Most of us are shut down from actually playing tennis; so what can you do to keep your game sharp? How about just thinking about tennis, can that work? Here is an incredible story that might shed some light.
A Vietnam P.O.W.
According to espygolf.com, “Colonel Robert Hall was a P.O.W. at the North Vietnam Hanoi Hilton for over seven years, after he was shot down during an aerial combat mission on September 25, 1965. Colonel Hall explained how the mental game of golf was key to his survival. Bobby Jones’ quote- Golf is a game that is played on a five-inch course – the distance between your ears.
“Colonel Hall attended the University of Mississippi, Ole Miss, for one year before accepting an appointment at the Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland. There he was the captain on the golf team with a handicap of four (4).
“The Colonel, along with the other prisoners, was mentally and physically tortured, starved, and kept in solitary confinement. At the Hanoi Hilton, Colonel Hall’s world consisted of a seven-and-a-half square foot cell, without basic necessities. The prisoners had little or no contact with the outside or each other. The only lifeline the prisoners had was their virtual world that they created in the theater of their minds.
“In Colonel Hall’s case, his virtual world was the golf courses that he mentally created and played in his confined cell. He memorized every aspect of each course that he had played, down to each hole, tree, rough, fairway, and the speed of the greens.
“Every day Colonel Hall would go through his routine until he was released on February 12, 1973. He mentally dealt with his nerves on the first tee box and played each and every shot and hole of his home course and others. Without missing a single trajectory of each shot, Colonel Hall played out each hole, including taking in account wind conditions. He counted the steps that he would have walked between each shot and mentally wrote down the score for each hole.
“Using a stick, Colonel Hall mentally maintained his golf swing muscle memory, even as a P.O.W. far removed from the golf course. Upon Colonel Hall’s release from the Hanoi Hilton, the first thing that he wanted to do was to play his first round of golf, and have his first cup of ice and Coca-Cola .
“Colonel Hall did a little better than that. In less than six weeks from his release on February 12, 1973, he was playing on one of the biggest stages in golf. On March 21, 1973, Colonel Hall, within six weeks, was invited to play in the 1973 Greater New Orleans P.O.W. Pro-Am Open, where he shot a 76, his handicap of four (4).”
Have you ever used visualization to help your tennis game?
P.S. Thanks to friend Rick Barletta for the tip on this story.
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