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Tennis Warrior
May 2009 Article

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One tennis practice drill, two misconceptions!

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Tom Veneziano

Here is the scenario. You are practicing your volleys with a player who is hitting groundstrokes to you from the baseline. Your coach instructs you to volley the ball right back to that player. This is excellent training in practice play. After you hit a few balls you turn to your coach and whine, "I don't want to practice this! When I get in a match I want to hit the ball away from my opponent, not right back to my opponent." This complaint is followed by, "Besides, it's easy to hit the ball back to my partner when he hits it right to me. How is that practice going to help?"
MISCONCEPTION #1 - Not taking responsibility for your own thinking
Hitting right back to your opponent in practice drills does NOT condition you to hit right back to your opponent in a match. It DOES condition you to control your shots. The reason you are not hitting the ball away from your opponent in a match is because you lack control. Coaches are on the court hitting tennis balls right to their students all day long. If that coach plays a match do you think he will hit the ball right to his opponent every time? I don't think so! He or she has control of their own thinking and is able to shift gears from practice to match play.
Misconception #1 is that same old victim mentality that announces to the world that you take no responsibility for what you think or do, and you blame everyone and everything else. The rationalization goes like this: "It's not my fault that I can't hit the ball away from my opponent in match play, it's my practice drill's fault. Come to think of it, it's my coach's fault! He told me to do that drill." Does that sound like a Champion's mentality? When you think that hitting back to your opponent in practice will make you hit back to your opponent in match play you are surrendering control of your game to the winds of fate and happenstance.
Hitting right back to your opponent as a practice drill is an excellent way to develop control of your game. Once your control improves you will then be able to hit away from your opponent in matches. Stop shifting the blame to the drill, your coach or your great uncle in Peoria! This whiney "not my fault" stuff is not going to fly.
So you think you can volley the ball back to your hitting partner all day long if he or she is hitting it right to you? Many players have made that comment, but I have NEVER had one player who was able to control the ball consistently back to his or her practice partner... NOT ONE! Somehow the student truly believes that hitting right back to the hitting partner is easy. Denial? Delusion? Flights of fancy? Whatever! Whatever the problem is, volleying right to the opponent on the baseline as a practice drill is fantastic! You can and will improve your volleys. You will have a huge advantage over the other players who give in to these two misconceptions and practice this way very little. As a result they unknowingly sabotage their own game! Helping players understand these misconceptions and continue this type of training can be extremely challenging for coaches. Tom Landry, the former coach of the Dallas Cowboys, once quipped, "Coaching is getting players to do what they do not want to do, in order to achieve what they want to achieve."
How true it is!

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Tom is a tennis pro teaching at the Piney Point Racquet Club in Houston, Texas. Tom has taught thousands of players to think like a pro with his Tennis Warrior System.


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