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Feeding the Fish Daily

By Dr. Jorge Valverde

We were lucky enough to have Dr. Jorge Valverde here on this trip with us, and last night we were fortunate enough to hear one of his stories. He talked about his trip to a Monastery in Thailand. While he was there, he was observing, as he does so well, how the monks had a "strange" habit that they did after every meal. They monks would go across the entire table and carefully hand pick up every crumb they found and put it into a little jar. If they dropped one they would carefully search for it, making sure to never miss a single one. Then they would leave with the crumbs.

One day after lunch, Jorge, being inquisitive, asked the monks why they performed this task after every meal and what they did with the crumbs. An old monk just told Jorge to follow him. So Jorge walked slowly behind the monk through the monastery and out to a stream that was running near the monastery. Here, the monk carefully went to the stream and very smoothly, emptied the entire jar into the stream. As the crumbs hit the water, fish jumped out to the surface in a feeding frenzy trying to get the crumbs. Then the monk turned to Jorge and said, "The monks have been doing this after every meal for the last 100 years." What he meant was that at the same time every day, after every meal, the monk would gather the crumbs, walk down to the river, find the exact spot that they have been using every day for the last century and repeat this process. The reason for them doing this, besides feeding the fish, is that whenever the monks needed protein in their diet, they would carry a net down with them and as the fish jumped to break to surface, very simply just scoop down with the net and catch them. What was so key about this story is that the monks follow the exact same pattern every day? They get as many possible crumbs at the same time every day and go to the exact same spot on the river every time. If the monks sometimes forgot, or sometimes went to a different spot, the fish wouldn't be waiting for them every day, and the monks wouldn't get the protein for their diet. So without fail, ever single day they Feed the Fish.

This story Jorge related was exactly like what we do everyday with tennis. We must follow the same patterns of eating correctly, getting enough sleep, fueling our bodies with the proper nutrients to perform at our best, doing the Alpha Technique before and after every practice, running and stretching before every practice and making sure to stretch afterwards, and being focused and diligent with our practice, regardless of whether coaches are present or not.

For about the last 10 weeks as I am sure most of you know, I have been extremely busy and often I have not been able to "Feed the Fish" correctly every time, every day. For the last 70 days I think I have done it correctly for the entire day about 15 days and on and off the rest of the days. Also, as some of you know, my results over that same period of time have not been up to my goals I have set for myself. This trip to the Eddie Herr has been no exception. I had a match Friday afternoon at 2:00pm and over the course of the day missed opportunities to feed the fish many times. For example, at my morning practice today, I was a combination of too lazy and too unconcerned to use POS-3, which is a stronger form of Gatorade. That's 1. Then at the middle of the practice, Brandon left early to prepare for his match and I absent-mindedly forgot to give him the key, so he was locked out and couldn't shower. That's 2. Then when the we returned I went to go take a shower, not realizing that everyone else was leaving to go to Brandon's match and register, so when I came out, I was locked out and couldn't eat lunch until about 1:00pm which is far from optimal. That's 3. Since I had to eat lunch so late, I was unable to get another hit in before my match. That's 4. Then, even though I had plenty of time before my match, I got distracted by things and didn't prepare my POS-3 and Spark before my match, nor did I do my Alpha before my match. That's 5 and 6. Now I know some of you are wondering, so how did you do in your match? I played a guy from Germany who could really play and the first set got thumped 6-2. I fought back, mixing my POS-3 in between change overs, and won the second set 6-3. Now after this set I could see my opponent was fatigued but I also was hurting and could feel a possible cramp coming on in my leg. I continued fighting hard and after a long 3rd set with the momentum swinging back and forth, ended up losing 7-6 in the 3rd, 7-3 in the breaker.

What I have learned from this experience is interesting. Even with all those "mistakes" I made before my match and over the last 10 weeks, I was still only a few points away from pulling it out. The lesson is that every day, you must keep the same patterns and make sure your properly fueling and preparing for every match, every practice, and every workout, just to get your body and mind into the same patterns. Jorge was telling us that when he was at a conference he talked with a man from the Dallas Cowboys, the Professional Football Team, for those who don't know, and asked him what they did before every game and the coach said the players go and lay in a salt tub and relax and do the same thing all of us do when we do Alpha. Then he asked what they did when they had a "big game" or in our case what would be an important match/tournament. The coach thought about it a little and then replied, we do basically the same thing. This is what is really important because they are training their mind the same way so a lot of the pressures are taken away because it is just like every other one before. What many players do, myself included as you can see, is in the face of a big match, we often change our patterns when there is no reason to. We must follow the same patterns, otherwise we will confuse our brain and we will be unable to respond at the same level that we expect of ourselves. I have learned a lot from the brief time I have been here and now am on my way to changing that so I will be diligent about the process of "Feeding the Fish" so when the time comes, and I have to draw back on all the work I have put it in, it will be there and I will win that match.

Jamie F.

* The Alpha State Technique is described in the Valverde System