Well, another year in the bank and now we have another to look forward to on the courts. What a tremendous game we're all involved in and the opportunity to be on the courts for another year is truly a gift.
The passing of another year is always a good time to say thank you for all of your support and comments throughout these past nine years. Hearing from you is what makes writing this column so much fun and I want you all to know how much I appreciate it when you take the time to respond to my articles.
January is also a time for resolutions so I've come up with five New Year's resolutions for tennis players of all levels which I hope will help both your outer and inner games.
Learn a new technique
Pick something that you presently can't do, or don't do particularly well, and commit to mastering it over the next twelve months. Maybe it's that Continental grip at the net your pro has been after you for three years to learn. Or, it could be developing an effective drop shot. Perhaps it's getting fitter so that you can reach more shots. Learning a new shot or technique will not only make you a better player but it will also inject some excitement into your tennis. It's a great feeling to work hard on a new technique and then use it to win a match.
Serve at least one bucket of balls each week
The vast majority of recreational players have lousy serves. I apologize if you find that offensive but I have thirty five years in the game to back that statement up. Many players rely on the old "boom" and "plop" approach when they step up to the line to serve. They tee off on the first serve and when they miss it, which they usually do, the simply "plop" the second one in the court.
While this strategy may work with the weekend crowd, a good player will eat you alive. Serve a bucket of balls each week. Forget about power and work on your placement and spin serves. If you can develop an effective serve, your game will immediately jump a level.
Invite a weaker player to play with you
The tennis snobs of the world will refuse to be seen on the court with a player they deem to be below them on the club's totem poll. Resolve not to be one of these idiots. From time to time, invite a weaker player to hit with you.
When you're on the court with them work on your control. Have you ever noticed that when you hit with a pro, you can seemingly keep the ball in play all day long? That's because the pro, with his or her great control, can place the ball right where you like it.
When you're on the court with a weaker play, practice hitting the ball right to them so that they can hit it back or hit it to their stronger side so they can hit a strong shot back.
Contrary to the opinion of the Tennis snobs, you can benefit each and every time you step onto the court regardless of who's on the other side of the net. The greatest benefit, though, will be in knowing that you made someone else feel good about it. Do you remember how it made you feel the first time a stronger player asked you to hit with them? I do.
Bring a new player into the game
We are a fat and out of shape society. I've shown you these statistics before yet they are still frightening.
- The percentage of Americans that are either overweight or obese has grown from 47 to 65 percent in the last 20 years.
- The number of extremely obese American adults - those who are at least 100 pounds overweight - has quadrupled since the 1980s to about 4-million. That's about one in every 50 adults.
- 60% of American adults don't get the recommended amount of physical activity, and over 25% of adults are not active at all.
Sadly, we all have that friend or relative that is a couch potato and who's only exercise is moving from the couch to the refrigerator. Commit yourself to getting a tennis racket in their hands and introduce them to the game that has given you so much. You just might save their life.
Smile when you come off the court, win or lose.
Yes, I know, we all want to win but in the overall scheme of things, it really doesn't matter whether you win or lose a tennis match. John McEnroe is not waiting in the locker room to interview you and you still have to take out the garbage when you get home.
Don't get too wrapped up in what the scoreboard says. Enjoy the many things that tennis has to offer that have nothing to do with the score of the match. Enjoy the exercise, the camaraderie, the competition and the process of learning to become better. If you can learn to appreciate these things, you'll be a winner every time you walk off the court.
Oh, and one more. It's time for a little shameless self-promotion. Be sure to look for my new book titled "Winning Tennis Beyond Big Shots." It's due out in March but don't worry, I'll remind you again.
Have a great year, play lots of tennis and I'll see you next month.