Serving Up Neurofeedback: My Luv Hate Courtship with TennisAlex Theoret
Whoever came up with that ridiculous phrase “Tennis anyone!”?! It implies anyone can pick up a tennis racket and just enjoy playing the game. That would not describe my experience. I’m something of a jock, but I’ve never found tennis to be relaxing, natural or easy. My clean up hitter-infected swing more often than not sends my backhand bounding into the neighboring court instead of the one I’m supposed to be playing on. My ground strokes are more like air strokes, because my whack-a-mole forehand often dents the rear chain link fence. In the air.
And then there’s my serve. You wanna talk frustration? For me, serving is the toss-your-titanium-racket-into-the-nearby-tree variety of frustration. There are so many elements to get right: foot placement, ball toss, angle of racket contact. Not to mention, that annoying net thing-y that keeps my otherwise fabulous serve from smoking by my opponent.
But the advantage of possessing an athlete’s ethos is that competitiveness and brass knuckles determination drives us to stop looking like a totally spastic dweeb in front of other people. Ergo, the jock’s tender ego.
So just for fun (competitor’s confession: in truth, I don’t know how to do anything “just for fun”), I thought I’d see if neurofeedback could help my high-velocity, but ever errant, tennis serve. My problem has always been consistency. When my serve is “on” (and “in”), it can be difficult to return. Let’s hold a moment on that key phrase, “when my serve is on”, shall we? Because, as Russians are fond of saying “That is where the dog is buried”. From a percentage perspective, my serve is definitely more “out” than “in”. Way more.
Enter the game-changer. I was intrigued by NeurOptimal founder Val Brown’s experience using neurofeedback training to improve his golf game. Could it work for me, the “Wild Thing” of tennis servers? Well, I’ll spare you the suspense. The answer was a resounding “Yes”. Just to prove it, I actually had my wife film my serve before and after a session on the NeurOptimal Personal Trainer neurofeedback system. We shot my serve one morning, ran an extended Neuroptimal session, and then came back and filmed my serve again.
Looking at the footage later confirmed the feeling I had on the court. Click here to see how the video clearly shows I am much more relaxed and resilient AFTER the session. In one clip, you can actually see how I seamlessly adjusted the arch in my back to compensate for an errant ball toss. On the court, I just felt more connected to my body. I was much more focused and conscious of where my swing was in space and how much force I was using to strike the ball.
I remember Val Brown telling me how, on the golf course, the neurofeedback just allowed his body to “do what it was supposed to do”. That perfectly encapsulates the feeling I had on the tennis court. I was not consciously thinking about hitting the ball any particular “way”; I was simply doing it the right way.
Chalk up another successful experiment in the annals of brain training, thanks to NeurOptimal. Now, if I could I just fix my jump shot…