Monthly Archives: April 2004

the thumbinator, erotica

I went to see my trainer Lenny Parracino today to see what we can do about tendonitis in my knee. We corrected my lunge technique and then I endured the usual torture for scar tissue: heat-seeking deep tissue massage in the muscles above the knee that are causing the tendonitis. This why he is called the thumbinator. I cannot believe how much grief and time it takes just to be a shlock E level recreational tennis player. Why do I put up with this?

I was flipping channels last night and came across a piece on HBO?s Real Sex about equestrian erotica: people who like to dress up as ponies ? hooves, elaborate blinders, tails, etc. ? and play out erotic scenes. I am currently reading a how-to book about erotic role play, Fantasy Made Flesh. The author asks you to go back to childhood and remember what kind of things you loved as a child, activities nobody had to ask you to do, games you were obsessed by. These are a fertile source of ideas for erotic roles that might turn you on today. The only obsession I could remember was standing at the bottom of the path and throwing a tennis ball against the steps for hours at a time pretending to be a pitcher or a shortstop or Willie Mays running with his back to the plate and making an impossible catch.

I?m still obsessively playing with a tennis ball. She might be right about those obsessions.


I can tell if I’m hitting my forehand properly. If I’ve rotated throughout, when I catch my racket at the end of the stroke I punch myself in my nose with my right bicep. I kinda look like Reggie Jackson. He looked like a pretzel after he’d swung at a ball with a home run swing and completely missed it.

The serve, by the way, is another armless stroke. Your trunk twist and knee bend give the racket it’s momentum. Look at Michelle Wie. She rockets the ball as far as many male pros. She could hardly do that without a lot of twisting and trunk strength.

Practice Report: hit against a wall for 45 minutes, practiced my serve for a bag of balls.

past, present, future and Alex Rodriguez

Baseball player Alex Rodriguez is in a hitting slump. Today there was an interview in the New York Times with his sports performance consultant, Jim Fannin. Fannin said the following about elite athletes. An elite athlete has fewer thoughts than the average athlete because they can focus better on the task at hand, namely to perform at a high level, and so spends less time wrestling with all the chaotic insecure thoughts the rest of us have: “I’m not quick enough”, “I lost last time so I’ll probably lose again”, “the world is falling apart and I’m playing this silly game”, “he hate me”, whatever. An elite athlete does not think about a slump, they think about their next at bat or their next jump shot.

There are three important ideas here. An elite athlete thinks differently than most of us, has the ability to mentally focus on the task at hand regardless of the immense pressure and expectations surrounding them, and is able to keep their thoughts in the present instead of dwelling on past events such as the last 17 times they went to bat and didn’t get a hit.

Lanny Bassham recognized that athletes think differently and interviewed many elite athletes to find out how they succeed where others don’t. See competition for an example of how an elite athlete might approach a day of competition. Notice how one keeps the mind occupied to keep all those pesky, persistent, nagging negative thoughts at bay. You can only think of one thing at a time.

Here is Krishnamacharya’s translation of the second sutra of Patanjali’s Yoga sutras: “Yoga is the ability to direct the mind exclusively towards an object and sustain that direction without any distractions.” Sounds very much like “the ability to mentally focus on the task at hand regardless of the immense pressure and expectations surrounding them.”

A recovering addict once said to me, “If you have one foot in the past and one foot in the future, you are pissing on the present.” Not an appealing image but an important idea. The only place you can take any action is in the present, the past is long gone. The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle is a superb discussion of the benefits of staying in the present and the folly of dwelling on the past. I’m on my 4th or 5th slow readthrough.

By the way, Fannin likes to speak to his clients once a day and see them in person each month. Working with the mind is not a sometime thing.

Practice Report: worked out at the gym for an hour and a half
Solutions Analysis: the slower I do the exercises, the more effective I can do them.

tennis is my god

Today I was able to hit a tennis ball against the wall for the first time since my latest incident of tennis elbow. My backhand was fine but I had a difficult time changing my habit of bringing the racket back with my arm to bringing it back by twisting my body. How do you change an ingrained movement habit? Well, you could take 14 years of Alexander Technique lessons as I have and continue to do. You could also use mental practice. It’s cheaper. As you see many times in my posts, this stuff is all in the book With Winning in Mind by Lanny Bassham.

Here might be a good time to admit that I use mental tennis practice as a meditation. I was once given a melting mediation by my tai chi teacher, I have practiced various types of mantra meditations including Transcendental Meditation, I’ve asked my spirit guides for guidance (there were lots of nuns floating around me). But none of them lasted. I don’t like to meditate or, really, to sit still at all. But I do like to practice tennis. A big part of any athlete’s practice is mental rehearsal so I decided that I might as well use tennis as a focus for meditation. With apologies to Patanjali, the second sutra of the Yoga sutras says that yoga is the ability to put your attention on an object and keep it there regardless of distractions. He doesn’t say what the object is so why not tennis?

I mentally practice tennis when I go to bed if I have no better offers. I give my thanks for another wonderful day then dive into a mental simulation of practice or a match as if I was out there on the court.

disarmed volley

While you’re sitting there reading this, practice your net volley. Tell the truth now, did you twist your body to bring the racket back and then forward or did you just use your arm? I realized today (at the time I was twisting a large ball with my feet while resting on the ball in a pushup position) that I use my arm, not my body to hit the volley. Kind of silly considering that the racket does not have to come very far back for a volley and a short crisp forward stroke is all you need to hit a ball solidly when you are at the net. John McEnroe said he was so quick at the net because he used to stand very close to the wall and hit volleys off the wall. Go the the nearest backboard or the wall behind your local grocery store and practice hitting volleys against a wall by twisting your trunk instead of moving your arm by itself.