Attitudes that Enhance Learning
Dr. John Murray
You might believe that your mental equipment toolbox is full. What
more can you possibly do to develop a stronger mental game? Even
if you've been exposed to massive amounts of information, all this
advice and encouragement is no good unless real learning takes place.
Genuine learning only occurs when information is accurately
transmitted and received, and then converted into a meaningful
experience that enables you to improve your performance. This month,
let's examine a few attitudes that will definitely enhance your
Perhaps the most basic requirement for real learning is an endless
curiosity or quest for knowledge. Many consider learning rewarding in
itself. Although this is good, I would much prefer to put my
knowledge of sports performance into use in competition. Why read
about goal setting without actually setting goals?
My graduate school training director once told our class that real
learning begins only after the Ph.D. Although this was surely an
exaggeration, it highlighted the truth that there is no magical
endpoint of knowledge, especially an advanced degree. We must
continue striving to learn all our lives, and curiosity is the
foundation for much of this quest.
If you think you're the smartest thing since Einstein, and have all
the answers, then you should probably also consider the following
"The brighter you are the more you have to learn"
Don Herold, A Little Learning is a Dangerous
Thing, St.Martin's Press, 1994
I love this quote because it shows that as your knowledge and skills
increase, the capacity for even more advanced learning increases too.
Once you think you've "arrived," you can bet that your performance
is about to decline. Your brightness will only blind you and you'll
soon be surpassed by those with much better vision.
Openness to Change
Even today's top tennis players are far from reaching the human
capacity for tennis performance. Have you ever watched videotapes of
top tennis matches from the 50's, 60's, and 70's? Notice any
differences in power, spin, style? How do you think an average
teaching pro of 1998 would fare in a hypothetical match against Don
Budge in his 1938 prime, when he won the Grand Slam (Wimbledon,
French, Australian, US)? In my opinion, Budge would be scrambling
for his tennis life, even if players chose the same rackets and shoes.
Despite Budge's undeniable greatness, the game has changed
remarkably over the past 60 years. Some of the more popular
techniques of the past look downright horrendous today!
We are constantly learning new and better physical as well as mental
techniques. Fast forward to the year 2040 and the tennis of today
will most certainly cause chuckles. You wouldn't want to retain a
"thumber backhand" any more than you'd want to maintain poor
concentration (See my November, 1995 Article Attentional Control In Tennis).
What's amazing is that players at all levels are only now beginning
to take mental skills seriously! As new proven mental techniques are
developed, be open enough to make them a real part of your game, or
you may look even funnier in that 2040 video.
Whether you're a player, coach, or athlete's parent, work hard in
developing those attitudes that enhance learning. By encouraging
curiosity, modesty and an openness to change you'll be on your way
toward converting raw information into meaningful change. See you
Mental Equipment Archive
If you have not already signed up to receive our free e-mail
newsletter Tennis Server INTERACTIVE, you can sign up here.
You will receive notification each month of changes at the Tennis
Server and news of new columns posted on our site.
This column is copyrighted by Dr. John Murray, all rights reserved.
Dr. John F. Murray is currently a licensed clinical psychologist and sport psychologist in Florida. In addition, he is a tennis professional (having taught tennis internationally in North America, Hawaii, Europe, Middle East), formerly certified with both USPTA and USPTR. He has a Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology and masters degrees both in Clinical Psychology and Exercise & Sport Sciences from the University of Florida. He maintains a personal web site at http://www.johnfmurray.com/.
Questions and comments about these columns can be directed to John by using this form.