Thursday, 4 February 2016

'PERCEPTION' ( PART 1 )



'PERCEPTION'


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 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 not really rocket science.
Bjorn Borg inspired a whole generation of Swedes who pretty much all played the same way from the baseline with perhaps Edberg being the only exception. Borg's perception was basic, don't miss and out rally the opponent. Wilander, Nystrom, Pernfors etc all followed with the same game plan, an almost 'fool proof' game plan that produced many tournament victories.
 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. That ingredient being a game plan that should come from a knowledgeable tennis coach with a theory or two on how to win a tennis match.
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 should include a tactical view on the game that has substance. 
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 ? What's the hurry " ?!
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 the other side of the net and who owned no fear whatsoever in regards to winning or losing.
My earliest perception of tennis was in fact to look for the opponent and actually hit it back to them ! ( I thought that's how a tennis match was played. ) 
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. Dad saw what I was doing on court one day and explained that I in fact had to hit the ball AWAY from my opponent. ( That made a difference )
I am certain that Jonny Mac's perception was to break the rhythm of a player, never allow the same shot to be played twice and rush them into making errors. 
Perception in tennis quite possibly is the one thing that prevents a good player from becoming a very, very good player. If a student of the sport has no idea of what it is that they are supposed to be doing to win enough points to secure a match then surely that area of their game has been neglected. 
The best tennis players in the World are the best thinkers, not necessarily the best ball strikers. They are the ones who have been taught to think about each shot and how to construct their points with purpose rather than just going out and hoping their opponent will miss more than them.
Tennis is 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 before t's too late. 
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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