All too often when I'm walking around the courts I see players mis-hit balls and instinctively take a couple of shadow swings, as if the repeatable, reliable swing pattern they've spent years working on (and handed over countless dollars to their teaching pro to perfect) was somehow responsible for the missed shot.
Make no mistake; local teaching pros are a great asset to our sport. Begin your journey with a competent pro and he or she will steer you passed some of the nastier pitfalls you might otherwise fall into. Bad habits, once internalized, become extremely difficult to overcome. And they could set your development back years, if not permanently. We all know players who have stagnated at the 3.0 or 3.5 levels for years and have very little chance of ever moving up.
But teaching pros are only human — they want you to succeed, so much so that sometimes they fall into the trap of continuously feeding balls into your optimal strike zone. In this way you become more and more comfortable. The more skilled the pro, the better he is at feeding balls. The result is we often return from our lesson with the feeling that we've have never hit the ball better. And that's probably true.
The problem is we rarely can repeat that experience in the real world; a world where our opponent is trying to do just the opposite of our teaching pro, and that is to make us more uncomfortable. So, after months spent grooving your stroke, at some point your teaching pro needs to reverse course and make you uncomfortable on the court, and that is where the movement becomes real.