Sunday, October 25, 2009

Let Me Ask You Why?

Mike, my tennis student, was consistently missing his forehand into the net under pressure situations, and kept insisting he knew what the problem was...

"My racquet head is too closed during contact, my wrist isn't snapping enough, I keep decelerating, and my follow-through isn't big enough."

First of all... WAY TOO MUCH INFO! Unfortunately, though, all that information he gave was exactly right. He was missing his shots because, mechanically, those parts of his forehand weren't working properly. I say unfortunately because knowing these reasons for the errors are why he can't fix them under pressure. He continuously falls into the trap of trying to fix his mistakes by looking at his mechanics first, rather than viewing them as a direct result of something else. I call this the "band aid treatment." It's often only a temporary fix, quenching his thirst for a short time, but making him miss the bigger picture... the true fix, and the real question he should be asking:

"Why do I consistently make those same errors under pressure?"

When he learns to ask that question... and only then, will he truly conquer those specific mistakes. The answer will always come~ but after we ask the question. In this case... why! Mike's mechanics were breaking down because he viewed those pressure situations as moments "not to fail." In other words, he was afraid to stay aggressive during the most pressure filled parts of his matches, which naturally made him passive and hesitant, resulting in missed opportunities. In his mind, though, he instinctively wanted to remedy the physical mistakes he knew were happening, instead of examining the mental and emotional aspects of his play that triggered the physical errors.

We don't have to be athletes for this concept to take shape in our lives. What is it that we need to ask why about more often? Is there a solution in our relationships, business and other personal aspects of our lives that could be remedied simply by seeing the why?

Do we hide from the why in order to ignore the real challenges... knowing that if we asked why, we'd find the true answers~ maybe answers we don't want to find? Or is it simply that we didn't even know to ask why, as in Mike's case?

I believe we've been trained to look for the easiest answer~ the answer that's right in front of our face. Sometimes, the simplest solutions are the correct solutions... but very often, we need to look deeper~ work backwards from the why, trusting those scary backwards steps will lead us to our truest, most sincere answers.


Anonymous said...

I kept asking why am I like this now.
What did I do wrong?
How do I get better.
Now I'm asking what can I do right and why do I worry about getting better.
Your last part, "we've been trained" and "backward steps".. My parents taught me to be patient and do the best I can, and don't worry about winning or losing just have fun doing it. If its tennis, working or day to day living, it's all a game and in the end, everyone wins.

Matty said...

Dayne....good point. I've often choked in pressure situations because my mind forces my body to make the errors. On a double play, I see the runner coming into 2nd and make an errant throw to first. With the game on the line and down by a run in the last inning with runners on base, I'm passive instead of aggressive for fear of making that final out. It isn't my body that's making the mistakes (although it is) but my mind that allows it to happen.

The same things in relationships. I know there are "why's" here. Sometimes I just don't want to ask them.

Nice reminder.

plainolebob said...

Coach Dayne,
nab I shoulda read this before puttin Santa on the roof.
Bess says hi


hmmm i think all cleveland sports teams should read this and maybe they could tell us fans why they always choke in the clutch

Bendigo said...

Definitely some food for thought. Sure does make me think a bit more about how one person can rise to the challenge while the next person with just as much ability fails....

Midnight Whisperer said...

Well said Dayne... Go back to the beginning to find the root of the problem, simple concept yet so hard to do sometimes. Great post as always ; )

spldbch said...

So did you share this info with him or did you let him come to the realization on his own? Just curious:-)

I think it's always important to ask why, even when you don't find an answer.

Dayne Gingrich said...

I definitely told him what the true problem was, and as always, he had a difficult grasping it all. Instincts tell us that answer (A) HAS to come from problem (B).

It takes a deeper kind of thinking to understand answer (A) could actually be from problem (Y).

He's working on it, though... as we all are, right?

Just Playin' said...

I guess the reason to ask why is to keep it from happening again, or to heal it. Sometimes it seems good to just go forward and not delve into why.

Beautiful Dreamer said...

Wow, I couldn't agree more! Very well said, and it's true we too often do not ask the right questions and very rarely come up with the right answers. Love you blog, I'm now following you!

If you like, you can see mine at