You hear a lot of people talking about staying in the present moment in sports and life, but when was the last time someone taught you HOW to stay in the present moment?

Here is a mindfulness exercise you can use and practice to help you be more present-minded on and off the court.

1. Notice your posture—are you sitting up, slouching over or leaning back?
2. Notice the area within a five foot radius around you—perhaps there is a desk, pens, paper, your couch, a cup of coffee, etc.
3. Now notice what sounds are present—you may hear people talking, a television, or complete silence.
4. Notice the colors around the room you are in—really notice them.
5. Finally notice your breath—is your breathing deep or shallow? Are you breathing from your stomach or your chest?

How do you feel? If you are like most people, you feel more aware and present. Did you notice that when you were performing that mindfulness exercise there were very little other thoughts going on in your head?

That’s the key to peak performance—focusing on the task at hand. The more you practice being mindful, the more likely you will do it when you need it most.


Many athletes and coaches focus on doing something until it’s automatic. Sometimes this is good, but sometimes this is bad.

I recently read about a study at McDonald’s restaurants. Researchers had many people in different locations go to a McDonald’s restaurant and ask for only an order of french fries. Not a very interesting study so far, but…

63 percent of the McDonald’s employees responded, “Do you want fries with that?”

Do you want fries with your fries?

The employees were conditioned to ask that question, even though it made no sense.

Sometimes automatic is bad.

What if you only practice under perfect conditions? What if you only practice against the same people?

You won’t be able to perform outside of your “vacuum.”

Be mindful when you practice.

When I train tennis players, I purposely hit them different types of shots, different types of spin and different types of speed. I even hit different types of tennis balls once in a while, that bounce differently, just to keep the players honest.

Training should be purposeful, not just so you “look good.”

Think about it.


“Practice makes imperfect. People practice until they ‘think’ they know it. The key is to remain a learner.”
-ELLEN LANGER, Ph.D, Harvard

In conversations I’ve had with Dr. Langer, we spoke about how when practicing, athletes need to be mindful. Don’t just practice in perfect conditions, practice in realistic conditions, i.e., in tennis, practice hitting balls with different pace, spin, and depth coming at you. Practice in sun and wind and extreme cold and heat. Practice with people better than you. Practice with people worse than you.

Notice what is happening, make adjustments.

Rarely will conditions be perfect, so why practice that way?


How you do anything is how you do everything.

I have seen many athletes (and non-athletes) focus on speed.

They think everything is a race. When they are warming up for a practice, they want to come in first. When they are writing a paper, they want to compete it first. When they are working on a project…well, you get the idea.

Here’s the problem…

When you rush, you are training yourself to be sloppy. You are focusing on quantity, not quality.

When you train yourself in the wrong way, you have to go back and do it over again (re-training your body, re-writing that paper or re-doing that project).

The great Dan Millman once told me, the key is to focus on excellence in the moment. Be mindful. Be great.

Try it, just for today.


“Approach the game with no preset agendas and you’ll probably come away surprised at your overall efforts.”

Today I’m giving a talk at the Mercer County Juvenile Detention Center.

Talk about a tough crowd.

Someone asked me, do you know what you’re going to talk about?

I said, “Nope.”

That’s not entirely true. I have given close to 50 talks in the past year or two and they have all been pretty much the same talk. So I do know what I’m going to talk about, but I’m not going to have a set agenda.

My philosophy is that you should speak from the heart, instead of speaking mindlessly. When you do this, the message is more real and many times you figure out new ways to deliver it.

If you go into a tennis match thinking, “This is the ONLY way to win,” you’re setting yourself up for failure.

There is no “one way” but many options.


Today’s message is especially dedicated to my nephew, the great Bryan Michael Ho in Austin, Texas – Happy Birthday!

It’s easy to notice big changes.

But I challenge you to notice the little changes. Be mindful of what is going on around you.

I know people who have walked off the court after a match and didn’t even realize that their opponent was left-handed!

Many people don’t know their opponent’s strengths and weaknesses.

Many people don’t even know their own strengths and weaknesses.

When I teach, I have 140 tennis balls in my hopper, but they’re not all new. I have some dead balls in there, some pressure-less balls, and some foam balls mixed in.

Why do I do this? Because it keeps my players mindful. It forces them to move their feet and focus on each shot. It forces them to notice what is coming to them. If I feed the same ball, at the same speed, perfectly to my student, this is not realistic. They will not encounter this situation in a match. If their opponent is smart, they will hit at different speeds, use different types of spin, hit high, hit low and especially hit it where you’re not.

There was a story about a frog that was put in a pan of boiling water. This frog felt the hot water and quickly jumped out.

Then they put another frog into a pan of cold water with the burner on low. The frog stayed in, but it still got boiled. It didn’t notice the difference, or gradual rise in temperature.

People are the same way, we only notice things when it is obvious, or too late. It doesn’t have to be this way.

Here’s what I do…

Every morning, I meditate and get in tune with my breathing and body. Then, when I take my first few steps, I really notice my feet making contact with the floor. I try to stay mindful and aware while doing ordinary things, like bringing food to my mouth during meals. During matches, or practices, I stay aware of how my body feels and what is going well and not so well. I make adjustments as necessary. Very rarely will be be “in the zone,” but if we stay present, we will still be able to play at a high level.

The more you stay mindful, the more you will notice differences. The more you notice differences, the better you will perform.

Thanks for reading.