Have you wondered why it is that some players are able to learn better than others, even if they have never had a formal coach or taken extensive lessons to learn the game of tennis?
On one side there is the viewpoint that "there is nothing that any human being knows, or can do, that he has not learned."
Proponents of this assertion exclude natural body functions, such as breathing, as well as reflexes, such as the involuntary closing of the eye when an object approaches it.
Let's assume for a moment that the natural body functions, as well as the reflexes, are learned over a longer period of time, such as the span of the species. Let's call that instinctual.
How could the student learn anything quickly and efficiently? Would it be best to follow the natural instinctual lines, or, on the contrary, with no regard to previous learning processes?
Would it have to be learned on a progressive scale of difficulty, where simple learnings accumulate to obtain a whole that is a composite of the earlier steps taken?
Would it have to be adjusted to the learning speed of the student or could you just force the person to the class or the teacher's speed of teaching?
Would every step have to be understood, felt and experienced so as to permit the student to use his own judgment on whether it feels good and is effective?
Would it have to be adjusted to the learning preferences of the student, whether the person learns by feel and repetition, or by more of a mechanical system, such as making mental image pictures? Furthermore, could a person be guided towards learning by feel, even those who thoroughly depend on memorization through mental image pictures? Even further, which mental image pictures help you and which detract from your effort?
And finally, what is focus? Would the person need to easily acquire an understanding of how he concentrates on a certain task in a way that he simplifies it and repeat at will?
I am afraid that the answer to all these questions is an emphatic YES.
And that's the crux of tennis learning. Which also answers how some people learn quickly and efficiently just by themselves.
Number one, they have the ability to simplify matters. Number two, they prefer to operate by feel, simplifying matters. Number three, they are very aware of what causes what and what is not efficient.
They judge situations and responses instinctually. If it does not feel good, they throw it overboard. In sports this is usually called athleticism. I would define it as a natural selection of the simplest way to achieve something.
An old friend of mine, Manuel Santana, who won Wimbledon, Roland Garros (now the French Open ) twice, and Forest Hills (now the US Open), told me how, as a ball-boy in Madrid, he learned first with a piece of wood. Someone later on gave him an old racquet and he sneaked at slow times some games with the other ball-boys. In time, with no lessons whatsoever, having seen (and most likely copied) the best players of the previous generation, he had a complete game, including the best forehand in the world at his time.
His schooling, as he told me, was almost nil. So rather than thinking, he adopted what felt best and had the best results.
Not all of us have the time to spend the entire day on the tennis courts, playing, observing, and running around catching and throwing the ball, as he did.
Nor would I recommend skipping school.
But realize you are a lot more than a mind; you are a wonderful being, full of feel, ability, sensitivity, innate intelligence, coordination, athleticism, and a sense of timing.
You can probably add many more traits, such as balance, grace, feline moves, you name it. Are some of these traits hidden? Strive to be a natural, and help bring them out.
Renowned coach Oscar Wegner has authored bestselling tennis instructional books and DVDs that demonstrate how players of all ages can learn quickly and easily to "Play Like The Pros." To learn more about Oscar Wegner's Modern Tennis Methodology visit TennisTeacher.com.