For several months, I have had a rough draft of an article on my desk and tennis coach Lou Marino beat me to it, doggone it, with his fine article in the March 3 edition of the Bluffton Sun.
Lou’s main thesis was that the most important thing in tennis is to watch the ball make contact with the racquet. To quote Lou, “our focused vision must get on the ball and stay on it through impacting the center of our racquet.”
Now I would like to extend this important concept to most, if not all, sports involving a ball: The universal “must do” is to see the ball make contact with the implement.
For example, in baseball, follow the pitched ball all the way to the bat. Old slow-motion films of Stan Musial will reveal that after the ball had been struck, Stan the Man was still looking where the ball WAS when the bat and the ball made contact.
In his article, Lou indicated this same thing in tennis: “keep looking at that contact point for an instant after the ball leaves the strings.”
Baseball fielders have to see the ball all the way into their glove, or they risk bobbling it. Football players must see the pass into their hands before trying to run with it. And make sure you see the complete contact in tennis before turning to prepare for the next shot.
You will notice in football that field goal kickers are still looking at the ground, while their kicking foot has already moved to chest high and the ball is sailing toward the goal posts. They intently focus on seeing their foot strike the ball before looking at the result.
Now, in baseball and tennis, the ball is moving along with the bat or racquet, which makes it all the more challenging. But the same rule still applies when the ball is stationary in golf or place kicking in football.
Golfers must watch intently for the clubface to make contact with the ball. To accomplish this, don’t look to see the result until you can say to yourself, “Ball is gone,” or simply, “Ball” or “Gone” or “Contact.” If you can say some useful word, any word you want, before you look to see the result, then you will have done your job watching for the contact between the ball and the implement.
Now a disclaimer: In all of these examples, a self-deception occurs, that being that you can’t really see the contact, because it happens so fast. It takes a very high-speed movie camera to even catch in one frame the instantaneous contact between the club, bat, racquet or foot and the ball.
But as long as you do your best to to see it, you will have done your job, and physics will take care of the rest.
Tom Dorsel, Ph.D. of Hilton Head Island is a clinical-sport psychologist and author of “GOLF: The Mental Game.” Dorsel.com