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January 2006 Article

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A Resolute 2006

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Ron Waite, USPTR

Well, here we are…2006. Will this be the year that brings your game to the next level?

Each year, at this time, I try to provide some advice on making the tennis year productive. This January is no exception.

Each of us needs to fully understand why we play this wonderful game. It may be that we use tennis as a means of physical exercise. Tennis (especially league tennis) may be a means to meet new people and make new friends. Some of us will want to compete on a more "serious" level. We may seek a ranking. We may want to move up that tennis ladder. If we compete in High School or College, we may want to see our end of year record improve. The point is that there are many reasons to play this great game, but each of us needs to fully understand why we play and what we hope to derive from playing.

One of the things that attracted me to the USPTR was the emphasis that this organization puts upon learning "one thing at a time." Too often, I see players that are trying to change everything in their games…seemingly in one fell swoop. Invariably, they become frustrated and just do not realize their full potential.

Bob Litwin is a ranked senior player in the U.S. He is noted for his "Focused Tennis" concept, and I believe it is a well-founded manner to approach improving one’s game. Again, we see in his philosophy an emphasis on focusing upon one thing at a time…albeit on several levels.

Well, this January will be the time where you make realistic resolutions regarding your game, and find means to fulfilling your goals. Note the word, goals. No one achieves anything of real consequence without setting goals that are clear, viable and incremental. This is particularly true with respect to tennis.

So, let’s get started on our 2006 game plan.

First, we need to understand that there are some areas that all of us need to address:

  1. Physical Conditioning
  2. Movement on the Court
  3. Stroke Production
  4. Strategic Concerns
  5. Mental Fortitude
  6. Commitment to the Game
  7. Willingness to Change

PHYSICAL CONDITIONING

I cannot begin to tell you how many players believe that they are in good physical shape, but in fact, are not. Physical conditioning involves strength, speed, flexibility and endurance. Below (after printing this column out) you should list your realistic goal for each of these and the means you will use to achieve each goal. Make certain your goals are reasonable. If you are sixty, it is not likely that you will shave 2 seconds off your 100 meter dash. Make certain you set clear and measurable goals.

With respect to means and methods, you need to think of viable ways to achieve each goal. In fact, you may have to break a goal down into several increments. For example, you may say that I will run more sprints to increase my speed. I may start weight training to improve strength, etc.

FLEXIBILITY (GOAL AND MEANS):

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STRENGTH (GOAL AND MEANS):

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SPEED (GOAL AND MEANS):

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ENDURANCE (GOAL AND MEANS):

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Next we need to address movement on the court. Now, I am not a big advocate of thinking about moving while you are competing. But, I do believe that practice can be a means to improve this area in a manner that does not require any conscious thinking during matches.

Good footwork is based on early anticipation, balance and small steps as one approaches the ball. Each of these can be practiced on the court during training sessions. The key is to work on one at a time. Here, I strongly recommend that you work with a teaching pro or a coach. She/he will be able to watch you in each of these areas, and make recommendations for change. Rarely, do we go to a teaching pro or coach to improve our footwork. We simply look at these assets as sources of stroke improvement or strategic development.

For example, we may want to find ways of getting to the net more reliably and effectively. We may want to improve our side to side movement to balls. Our overhead movement backwards may be in need of help. You set the goals and let the pro or coach help you determine the methods to improve the specific movement.

MOVEMENT ON THE COURT (GOAL AND MEANS):

______________________________________________________________

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______________________________________________________________

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If there is one part of the game that we seem to spend the most time on developing, it is stroke production. This is not surprising. After all, who couldn’t use better strokes? However, we need to prioritize what needs most attention.

We should start improving one stroke. When we have realized the level of improvement that we think is appropriate (at least for the moment), we should move onto working towards improving another stroke. Again, teaching pros, coaches, and videotaped self-analysis can provide the insights needed to improve a stroke.

Below, I want you to list the three most important strokes that you believe need improvement in your game. Prioritize them. Work on one at a time. When you see sufficient improvement, move onto improving the next stroke. If you look in my Turbo Tennis Archives, you will find many Turbostroke columns which will hopefully provide insight into how you might change and improve a stroke.

Believe me, if you can significantly improve any three strokes during the next year, you will be achieving quite a bit. Certainly, your confidence and game wins will reflect the effort.

STROKE 1:___________________________________________________

STROKE 2:___________________________________________________

STROKE 3:___________________________________________________

Strategies are key in the game of tennis. The smart player has a great edge over the player who simply possesses great strokes. In a sense, this is why "pushers" win so frequently.

There are many ways to play the game of tennis. This is what makes the game so exciting and challenging.

Below, I would like you to list what you believe is your natural strategic approach to the game (e.g. Big serves and big groundstrokes).

PRESENT STRATEGIC APPROACH:

_____________________________________________________________

_____________________________________________________________

_____________________________________________________________

Now, I want you to list two different styles of play that you want to adopt. These are your plan B and plan C. Of course, you will need to determine a viable way to develop these new styles. For example, if I wanted to improve my serve/volley game, I would use the means of playing more doubles matches. Drills can be great ways to incorporate new strategic approaches to your game arsenal. There are numerous books on this topic and my archives contain articles that identify various ways to practice.

PLAN B (GOAL AND MEANS):

_____________________________________________________________

_____________________________________________________________

_____________________________________________________________

_____________________________________________________________

_____________________________________________________________

PLAN C (GOALS AND MEANS):

____________________________________________________________

____________________________________________________________

____________________________________________________________

____________________________________________________________

____________________________________________________________

Mental fortitude is not easily developed…especially if you are on a losing streak. Still, every player needs to realize that belief is 80% of the battle. We all need to work on the mental side of our game. Whether it is controlling anger, staying in the present, using positive self-talk…there are things each of us need to do.

I think John Murray’s book, Smart Tennis, is a great way to determine what needs to be done in this regard, and how to do it. It is well worth the purchase!

Below, I want you to list the single most important mental change that you would like to see in your game, this year.

MENTAL CHANGE:

_______________________________________________________________

_______________________________________________________________

_______________________________________________________________

_______________________________________________________________

_______________________________________________________________

Now that you have identified this change, you need to research methods of achieving this goal. Behavior methods work well. There are an abundance of Sports Psychology books and programs available to help you determine the means to achieve your goal. Once you have determined the desired change and researched methods of achieving this change, write the means below.

HOW TO ACHIEVE MY MENTAL CHANGE:

______________________________________________________________

______________________________________________________________

______________________________________________________________

______________________________________________________________

______________________________________________________________

Any change in our lives requires a commitment. If we waiver from our commitment, we not only do not achieve our goals, but we reinforce our inability to change. Change requires an open mind. Each of us needs to be willing to do whatever is necessary to achieve our goals.

Below, I want you to make a written statement to yourself. In it, make a commitment to your goals and remind yourself that change means being open minded. Read this "contract with yourself" frequently. In fact, I post mine on my refrigerator and read it aloud each day. It really does provide the necessary boost to keep me going through those difficult times.

SELF CONTRACT:

_____________________________________________________________

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_____________________________________________________________

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Printing this month’s column out is critical. You need to truly reflect on each of the areas above and write your answers out. Externalizing these is the best way I know to effect the changes that will make you a tennis overdog in 2006.

I wish you all the best tennis New Year!!!

Green DotGreen DotGreen Dot

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This column is copyrighted by Ron Waite, all rights reserved. Questions and comments about these columns can be directed to Ron by using this form.

Ron Waite is a certified USPTR tennis instructor who took up the game of tennis at the age of 39. Frustrated with conventional tennis methods of instruction and the confusing data available on how to learn the game, Ron has sought to sift fact from fiction. In his seven years of tennis, Ron has received USTA sectional ranking four years, has successfully coached several NCAA Division III men's and women's tennis teams to post season competition, and has competed in USTA National singles tournaments. Ron has trained at a number of tennis academies and with many of the game's leading instructors.

In addition to his full-time work as a professor at Albertus Magnus College, Ron photographs ATP tour events for a variety of organizations and publications. The name of his column, TurboTennis, stems from his methods to decrease the amount of time it takes to learn and master the game of tennis.


 

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