One of the most powerful terms used in world sport for decades is the mental state called ‘the zone’. This is the mental state which produces super-human performances, amazing shots and winning streaks.
Any tennis player who is in this mental state is virtually unbeatable at their respective level of competition – and at the elite level, you witness some unbelievable shotmaking.
A player who is in the zone experiences an unusual feeling of effortless power, allowing them to feel as if their racquet and body are powered by a turbocharged engine, and they find their body gliding across the court and hitting with awesome power and minimum effort.
The strange part about this is – that this powerful performance does not feel as if it is being controlled by the actual player!
In fact, they’ll often report feeling as if they weren’t responsible for some of the amazing shots at all – as if their body was being guided and directed by a more powerful force (and this is exactly what is happening).
Almost every player at some stage in their career has experienced this feeling to some extent, and then wondered afterward “how did I do that?”
This is the mystery that surrounds the zone – why does it appear so fleetingly, and then disappear just as quickly as it came? And most of all – why can’t we access it all the time?
What is the powerful force which is guiding the body when you hit an unbelievable shot? The answer is the sleeping giant that resides inside all human beings – the subconscious mind, the source of all bodily movement which also stores all past tennis memories and experiences.
When a player is ‘zoning’, their conscious mind becomes quiet (the normally busy, chattering mind we use all the time), and this allows their more powerful subconscious to run their performance on ‘automatic pilot’, in the way a computer runs software.
This allows their strokes to flow with effortless reflexes and power in a way that could never be matched by conscious thought.
This means that when you are in the zone, you have virtually no thought going through your mind whatsoever, your body is just playing on automatic-pilot, powered directly by your subconscious mind.
This is not to say that your body is playing without instruction, on the contrary, it is simply getting its instructions from a more powerful and reliable source.
So how do we get into the zone? Everyone must find the method that best suits their needs, but one of the main ways is to simply practice (in your daily training) thinking absolutely nothing while you are hitting!
This prevents the weaker conscious mind from giving your body incorrect instructions and allows your powerful subconscious (the sleeping giant within you, and control center of all bodily movement) to run your tennis on auto-pilot, as it is meant to.
Of course, if you are having a lesson, doing this is not possible, as your coach will be asking you to consciously try different things on the court. But once you are practicing away from your lesson, allow some time where your mind goes completely quiet and see if your standard or level increases. It almost always will.
A classic example of the Zone is where someone serves a rocket at you at 200 km/hr – and you reflex back an amazing return for a screaming winner down the line. This is the subconscious at work!
Yet if someone hits a slow second serve to you, where you have all the time in the world, these are often the returns a player will miss, because they have too much time to think! These are the times when the weaker conscious mind gets involved, and it’s never very pretty when this happens!
The zone is a very powerful state that can help you reach beyond your limitations to achievements you may have never realized were possible. Try it, explore it, master it, and then show the world what you can do!
“The Mind controls the body, and the Mind is Unlimited”
The best of success, Craig Townsend