Well, the New Year is upon us, and if you are like many readers, you are beginning to think about the outdoor tennis season to come.
In America, we are culturally encouraged to make New Years resolutions that are designed to improve our lives. Why would it be any different for those of us who love the game of tennis?
This year, I would ask each reader to take inventory and to make some viable and firm commitments to improving her/his game.
Before I begin this column, I must give credit to Bob Litwin who is known for his "Focused Tennis" concepts and program. Like the USPTR philosophy, Bob believes that changes must occur one-at-a time. However, Bob believes, and I agree with him, that changes can occur simultaneously, if they span three distinct areas: strokes, strategies and mental toughness. Bob believes that we can address one change in each of these areas at one time. I concur with his thinking on this, and would add that there are other areas to be explored. Bobs approach and concepts are, in my opinion, well founded. And, any reader would do well to come to terms with his lectures, seminars and instructional materials.
Having said this, I would like to dedicate this months column to helping you make for a better "tennis year." Of course, the success you enjoy is in direct relationship to the amount of hard work and dedication you are willing to make to your game. Unlike many New Years resolutions, the tennis-related commitments need to be just that
The first question you must ask yourself is: "Why do I play tennis?" It would on the surface seem self explanatory, but it really is not. Our motives for playing the game change as we and our games change. I see too many players who really do not seem to be having fun with the game. Isnt it important that we truly love the game of tennis? At some point, we were seduced by this wonderful game that we play. We experienced the joy of hitting a ball, seeing positive results occur in our play, and probably were happy to just be on a court. Sometimes, I think players lose this "innocent enrapture."
The key to rediscovering it, in my opinion, is to take an honest and complete inventory of why each of us plays this great game. Some time ago, I wrote a column that addresses this question. Here is the link to this article: http://www.tennisserver.com/turbo/turbo_03_01.html. I think the questions posed in this column may go a long way to helping you understand what you do or do not like about tennis. Knowing this can be of great help in allowing you to achieve your resolutions for 2004.
Once you have a firm grasp on why you play tennis, we can begin to address the areas in your game that need to be considered, if you are truly going to progress to your maximum potential. Like Bob Litwin, I encourage you to select one, and only one, aspect to improve in each of these categories. When you believe that you have made sufficient progress with respect to a variable, you can then identify a new aspect to improve.
The key in all of this is to make certain that you write down all of your concerns. You need to create a "tennis journal" that presents your thoughts, concerns and "blueprint" for improving your tennis game. In this journal, you need to identify the specific areas to be improved, why each needs to be improve, and determine a specific course of action to remedy the problem or make the addition.
These courses of action can include self-examination through videotape, professional lessons, more or less competition, etc. The important part is to make the means viable and to make certain that the means will result in the desired change. When in doubt, seek the counsel of teaching pros, coaches or savvy players with whom you hit.
The first area that you should consider is the physical component. Here, I am referring to conditioning, strength, speed, stamina, flexibility and nutrition. Are you as fit as you should be? If you are weak in any of the above areas, how do these weaknesses affect your play? Do you stretch sufficiently? Do you hydrate your body sufficiently? How is diet and body weight affecting your play? Do you strength train? How is your endurance during matches? Are you quick to getting to the ball? Do you suffer lots of minor injuries? How is your footwork?
In answering the above questions, you will invariably come to terms with the reality of this game
it is very physically demanding. All the strokes and strategies in the world will not improve your game, if you are unable to compete on a physical level.
My suggestion is to seek professional medical and nutritional advice in crafting your game plan for improving your physical presence on the court. There are myriad professionals, books, health counselors, personal trainers, etc, that can help you arrive a viable and desirable course of action.
Next, take a look at your stoke component. What strokes are your real weapons? What strokes breakdown and why? What strokes dont you possess that are needed? How can you improve or acquire these strokes?
Often times, players spend all their time addressing this component in a haphazard way. There is no way that any player can improve all of his/her strokes in one fell swoop. Time must be given to each. My advice? Improve your most glaring weakness first. Then, move onto a new problem area. Eventually, you will arrive at a point where new stokes can be added to your arsenal.
Now, this takes time and patience. In a past article, I addressed the whole concept of change. The link to this previous column is: http://www.tennisserver.com/turbo/turbo_99_05.html. I encourage you to take the time to read or re-read it.
You can learn a tremendous amount about your game, if you only will videotape you practices and matches. Again, a previous article from my regular column may be of assistance in this regard. Here is the link: http://www.tennisserver.com/turbo/turbo_99_03.html.
Hopefully, many of the articles dealing with stroke production that are stored in the Turbo Tennis Archives will be of assistance to you in determining what needs to be done to improve or add a stroke to your game. You can review all of my previous articles by going to: http://www.tennisserver.com/turbo/turbo-archive.html.
The strategy component is the next area to be considered. Knowing what type of player you are is of critical importance in assessing and formulating strategies. My article on "Type A and Type B Players" contains a questionnaire that should be helpful in arriving at the answer to this question. The link for this column is: http://www.tennisserver.com/turbo/turbo_00_11.html.
Again, I have written many articles which address strategic considerations in my column over the years. Looking for the article that addresses your needs in the Turbo Tennis Archives may prove useful. However, simply charting matches can reveal more about the path(s) you should take than, perhaps, any other action. I have created a charting form that you can copy and use. It is available at: http://www.tennisserver.com/turbo/turbo_00_02.html. Believe me, as a college tennis coach I can attest that this practice of charting is of great help in determining what is going on during matches. It also gives you a means of comparison for future reference.
Next month, my column will provide readers with a form that can be used to keep records on specific players. Again, we often times face the same opponents. But do we really learn from our past matches? Hopefully, next months column will assist the reader in being better able to play the "reoccurring opponent."
Finally, each player must come to terms with her/his mental game. We need to be competitive but balanced. The single best source for information regarding the mental side of the game is in John Murrays book Smart Tennis. This is an essential part of your tennis library. You can always send a message to John through his Mental Equipment column on Tennis Server. Believe me. He knows of where he speaks.
The key factor regarding the mental side of the game with respect to New Years resolutions is to take an honest inventory. How do you feel when you play? What mental obstacles do you experience when you play? What self-fulfilling prophecies haunt your game? How do you deal with anger? When do you find that you lose due to a mental weakness?
Truly, the game of tennis is 90% mental. Yet, many of us never really address the problems we experience in this aspect of the game. 2004 should be the year that this changes. The mental changes, like everything in tennis, require effort, dedication, persistence, patience and good advice. The latter can easily be had from reading John Murrays materials.
Once all of the above have been examined and assessed, you can craft an action plan for improving your game. You need goals, objectives, timetables and viable means to really develop this plan. Hopefully, my previously published article on "goaltending" will be of assistance to you in formulating this plan. Here is how you can get to it: http://www.tennisserver.com/turbo/turbo_99_11.html.
Well, I hope 2004 proves to be a productive and positive year for each of my readers. I wish each of you, all the best. I am sure that if you take your 2004 resolutions to heart that you will, in no time, become a tennis overdog!!!