
To better explain the book, Hillway has published an accompanying Research Booklet captioned "The Early Years of Lawn Tennis: A Guide for Historians and Researchers" (Click Here for the 28 Page PDF Version).
In "The Birth of Lawn Tennis", Hillway and Everitt have produced an exceptional piece of scholarly research for tennis history buffs, which also serves as a powerful tribute to a great game for the ages.
Wednesday, June 15, 2022
Tennis Quote of the Day: About Tennis and Life from Tracy Austin, U.S. Open Champion, Former World No. 1
"Tennis is often an all-consuming sport. Every so often [we] have to step back and realize that tennis is an amazing teaching tool. The game itself is great, but the life lessons it can impart are far more valuable: discipline, time management, problem-solving, critical thinking, independence, self-reliance, developing relationships with others."- Tracy Austin, U.S. Open Champion, Former World No. 1
Monday, June 6, 2022
Sunday, June 5, 2022
Saturday, May 21, 2022
Friday, May 20, 2022
Bottom Line Personal, May 01, 2022, pp. 7-8)
"[Tennis] is played mainly on a five-and-a-half inch course - the space between your ears." Bobby Jones, legendary golfer [Quote adapted for tennis]
Every sport - indeed every business, career, school track and life path - carries a mental component. Overthinking or mis-thinking can lead to under-performance and even failure.
We've all been told often that these mental states help - remaining cool, calm and deliberate; staying in "the present"; and focusing only the next topic or next point at hand.
Mental coaches have even offered practical tips to help develop these states, and push out our continuous internal dialogue and stream of thoughts.
Among these: Focus on your breathing, count off even numbers, think about your feet touching and feeling the ground.
Best results, they say, are achieved by NOT focusing on results.
So what do we do?
Let's look at GOLF.
Maybe it can teach us something about tennis and life.
First, we observe that the big key to winning in golf appears to be consistency - meaning avoiding mistakes and errors.
And the big key to that seems to be good and early preparation.
And that means focusing on the process of preparation.
"Process" over "results" is what your mind must be drawn to for better winning margins.
- *Accept that you and everyone will make some errors.
- *Focus on the process of your pre-shot preparation routine. (In tennis, that's early and smooth take-back of the racket.)
- *See and feel your shot though visualization.
- *Hold a single thought as you strike the ball on any shot: either ball contact, spin, tempo, balance, target, trajectory and so on.
- *When you make a mistake or are frustrated, just deliberately slow down, forgive yourself and reset.
Thursday, May 19, 2022
Friday, May 13, 2022
After five decades of tennis: watching, playing, taking lessons from coaches and teaching pros, and studying the sport closely -- including analyzing players at the highest level both in the present and in past history -- here's my take on this topic: The Twelve Core Principles of Tennis.
I'll set them forth in bullet-point format with only the briefest of explanations.
I have tried to condense things down to just these twelve,
avoiding information-overload and mindful that attention spans are
I think that it's better for the reader to simply think about each of these principles, as they might apply to their own game.
*My great thanks and gratitude to all the coaches, teaching pros and players whom I have learned from over the years.
All the best with your tennis.
The Twelve Core Principles of Tennis
1. Tactics: Always change a losing game, and never change a winning game. (Bill Tilden)
2. Weakness: You are only as good as your weakest stroke. (Bill Tilden)
3. Mental: In tennis, you are never really playing an opponent,
you are playing yourself - your own highest standards. (Arthur Ashe)
4. Mental: Stay in the present moment, and play only the next point. (Rod Laver)
5. Improvement: The deadliest opponent is the one who keeps getting better - all the time. (Blake Griffin)
6. Practice and Play: Practice like you play, and play like you practice.
7. Tennis Movements: Speed and quickness kills. Spin is king.
Timing and Rhythm is vital. Loose, relaxed, fluid and whip-like court
movements win. Always move forward into the court, and step into
the shot with full follow through.
8. Bottom-Up Tennis: Tennis is NOT an racket and arm sport. It is a
game played from the ground up with your lower body (legs and feet) - a
rotational game from your core, hips and shoulder.
9. Error-Free Tennis means Early Preparation: Strong Low Ready
Position, Split-Step-And-Go-to-the-Ball, Getting a smooth, early and
full turn, Racket back, Crisp footwork creating premium spacing to the
10. The Heart of Tennis is Ball Contact Point: Strong, solid, consistent and out-front Ball Contact Point.
11. Tennis Intentionality: Strong intention behind every shot - where and how you are hitting it.
12. Above All: Have Fun and Enjoy!
Thursday, May 12, 2022
Saturday, March 26, 2022
The science of Implicit Bias is a developing and growing field of study in society. Implicit Bias often surreptitiously affects people and their behaviors, sometimes for good but more often for ill. Many people operate with Implicit Bias in different activities in life, sometimes without even knowing it. We as fallible humans probably can never escape it altogether. But recognizing it, and finding ways to overcome it, offers us the promise of more productive, improved and happier lives.
II. What is Implicit Bias?
Implicit Bias is an preconceived attitude about something based on past experience -- and it's often something we are not even aware of. Implicit Bias refers specifically to an unconscious preference or aversion to a person, group, culture, trait, idea or thing.
Our human brains operate everyday on both the conscious and unconscious levels. Think about it. Do you make your daily coffee or tea without thinking much about it?
Have you driven to your favorite local store or lunch spot without remembering
the drive or the directions? We thus cannot help but spend a lot of our waking hours engaged in actions on an unconscious stealth platform.
Indeed, our senses are continuously flooded with information from
our world which can never be fully processed. Did you know that the
human brain intakes about 11 billion bits of incoming data every second?
But that only about 40 to 50 bits of data are actually processed
logically and rationally. In fact, it's widely known that we only use
about 5% of our brain's grey matter.
Therefore, brain scientists say that we intuitively use what are called "Cognitive Shortcuts" to process data -- a preconceived psychological framework to understand things quickly based on our past experiences. Sometimes, these shortcuts are driven simply by our own fears and laziness.
Still don't believe it? Try taking the Project Implicit test, offered by Harvard University.
IMPLICIT BIAS TEST
It's free. You may be surprised at what you find out about yourself. Most of us have pre-formed attitudes of one sort or another about a range of things: including for example gender, race, culture, language, sexual orientation, single parents, unemployed people, handicapped persons, and many other topics.
III. How does Implicit Bias show in tennis?
So how does all this apply to tennis?
As a sporting activity in life, tennis is not immune from Implicit Bias.
Let's take three (3) simple examples from the practice and match courts.
1. Tennis is a racket sport played by swinging the arm with a racket at the ball.
For most non-tennis lay people, this is the way the game looks - arm-y and racket-y. But high-level players know the real truth: Tennis is a game of body and core rotation, and footwork. At its best, it's actually played in the lower half of your body, and from the ground up.
2. I'm a baseliner, not a volleyer.
Many players learn the baseline game first. And when they enjoy some success with it, they stick to it and don't bother with the net game.
3. I'm not a good server (or I'm not a good returner).
Some players know, even before tennis, they never had a very good throwing (or serving) motion in baseball, football or other school sports. Others never has much success returning a tennis ball served by a high-level server, and the image sticks.
IV. How do you overcome Implicit Bias?
The good news is that the human brain is malleable and not hard wired, say brain scientists. In other words, we can become aware of our biases and then re-program our brain. Often, Implicit Bias is based on certain past experiences. By engaging in new experiences, we can form a basis to alter our biases.
Ways to De-Bias ourselves:
*Educate yourself about Implicit Bias, and take the Project Implicit test
*Be on guard for any possible biases in your thought processes
*Slow down, and write out what your biases might be
*Expose yourself to different and diverse experiences, events and people
*Try Micro-messaging: this refers to surrounding yourself with messages, symbols and objects to remind yourself about overcoming bias (In one example, the U.S. Congress began to display statues of women leaders of color such as Rosa Parks to remind legislators of the important contributions of American women in history)
Let's take our tennis examples.
Bias: Tennis is an arm and racket sport.
False. Be on guard, aware and observe closely every time you see players in action that the game is actually one of body & core rotation and footwork.
Bias: I'm a baseliner. No need to volley.
False. Learn, drill and experience the power and success of volleys, and re-program your self-image. Bring along in your tennis bag small pictures of top players executing a successful volley to glance at between sets.
Bias: I'm not a good server.
False. It's only limiting yourself. Learn , drill and experience new and different types and styles of serving. Keep watching videos of favorite top servers serving aces to build confidence and develop role models.
Implicit Bias presents itself in many activities in life, including even tennis. In tennis, Implicit Bias can hinder our play level and results by limiting our self-image. But we can be on guard and re-program our brains to overcome it, and reach higher performance levels.
1. Biased: Uncovering the Hidden Prejudice that Shapes What We See, Think and Do, By Jennifer L. Eberhardt, Ph.D., (Viking: New York, NY, 2019)
2. Project Implicit, Harvard University at https://implicit.harvard.edu
3. Implicit Bias in Law and Lawyers, Geeta N. Kapur, Esq. (Video Lecture: 2019)
Tuesday, February 8, 2022
Monday, February 7, 2022
Sunday, February 6, 2022
Thursday, February 3, 2022
Sunday, January 30, 2022
Saturday, January 29, 2022
Thursday, January 20, 2022
1. Find and pursue a greater purpose
2. Do what you love
3. Stay open-minded
4. Add value to others
5. Surround yourself with people who make you better
6. Develop a winning attitude
7. Build and nurture relationships
8. Practice gratitude and and humility
9. Always be learning
10. Appreciate the moments
Sunday, January 2, 2022
Commitment to a Better Self-Image
The thing about New Year's resolutions and lists of improvement goals is this.
Try to visualize and imprint onto your mindset, a better image of yourself about ONE thing.