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Tennis Anyone
September 2000 Article

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How Much is Too Much

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John Mills, USPTA

Many times my students ask, "How can I get better?" Typically, the average player will think that hours on hours of hitting balls will do it. This approach only helps beginner players, but fails on intermediate and advanced players. If you are the type of player who needs to hit balls to maintain consistency, then practice with a goal in mind each time you go out. It could be fine tuning your first serve, or a drop shot, topspin lob, etc. However, keep in mind that too much time spent on practice can work against you. You can only concentrate so long and it is better to hit a few good shots than a lot of bad ones due to fatigue, which can also cause frustration.

In general, a focused player will set out a routine for success considering such elements as practice time, improving shot selection, mental attitude, conditioning, etc. Addressing practice time, it might consist of a lot less tennis than you think. For example, one week might be a one-hour private lesson, two 1 1/2 hour group lessons and a practice match, two out of three sets. In addition, he or she might go to the gym 2 - 3 times a week for an hour, or bicycling, roller blading, running, etc.

Many players go to Tennis camps thinking this will be what they need. In my opinion, after the first 3 days of a typical camp, you have received all the benefit you are going to get. After those 3 days, you have gotten the conditioning that you were probably too lazy to get on your own. Do you really want a coach changing your game if they have never seen you play under pressure? Stick with a coach that has consistency, vast tennis knowledge and with whom you can communicate. I have players coming back from 1 to 4 week camps and rarely have I seen a difference, under pressure, with their match play. I do think that a tennis camp can be a good vacation when planned well, staying for the right amount of time and being realistic about one's expectations. Consider choosing a more diverse camp offering other activities to prevent tennis overload.

In my opinion, quality is better than quantity when it comes to preparing for tennis. Hitting balls with no purpose teaches one to play with no purpose. Stay focused. Matches last an average of one and one half-hours. Get ready to win that first match. Worry about your conditioning when you win your first big tournament. Take more breaks or vacations. Do not be thinking about missing tennis, think about having a great time. Tennis is equally a mental game, so take breaks to clear your mind, and refocus and recharge your batteries during the season. If you try this approach, I am sure you will be more relaxed, confident and happier. This will also cut down on "over-use syndrome" which can cause serious injuries, such as shoulder problems and tennis elbow. Let me know using this form what tennis tips might help you with your game.

Good luck on the court!

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This column is copyrighted by John Mills, all rights reserved.

John Mills' experience includes four years as head pro at the Windemere Racquet & Swim Club, where he was responsible for organization of all tennis activities at the club. John also played college tennis at the University of Houston and has spent 20 years teaching tennis at the Memorial Park Tennis Center, the Pasadena Racquet Club, and as the head pro at the Bay Area Racquet Club.


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