Shafty Bands: A story and synopsis
I have to say, as a junior, I was somewhat of a lugubrious tennis player. It’s not that I was rude or ill tempered; racquets were hardly ever thrown, and expletives were rarely audible. Just, the fist pump, the Safin Strut, exultations of let’s go! or vamos! or allez!—these signs of strength and enthusiasm weren’t my typical MO. Rather, I had come to master expressions of on-court gloom—the listless walk, the discouraged mutter, and, after a particularly egregious error, the dramatic slumping of the shoulders.
My father/coach, with very good reason, would often tell me that I needed to “work on my attitude.” “Easier said than done,” I’d reply. “It’s not like I want to act this way.” Of course, what I didn’t realize at the time was that this outlook was exactly the problem: I believed that moods were a sentence, not a choice.
Then I got to college. The on-court lugubriousness continued. I’d get aced. Sigh. Another backhand in the net. Groan. A forehand winner. Finally. Clearly, these were unsustainable patterns of self-sabotage. When I got bumped up to a starting role my sophomore year, the interim coach said so much. Once again, it was time to “work on my attitude.” Once again, I was not persuaded.
So Coach came up with a plan: He created a series of note cards, replete with positive commands. They said things like “You’re a Good Tennis Player” and “MAKE SOME NOISE.” And he made me read them during each changeover. I took to them skeptically. My doleful ways were not mutable but fixed, right? Wrong. About halfway through the season, after reading the cards hundreds of times over, they actually started to work. I can’t remember the opponent, but I remember the shot: I ran to my right, ripped a forehand down the line for the break, and let out a guttural cry (…“Yeah!”). Finally, some excitement had come out.
If only years earlier I had been able to get my hands on a few Shafty Bands (MSRP: $4/each). Created by Dave Zamarripa, a teaching pro in California, the racquet-handle accessories feature a variety of motivational messages, like “RIP IT!” and “FOCUS.” Much like Coach’s note cards, the idea is that, by periodically looking at your Shafty Band, you’ll be able to anchor your mind to trigger words that elicit positive, potential-filling play. (The bands also keep your replacement- and/or overgrips securely attached.)
It’s simple stuff, I have to admit. But for the morose among us, isn’t that the hard truth to swallow? That an outlook of joyous, adolescent earnestness makes for the best tennis head.