Much of what I believe has been influenced by two brilliantly thought provoking books –Relax and Win hence my title in homage and thanks to Bud Winter and Warrior Walking by Josh Holzer.
I believe in going to the experts in the field and learning from their ideas.
Bud Winter says: “Relaxation is the key to championship performance in whatever you do. Use it!” Bud trained his track and field athletes to relax and they ended up winning 37 WORLD RECORDS. Nothing is a better testimonial to the art of relaxation than success like that.
The Foundation Principle
The foundation principle of The Bailey Method is relaxation.
Many balance principals such as:
All stem from the ability to relax!
Relaxation is the key element to being balanced. Balance is critical for excellent tennis play at every level and one of my favourite aphorisms which I see proved in all my lessons is – “If you fix the balance, you fix the swing”
Along with balance, relaxation gives your play beauty, grace and efficiency.
People love watching players who are relaxed, look at Roger Federer. He is poetry written with the human body. I have always believed that “Balance is beautiful”. A fine player is a pleasure to watch. They appear alert yet relaxed; they seem very calm and balanced with everything performed at a controlled speed. They are totally focussed yet stay loose and play with effortless effort.
Proven Facts through Research
Let us look at the facts about relaxation and its effect on athletic performance.
In his book ‘Relax and Win’, a worthy mantra for any sports player, Bud Winter speaks of how he was employed to train World War 2 fighter pilot and to scientifically research the effect of relaxation on their performance. Being a fighter pilot is one hell of a stressful job, where your life is on the line every working second, not to mention that you are fighting for the freedom of your country. Here, after extensive research, experimentation and strictly controlled conditions are his findings. You will notice that I have related his pilot results to tennis!
Being relaxed –
These findings blew my mind when I first read them. WE have to give the ART of relaxation the respect that it deserves.
Trust in Relaxation
After Bud Winter completed his extraordinary breakthroughs in his research with fighter pilots he took his new found knowledge back to the athletic track. He got his runners to do 3 things only–
Now this was very hard for many of the athletes because it was not in their nature to do this. They had been brought up in the culture of “No Pain, no Gain”, “110 percent effort”, “Train harder than your rivals”. The proof was in the findings. Jaws hit the ground, cries of “It can’t be!” resounded when the athletes, with a full chest of air, jogged back after their 80% effort. They had broken their personal best times.
Bud taught them to trust in relaxation.
I say this to my clients:
“To move without flaw, remember the 80% law.”
Another one of Buds’ sayings was:
“Work at your fastest controllable effort” …I love that quote!
He would also say:
“Watch out for the sleepy looking guys with limp hands and loose jaws”
Wow, does that remind me of Pistol Pete Sampras before he delivered his great serve. It always looked like he was about to nod off and then he would serve a swinging bullet that would defy physics and break off at incredible angle having the best players in the world scratching their heads??
So what are some things we can think about and check on in order to get relaxed?
How do these check points relate to tennis?
When playing tennis, relaxed form comes from 7 key areas –
Relaxing under pressure “Think Fundamentals”
All the relaxation key points above are skills that need to be practiced so they become natural when playing under pressure. Playing in a tournament is never the same as a practice match. You can’t be thinking about too many things. It all comes down to trusting your training. When I talk to my players about tournament play I like to them to emphasise good form fundamentals –
and most importantly
Relaxed tennis will soon become a habit pattern that holds up under all conditions.
The Natural “Keep to the Simple”
Most of us have to learn to relax until it becomes so ingrained that it happens automatically. The objective is to have no tension in movement. Being relaxed in motion is very different to being relaxed when still or sitting or lying down.
The important thing is to learn the ‘natural’ way of doing things. Every person has their own “What feels natural” or “What they feel comfortable with”. It is all personal and unique.
‘Natural’ comes from personality type, body types, previous coaching, parental influences, even your heroes as kids. It is the coaches’ important role through communication, asking the right questions, researching, absorbing and rejecting to find out what works and feels good for a particular person. A player will never use anything that doesn’t feel natural and works for them.
I love this quote by Josh Holzer!
“It is possible to lose track, take a wrong fork, trip and fall, and even get caught in the elements. So the best advice I, as merely a fellow traveller, can give is to KEEP TO THE SIMPLE. Remember, rely on the basics, and your journey will be as comfortable as nature allows.”
In conclusion, being relaxed is certainly essential to playing great tennis and having smooth, flowing movement around the tennis court.
Remember, a lot of players no matter what their standard all should have a mantra or a saying to help focus their minds during a game. For me, it’s the simple but strong two words from Bud Winter “Relax and Win”.
I agree with Bud when he said – “Relaxation is the key to championship performance in whatever you do. So, use it”!