Third Stage of Learning – ‘Competition’
The third stage and last challenge of learning a new shot is the Competition Stage. After learning the concept and practicing during a rally, you are now prepared to incorporate into point play.
The challenge to overcome in this stage is the pressure and tightness we feel while we compete. While playing a point, you may be prone to reverting back to an old habit or forgetting important elements to your shot. This comes from our desire to win every point, and is a natural reaction to being in a competitive situation. The main thing to remember during the point play stage is to keep your mind on your goal and to not forget the important elements you worked so hard to achieve during the first two stages.
When players reach this stage, I often recommend that they play a couple of matches without concern for the score or outcome. If you do this, you can practice the shot in a competitive scenario, but without being overly stressed about the result. By allowing yourself some of these practice-only matches, you will be able to properly practice your shot without forgetting or reverting back to old habits. Another good idea would be to have a coach/pro watch you during a match and make some quick reminders or comments as you play, to ensure the shot is improving as you compete.
This stage will take some effort and time, but will soon allow you to be automatic with your new stroke. Keep the three stage process in mind as you learn, and give each enough time without rushing, and you will be on your way to great improvement very soon!