Tuesday, 12 May 2015


Perception is the process by which stimulation of the senses is translated into meaningful experience.
Perception is the process of acquiring, interpreting, selecting and organizing sensory information. Many cognitive psychologists hold that, as we move about in the World we create a model of how the World works.... (New World Encyclopedia).
Fascinating isn't it as to how we all grasp hold of something that we feel comfortable with but really it is up for debate as to whether or not what we are holding is in fact something that is worth holding.
I have always felt that with a sport such as tennis there are in fact way too many perceptions of what is correct, hence the discrepancy from club to club, coach to coach, player to player, pro to pro. So who is correct ?
I have often spoke fondly of Gilbert's perception of the game and how he took an almost waste of talent in Agassi to the best player in the World. I have and always will speak fondly of the Swedes of the 70's and 80's and how they had a perception of the sport that looking back on was rather simple to implement yet hard to sustain.
I remember just a couple of weeks back when an AFL Coach talked about his players and their dominance for three quarters and their failure in the last 25 minutes to sustain that level of dominance, despite their win. He spoke of that initial level being almost an 'impossibility' to sustain for the entire match. I find that interesting. The coach gave them a plan that was perceived as 'fool proof' and they stuck to it for as long as their minds could cope with it. Why did it change ?
I believe it has a lot to do with the nature of sport and how coaching can instill some ideas yet it cannot guarantee success, a common problem that is tough to find answers for. A tennis coach can work all they like with a student yet they cannot teach them how to play tennis without simulated play in practice. I have seen countless lessons that are a total waste of time except for the 'cardio' workout that could have been so much more yet the coach failed to teach the vital ingredient, perception.
You can rabbit on all you like as a coach, in fact you can talk yourself blue in the face but if you are any sort of 'mentor' of the game then you will have a way of teaching that does not require anything else but a view on the game that actually makes sense.
Technique is useless without tactics and tactics are useless without technique so if a player lacks in one of these areas then why would you be teaching anything but the one that lacks progress ?
I have seen countless kids who's perception of tennis was simply to out hit their opponent where having a rally was not on their agenda. My way of dealing with that type of player was simple "Hey Champ have you somewhere else you need to be"?! So where did that type of perception begin ? Possibly by watching a player in the 'zone' who felt he could regularly hit a one dollar coin on either side of the court and who owned no fear whatsoever in regards to winning or losing. That's tough to teach.
My earliest perceptions of tennis were in fact to look for the opponent and actually hit it back to them ! Borg did it in the 70's against Vilas and Lendl to such a crazy extent that some of their rallies would be regularly 50, 60, 70 shots, particularly on the clay.
Jonny Mac's perception was to break the rhythm of a player like Borg, never allow the same shot to be played twice, don't be a 'practice partner' who keeps the ball in the comfort zone that ultimately builds confidence and improves technique.
Perception in tennis quite possibly is the one thing that prevents a good player from becoming a very, very good player but unfortunately a lot of the time it keeps getting back to the person who everyone relies on that little bit too much. That person is the one who owns the piece of paper which states that they are 'untouchable' as far as knowledge is concerned.
Tennis I believe is a sport that requires a mind that thinks for itself and one that does not need a constant earful of information on a regular basis. Good tennis coaches are hard to find and I think it comes down to the individual player more than anything else. The best players are the best thinkers.
It's a sport that needs feel, not unlike a surfer who knows when to stand up on the board when the wave is about to peak. It's a sport which requires instinct and an ability to understand a situation, like a boxer needing to duck a right hook.
Tennis is a sport that without perception is like a famous quote from Edward de Bono....
"Most of the mistakes in thinking are inadequacies of perception rather than mistakes of logic"
A thinking man's game is tennis but it's all how you perceive the task in front of you.......

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