Twice a month, I receive an email dispatch from Tom Veneziano, a teaching pro in Houston, Texas. Veneziano is waging a lonely battle against the fetish of technique. “Strokes are based on feel, not mechanics” proclaims this self-described Tennis Warrior. And the more intently I study the intricacies of technique–do I snap my wrist five or ten milliseconds before the racket face scrapes up the back of the yellow nap?–the more I agree.
“Repetition is the chariot of genius” is another Veneziano refrain. On those rare occasions when I’m deep in a practice rally, my consciousness subsumed in the act of tracking down and striking the yellow orb–again, and again, and again–the stroke feels perfect. The arm is loose, the contact clean. The ball lands near my opponent’s baseline, just enough topspin to keep it inside the lines. I have no doubt that in these rare moments, I’m a model of technique. And yet the complicated blueprint of stroke mechanics is completely absent from my mind.
The key to becoming a Tennis Warrior, Veneziano seems to say, is to understand the game physically, not verbally. Eventually, our physical genius will manifest itself in parts of the game that are typically considered the domain of the intellect, strategy and tactics. Fortified by an unshakeable confidence in our physical selves, we’ll develop the mental toughness to defeat rigid, self-sabotaging modes of thought.
The Tennis Warrior system seems to help me. Which guru do you use?