*(seek, stand, strike)

It sounds like a military strategy, but actually it is the fundamental rule of tennis:
1. focus and seek the ball (concentration),
2. stand in the right place (gauge the distance and assume the right stance) and
3. use all your strength and power to strike at the right moment.
OK, I’ll admit, it still sounds like a military strategy, but it is the most difficult lesson of tennis to master.

tennis1
Look before you strike ©MTHerzog

I took an eight year break from tennis after leaving Manila in 2010, and my game has suffered terribly since. Like my own life, I took a break from myself and am struggling with getting back into the game of life as a solo player and not part of a team anymore.

My trainer, as it turns out, is a coach in more ways than one. I am in the process of unlearning everything I spent decades nurturing and committing to memory, and starting over from scratch. The moment I stepped onto the courts two months ago, he undid everything I had carried with me and I went back to basics, re-learning the fundamental steps of the game. You have everything you need to know within you, he said, but you need to apply them differently now that you are older and in a different situation. Let go of the mistakes you continuously made in the past, and start over. Slowly.

Schauen (Seek / Look):
On the court, it is just me, the racket and the ball – well, the trainer and my ever faithful companion, Champagne as well. There are days I am absolutely exhausted from work and would love nothing more than to crawl into bed and sleep. The last thing I need is more concentration after a long day at the office, but the type of concentration that tennis demands is almost meditative. I cannot be sloppy and only half in the game, or else I don’t hit the ball at all. As it is, I do a wonderful job of messing up on my own often enough. That is the first lesson – focus on that very real target that is heading your way, give it your all, and decide how best to approach or attack it. Concentration, calculation, decision, focus, target, and aim. These are all words associated with life per se, essential to tennis, and my latest lessons to learn.

Stehen (Stand):
Don’t rush! is something the training keeps shouting from the other side of the court. Look carefully, calculate the distance you need, and maintain the right distance. Too close and you will mess it up, too far and you will miss. More importantly, the position to you choose makes all the difference. Yes, tennis is all about technique, but so is life. One false move will change the game forever. The right stand involves positioning the body in the proper angle to take advantage of the speed and wind factors. Over-compensating will affect the connection and change the direction of the ball completely.

Stand still! is something else the trainer keeps telling me. Stop bouncing around unnecessarily. Discipline yourself to wait for the ball to come your way so you can make the right choices. Don’t waste time running in the wrong direction for nothing. This is one of those things I have had to unlearn and re-learn. All the trainers in the past told me to bounce around left and right in order to be ready to dash in any direction when the ball comes flying over the net. The lesson is different now: stand still and stand your ground.

Schlagen (Strike):
I am pretty good at hitting and pretty lousy at gauging distances, so there are plenty of times when I end up batting the wind while the ball mocks me cynically from a distance. When I do miss the target I know immediately what went wrong in my concentration and my stance, but this is a recent enlightenment and one that I am still learning to master.

So yes, tennis has become my alternative form of meditation and therapy, something my therapist is very happy about. It is one thing to sort things out in therapy but quite another to have another life coach patient enough to teach me the ancient wisdom of patience, timing, and courage.