The Surprising Power of Atomic Tennis Habits

As a coach, I’m always interested in finding ways to improve my players’ performance. Recently, a good family friend, Christine Carter (author of Raising Happiness and The Sweet Spot) suggested reading James Clear’s book, Atomic Habits. I’m loving it! It’s inspired me so much, I’ve decided to blog about the surprising power of Atomic Habits.

In his book, Clear relates the story of the British Cycling team’s amazing rise to prominence. After years of losing, the Brits hired a new coach, Dave Brailsford, who implemented the philosophy of looking for “a tiny margin of improvement in everything you do.” Brailford’s thinking was “If you broke down everything you could think of that goes into riding a bike, and then improve it by 1%, you will get a significant increase when you put them all together.”

It worked. Within 5 years of coach Brailsford taking over, the British Cycling Team dominated the world of road and track cycling. They won 60% of the gold medals at the 2008 Olympics, and four years later in London, they set 9 Olympic records.

Small habits make a big difference. Let’s get you started!
We are going to kick off our “Year of Yes” (another great book by Shonda Rhimes) to continuous 1% improvement with a life-saving habit I picked up as a teen tennis player, “Bounce-Hit.”

Many of you have heard my story growing up as a tennis player in the Pacific Northwest. Here’s the Reader’s Digest version: I had a really beautiful physical game. I hit the ball incredibly well. My biggest challenge was between my ears. I choked. At the time, folks referred to the mental game as a “killer instinct,” and you either had it or you didn’t. Unfortunately, I didn’t.

One of the first things that saved me from my own mind, was reading Timothy Gallwey’s classic book, Inner Tennis: Playing the Game. I found salvation on page 32. Gallwey’s “Bounce-Hit” exercise changed my game forever. The idea is quite simple, say “Bounce” when the ball hits the court and “Hit” when it hits a racket. It instantly calmed my mind, and I started to play much better — even in a match! Gallwey notes that “the rhythmic verbalization has a calming effect on the nervous system and it focuses one’s attention on something actual — the ball.”

Now it’s your turn 
The next time you step out on the tennis court, practice saying “Bounce-Hit” during your warm up. Start by saying it out loud to yourself when the ball is on your side of the court.

Make this your habit! Train yourself to internally repeat, ‘Bounce-Hit’ and over time watch the difference 1% will make in your game!”

Kathy Toon
Founder & Boss

P.S. If you have any questions or comments, I'm always available at Rally on!


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