Eastern Airlines flight 401 was supposed to touch down in Miami on December 29th, 1972. Instead, it ended up crashing in the everglades, killing over 100 people on board. The pilots decided to check out a faulty light that was telling them their wheels were not locked down for landing (the light was broke but the wheels were fine) by circling back up over the Miami airport to take a look. The problem is that they didn’t notice they hit the autopilot switch that turned it off as they were looking at the light. The black box recording of their conversation while they looked at the light bulb also had the warning sounds and lights of the plane losing altitude. How could it be that people trained in flying would neglect to hear or see things that are designed to cause someone to be alerted of incoming danger?
How We Focus
Humans cannot multitask as much as we think. Numerous studies, sometimes hilarious like this one, prove that we are incapable of focusing on multiple things of new surroundings at once. Meaning, if you are put in a situation you are not used and told to focus on one thing, you would be oblivious of other things around you. This helps explain why Wayne Gretzky and Roger Federer have been so dominate in their sport. They see things that others cannot. As the puck or ball is moving and everyone is looking at it, the top players will move in the spot where it will be, not where it is. Anticipating where to be in sports is just as important as the technique.
Relating Back to Tennis
As a coach, I cannot count how many times that when I asked a player on my team if their opponent is a lefty that they cannot answer it. They fail to look at the patterns of their opponent to find tendencies they do while playing to help anticipate where the ball will go as well as knowing where to hit it to give the best chance at winning the point. My point being is that as we play tennis and improve our strokes, it’s important to improve our court IQ too. If we do not focus on training our brain to come up with strategies on the fly during matches, there will be a point in your tennis career that you will peak and become stagnant. Let’s face it, we aren’t getting any younger so the best thing you can start training is your brain. You will not only see patterns in your opponent that you never noticed but also it will probably bring a new element to the game to make it even more fun to play.