November 12, 2018 - Subconscious Aiming and Stroking

The reason you practice your strokes is to make them second nature, so that you do the shots subconsciously and instinctively. When you try to take conscious control, the shot falls apart. Similarly, you don't aim a shot by aiming; you aim by visualizing what you want the ball to do, and letting your trained subconscious instinctively do the rest.

Here's a test I've done many times. I can put a water bottle on any part of the far side of the table, bounce a ball on my side, and smack the bottle probably 90% of the time. But I don't do any of it consciously, other than bouncing the ball. It's all subconscious and instinctive. All I have to do is decide I want to hit that bottle, and the subconscious does the rest. If I try to take conscious control of the stroke in any way when aiming for the bottle, my accuracy falls apart.

The same is true in a game situation, where you don't consciously aim or control any other part of the stroke; you just instinctively decide what shot to do and where you want the ball to go, and then instinctively do it. It's all subconscious; that's why you practice your strokes! (Sometimes it's hard to distinguish between the two. For example, you might, in the middle of a rally, see an opening where you want to hit the ball, but most likely your subconscious has already seen and reacted to that opening, and your conscious mind only notes it as you are about to do it.) The conscious part is between points when you decide what serves and basic tactics to use. And then - you guessed it! - the subconscious instinctively does the rest.