David was a volunteer in an Inner Game demonstration of learning and coaching. His complaint was clear and emphatic. “I have a very defensive backhand volley,” he asserted with complete certainty that he knew what he was talking about. I asked him to step up to the net and let me see for myself, thinking that he, being an intermediate player, was probably exaggerating the case. But when I saw him step back at each shot and ineffectually flail at the backhands I hit him, I said, “Yes, that has to be one of the most defensive volleys I’ve ever seen.”
David seemed relieved that his problem was seen and acknowledged by the coach. But then I said, “I can see why you don’t like that stroke, but what I don’t know is how you’d like to hit it.” He began to explain, “Well I’d like it to be more powerful …” I cut him off, saying, “No, don’t tell me, show me. Show me how you’d like to hit the ball some day, and then maybe I can coach you toward that goal.” David took my request seriously, and he started to show me. The first few balls he hit out in front of him, like never before, and then he said, “No, not like that. … More like this.” At this point he started hitting very forceful backhand volleys into the corners with a kind of fierce intensity, never leaving the mind-set that he was just trying to show me what he’d like. Soon the audience started laughing, and the “spell” was about to be broken. I said, “David, it’s too bad you can’t hit backhand volleys like that right now.”
Instantly, David retreated to his former defensive shots. I said, “Yes, that’s how you do hit them, but show me again how you would like to.” As instantly as his forceful backhands had disappeared, they returned. “Like that. … And that….” Every time he caught himself hitting his shots like he “knew” he couldn’t, the old backhand would return. He went back and forth several times, like day following night. I ended the demonstration, and David approached me with his head down. When he got to me, he stopped, looked me in the eyes, and said with a somewhat trembling voice. “So, who am I?” His confusion was obvious. There seemed to be two people within him. Was he the person who for twenty years had “proved” to himself and others that he had a defensive volley, or was he the one that for a few minutes had shown that he could hit amazingly aggressive, powerful backhands?
“It’s your choice,” was all I could think to say at the time. Clearly, David’s body was capable of doing what he thought he couldn’t do. Being an experienced player, he must have had a clear image in his brain of a forceful backhand volley. But in the stress mode, he didn’t have access to it.*
*Horton, John; Gallwey, W. Timothy; Hanzelik, Edd (2009-08-15). The Inner Game of Stress: Outsmart Life's Challenges and Fulfill Your Potential (Kindle Locations 468-484). Random House, Inc.
100m sled drag 20/10kg
10 Push Jerk 60/40kg
Rest 2 mins
10 DB Thrusters
Rest 2 mins