Sunday, April 11, 2021

How can amnesia be a good thing?

Rafael Nadal is able to overcome mistakes by employing his tennis 'amnesia.' photo by Doug Browne

Rafael Nadal is able to overcome mistakes by employing his tennis ‘amnesia.’ photo by Doug Browne

Doug Browne

As long as I can remember, the word amnesia had negative connotations. More recently, just about every major network magazine broadcast (“Dateline,” “20-20”) showcased certain amnesia cases that left the viewer scratching their heads.

For example, a father of four is found 1,000 miles away and cannot remember his past life, or the woman from Michigan who strangely ended up in Key West homeless and unable to recall her former life. In each situation, it is hard for the observer to imagine how a person could completely erase their past lives and embark on a new path. However, in some cases like a person suffering from a head injury, it is caused by irreparable damage to the brain.

Now, when a tennis player is able to have amnesia, it is a great thing! Why? Far too many athletes dwell on their negative experiences, and are unable to “let it go” and move forward. When a competitive player is lucky enough to embrace amnesia, he will be able to fire at a high level. The inability to forget bad strokes or poor shot selection will retard the progress of a winning athlete.

In my specific circumstances, I seldom recall suffering from “tennis amnesia.” When I missed a big moment, I let it affect me to the point of over-reacting; the error stayed with me the rest of the contest. In my era (white clothes and wood tennis rackets), power was not the most importance influence in the game. There was a premium placed on smart, strategic placements and a large amount of delicate shot-making because the equipment was grossly inadequate compared to our present power game. The big changes in rackets and strings have changed our game dramatically. It was uncommon for the service returner to hit 90-mile-per-hour darts at the net rushing server. Therefore, when we made an error, it might have landed out by inches.

My top juniors — especially Matt Browne — never get bogged down with their last mistake as they continue to stay loose and rip their big forehand drives. In our current game, most of the top youngsters try to knock the felt off the ball with laser-beam drives that leave marks on the courts. In some cases, these seemingly dare-devil forehands may miss the mark by 10-15 feet. So it is imperative for this risk-taker to develop tennis amnesia, or they will not be able to perform for the rest of the match.

As I observe the 2014 Australian Open, I am forever fascinated with the tennis professional’s abilities to make one bad point ONLY last one point. In other words, the mature athlete knows how to put things in perspective so they can move forward and succeed. Without a doubt, good court judgment is a microcosm of life; don’t sweat the small stuff.

Whether it is a tennis match or an occurrence in life, we must know how to handle the bumps in the road. Most male high school tennis players fail to grasp the ability to let a bad shot go by. Far too many kids play at one speed — as fast as they can wind it up and go!

Clearly tennis amnesia and golf amnesia garner the same meaning: control your emotions or the game will pass you by. One of the greatest challenges in golf is not to let one bad hole affect the other 17. The great golfers of our generation are able to birdie the next hole after the unusual double bogey. Every single sports star has the mental ability to throw the bad moment into the mental garbage can so they are able to excel at future opportunity. Conversely, the immature athlete dwells on the negative, and never allows their mind to move into a more positive direction. Again, we can draw this distinction in our daily lives; eliminate the destructive clutter, and replace it with encouraging thoughts.

The next time you step onto the tennis court, remember to tap into your tennis amnesia. I guarantee it will be the right antidote. Good luck!


Doug Browne is the Hideaway Beach Tennis Director and the new Collier County USPTA Pro of the Year. Additionally, Doug has been the International Hall of Fame Director of Tennis this past summer. Doug has been writing a tennis column for the past fifteen years and welcomes your feedback.

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