Recently I was stopped in my tracks when I read this quote by legendary Jazz musician, Miles Davis:
"Don't Play what's there- Play what's not there."
Being one that loves music and having a young son who plays piano, my first thought was to share this with him. And I did. But the quote sat marinating in my mind and quickly I realized, 'WOW, this applies to many sports AND the game of tennis!'
I can hear you as clearly as a Miles Davis trumpet note saying to me, 'How?' and 'She's a bit out there...' So let me 'splain' as Ricky used to say to Lucy:
With trial and error, and tenure, Mr. Davis trusted his instincts as a musician and probably let go of all he learned so that he was no longer seeing or remembering the notes rather he was FEELING beyond the notes. He played from his soul and immersed himself into the music to tap into other instincts and flavors that most would not pick up on. So, for me, the 'play what's NOT there' could apply to tennis in this fashion:
- Have a tough opponent who always has your number or who has an attitude that rubs you wrong? Well, DON'T 'play them!' Play what's not there. 'They' don't have to be 'there' in your mind- play just the ball! Better yet, play for the absolute sheer love of the game and its privilege. You'll be surprised at the fluidity you can evoke in yourself as an athlete and then, the opponent will have no space in your mind.
- Poaching! For those not familiar with the term...poaching is when the player at the net (in doubles) awaits his partners service so that he/she can then cut off the return (made by the returner) in the air (without a bounce). And here's where I really began to 'feel' the Miles Davis quote and how it applies to tennis. Poaching, yes, is a timing thing but it's more than that. Poaching requires instinctual movement of the athlete. It comes from knowing the game inside and out. Understanding the placement of the ball by your partner serving, and the spin of the ball upon the return. With poaching you have no idea where the ball is going to be returned. This is where you have to throw everything you've learned out the window and feel and instinctually 'play what's NOT there.' When you connect and let it happen, poaching is absolute magic! As one who loves to play the net and as I share this from the perspective of my athletes mind, I still find it difficult to explain this feeling to you, the reader. Poaching is just something I do when I'm in the zone, not second guessing myself; it's when I allow myself to 'play what's not there.'
So, I'll end on this note: Can Miles Davis help your tennis game?
Comment below, OR find this post on our Facebook page and let us know what your thoughts are on this profound quote, along with other ways you think it could help your game.
(Wristpect Sport! takes no credit for the photo used above. Photo shared via milesdavis.com)