Here we are in January. For some of you, the weather is limiting the amount of tennis you can play. You may find yourself playing or practicing three days per week
primarily at indoor facilities. You may find yourself playing doubles more often than is usually the case, and you may have joined a league to add a regimen to your game. You are, hopefully, cross training. Taking a break from the rigors of tournament or competitive training and allowing your mind and body to rest a bit (a luxury that is not enjoyed by the pros on the tour).
Those of you who live south of the equator are in the middle of your outdoor season. You probably are playing as often as time will permit, and you, hopefully, have discovered that there are areas in your game in which you are making progress.
In either case, it seems appropriate to ask a question that I first encountered in reading W. Tim Gallweys The Inner Game of Tennis. To my knowledge, this was the first major work to address the mental and spiritual sides of the game of tennis. In one of its latter chapters, Inner Tennis, describes some of the reasons that people play tennis. When I first read this book, I was struck by the fact that I, like many players, simply did not really have a clear lock on why I was out there training so hard, and competing so fiercely. For me, the posing of this question was an epiphany about my inner motives.
Before we actually begin the process of teaching you to play tennis or improving your existing game, it is critical for you to understand why you play tennis or want to play tennis. Simply put, what do you expect from playing the game of tennis and why?
It is seemingly appropriate that as we begin 2003 that we take some time to understand ourselves in light of these questions. Given your answers, you can devise a set of "New Year Resolutions" that can hopefully organize and focus your efforts in the next 12 months.
There is no "right" answer(s) to the above questions. However, problems do occur when we arent clear about our motives and goals. Often times, these expectations and objectives change over time. This is completely normal.
Still, we need to know what we are trying to achieve and why.
Some of the typical responses to these key questions include:
- I am looking to get in shape and tennis may be a way to achieve this goal.
- Tennis always looked like a fun game, and I have always wanted to learn to play the game. Some of my friends play the game.
- I just am looking for a fun way to socialize and exercise with others. I think playing in a club or USTA league would be fun.
- I just want to have fun playing tennis during the warmer months. In the winter weather, I have other interests that keep me active and in shape.
- I am looking to become a better player simply because I like to do things as well as I possibly can. I look at tennis as another way to advance myself and to achieve. I love to compete.
- I want to beat that player at the club who always seems to win no matter how well I play. I want the satisfaction and recognition that would come from beating her/him. I realize that to achieve this goal, I will have to train move diligently and vigorously than I have in the past. I may need to seek professional instruction to help me improve my game.
- I am looking to win the club championship this year. I have competed in the past, but have not won this event
or, I am returning to tennis after a hiatus, and want to win this title again.
- I am a junior player who shows promise. I want to make the high school team and I would hope to play in college interscholastically. I am probably playing the number 2 or 3 singles position, but believe that I can perform better.
- I am a high school player who is looking to receive financial support for college by playing tennis on an athletic scholarship. I am probably playing the number 1 or 2 singles position, and have achieved rankings as a junior.
- I am just beginning to compete in tennis as a junior and I hope to secure a ranking before I enter high school. My goal is to make the team and compete over my four yearsl
- I want to get a USTA ranking in my regional section
this can be a junior, NTRP, Adult Age Category or even Open ranking.
- I want to move up in my USTA, NTRP rating. I realize that facing more skilled players will ultimately improve my game.
- I want to improve my skills and ultimately become a tennis teacher or coach. I like helping others to learn tennis or to improve their games.
- Tennis is an international game, and I would love to travel the world playing tennis as an amateur competitor. I know that this requires time and finances, but I believe that I can manage both.
- Someday, I see myself playing on the professional tour and I am willing to make the commitment necessary to achieve this goal. I know the odds are not in my favor, but it is a burning desire within me, and I am willing to dedicate myself to achieving this task.
- I am the parent of a junior and I want to help improve her/his tennis skills and strategies.
There are certainly many other reasons that a person may want to play the game of tennis. But for once, take a moment and really give some thought to why you play or want to play tennis.
Write your answer(s) down below. The important thing is that you are clear about what tennis means to you. It may be that these reasons change over time
so you may want to make keep a record of this description. As things change in your life, game or motivation, revise the written description.
However, always have this written description posted in a conspicuous place. Your bedroom, your kitchens refrigerator door, your locker
wherever you are likely to see it on a daily basis. The key questions are:
What are my goals with respect to tennis?
What pleasure do I derive from playing tennis?
How important is tennis in my life?
Where do I want to be with respect to tennis a year from now?
How can I best achieve this given the obstacles in my path and the realistic avenues available to me?
Also, you need to be honest to yourself about some other matters. Again, there are no "right" answers
just honest answers.
- I am in ___good___fair___poor physical shape/condition.
- I perceive myself as being an ___advanced___intermediate___beginning tennis player.
- I perceive myself as being ___highly competitive___competitive___non-competitive.
- When I compete, I am ___confident___less than confident___my confidence changes from time to time.
- I try to win in games because___I love to win___I hate to lose___both.
- I perceive myself as being self-disciplined___Yes___No.
- I perceive myself as being an extremely dedicated, hard worker when it comes to any competitive endeavor___Yes___No
- When it comes to competition___I become excited and exhilarated___I become fearful and anxious
- When I fail or lose___I forgive myself quickly and try to learn from the experience___I fret over the loss and often times become very angry with myself. I brood over my losses longer than I should.
- I perceive myself as being a ___patient or___impatient person.
- I perceive myself as being a very determined individual___yes or___no.
How long have you played tennis?___________________________________
Have you ever had any formal instruction?___Yes ___No
How many hours/days per week can you dedicate to learning/improving your game?____hours for ____days per week.
Again, you may want to revisit these questions from time to time and see if some of your answers have changed. Some are probably not likely to experience much if any change because they are integral parts of your basic personality makeup. However, some of these (e.g., your conditioning or amount of time spent practicing) are much more likely to vary.
You may want to review my past article on Type "A" or Type "B" Players. Knowing in which of these two directions you lean can be very helpful in understanding how you play the game.
Finally, you need to make a frank and honest assessment of your strengths and weaknesses. These need to be verified by
hitting partners, coaches, and teachers or by charting your matches. You can find a convenient form for charting your matches if you go to the Turbo Tennis Archives and look for the article entitled:
Your Game Can Be "Off The Charts".
With all of this data at hand, you should have a much better understanding of why you play the game, how you approach competition and training, where you excel, and where you need improvement. In tennis, knowledge truly is power.
With these in mind, you should be able to fashion a game plan for improvement or self-fulfillment that includes the mental, spiritual, physical, skill and strategic aspects of the game. When all of these are in place, you are playing what I term
Over the next few months, I am going to build upon last years "Turbo Strokes" series. My hope is to provide the subtle refinements and "tips" that will take your strokes to a higher level. A key to a better game is better form. One can develop better form when each stroke is what I call "integrated." More about this integration concept in articles to come.
I wish you all the best in the New Year!!! I know that if you take the time to really understand the reasons why and how you play the game of tennis, you will be a much closer to becoming a tennis overdog!!!