By Larry Hodges
Whether you are a world-class athlete with a Schwarzenegger body or a frail octogenarian, your body has a set of built in physical limits. By training, you can increase you limits, but at any given time, there is a limit over which you can do no better. This is a physical fact. However, to reach that physical limit you must try to reach beyond it. If you aim for a specific level which you feel is your best, you cannot go beyond your best – but you very well may do worse.
How does one reach "beyond" their best? The answer is in confidence. Many players practice hard to develop consistency, and from this consistency they develop confidence. This is backwards! Be confident first – then consistency will come. Believe you can do it, and you will! (Or, for you realists, you will at least do as well as you physically can.)
What causes a person to miss "easy" shots? When you miss an easy smash, did you really misread the spin that badly? Or did you have a very small, almost insignificant loss of confidence, and try to guide the shot, rather than just let your subconscious control the shot?
When you go for a shot, your brain sends nerve impulses (electric impulses) to the muscle cells, ordering them to contract in certain ways. The order, intensity and duration of the impulses control the manner in which the muscle fibers contract. There is no way you can control this complicated set of directions consciously. Only by training can the brain's subconscious areas learn the exact set of nerve impulses to be sent in a given situation. Any conscious control throws the while set of impulses into disarray, leading to an easy miss.
Instead, remember making the shot in the past and what it felt like. At first, you should copy what a top player does. But once you've made the shot once, there is no reason why you shouldn't make it every time! YOU CAN! (And if you believe that, then you are well on your way toward improving the shot.)
Confidence allows you to let go consciously and let your brain do what it's been taught (or is being taught) to do. Good players think between points, but never during a point. Just blank out your mind during a rally watch what happens.
So believe in your shots, even if there is no logical reason to. Have confidence in your sots. KNOW that your shot CANNOT MISS, and it probably won't.