While I have had a successful career playing tennis, there are many things about the game that I wish I had known earlier in my career.
I am going to share 15 mistakes that tennis players need to correct with you so that you can accelerate your tennis growth. Commit to these pieces of advice and I promise that your tennis game will improve drastically.
1. Focus on the Process, Not the Results
When you play a match, you play to win. However, players tend to focus all their thoughts on winning rather than executing a game plan. Instead, think about what strategies you need to implement to win you points. It will prevent you from tightening up on big points and keep you focused on optimal strategy instead.
2. Focus on Long Term Development, Not Short Term Gain
Humans want results and they want it now. This mindset hinders long-term growth. Instead of trying to win today, focus on developing your game so you can compete and beat the best years down the road when it really counts.
3. No One is Unbeatable
If you don’t think you can beat your opponent, you have given up before the match has begun. Everyone is human. Tell yourself before every single match that you can and will beat your opponent. Be confident. Be a warrior. You will make the big shots when it really counts. Give it everything you have.
4. Don’t Be Shy: Make Friends
You can meet tons of wonderful people involved in the game of tennis. People that can find you jobs, help you when you have car problems, hang out with you at the bar, and increase your happiness. Make one new friend each day at the tennis court. Opportunities to make invaluable and advantageous connections will be lost if you are too shy to introduce yourself.
5. Get a Line Judge Against a Cheater
Do not let cheaters screw you over. If you think your opponent is making bad line calls, request a tournament official immediately. The mistake many people make is not getting a line judge sooner (or at all). By giving cheaters the benefit of the doubt too many times, you could be setting yourself up to be cheated big-time on a very important point.
6. Please Yourself, Not Everybody Else
Do what is best for you and your tennis. Choose your priorities and make sure you spend most of your time on them. Don’t be afraid to say no if you don’t want to hit with a weak player. It’s okay to do a favor once in a while, but not at the expense of your happiness and development. As the kids say these days: “YOLO.” You only live once.
7. Train with the Best Players Possible
How else will you get used to playing higher-level players besides playing them in tournaments? Find great players, train with them, and pay attention to what they do that makes them successful. There is a place for average and weaker players in your training schedule: for example, if you are changing your technique or implementing new strategies. Generally though, you should be practicing with the best players in your area.
8. Avoid Tournaments When You Are Changing Your Technique
Playing a tournament in the middle of changing your technique can set you back for months. Here’s why: you will, at some point in the tournament, revert back to your old mechanics. This is because you can’t win playing with new technique that you are not accustomed to using. As a result, you will reiterate the old technique into your muscle memory. Instead, keep practicing until the new technique is second nature (you don’t have to think about it) before you play a tournament.
9. Make Your Serve a Priority
All I did when I was young was hit groundstrokes. I grinded out wins regularly until the 16s age division. Then something happened. Kids with big serves started blasting them in the corners and won points before I had gotten my racquet on the ball. Suddenly, I was working hard for each point while my opponents picked up free points off of serves. Think about this: If you can hold serve every time, how often do you think you will lose a match? Devote more time to your serve.
10. Develop Perfect Form from Day 1
Ignoring technical flaws is a recipe for disaster. You may be able to hide a weak backhand or volleys, but soon that weakness will be the reason you lose. Fixing bad form takes longer than developing good mechanics from the beginning. The old adage applies: “Prevention is better than cure.” If you are at the beginning of your tennis career, learn the right form. And if you have technical flaws, locate and fix them ASAP.
11. Spend Time Finding the Best Tennis Coach In Your Area
Many players choose a tennis coach because of convenience, proximity, or recommendations from others. While you should take those things into consideration, first ask yourself if you want to maximize your talents. If you do, then you need to find the best tennis coach in your area. Having a great teacher can be all the difference between becoming a top college player and quitting the game for good. The reward for spending a little extra time finding a great tennis coach can be extraordinary.
12. Don’t Listen to Everybody: Figure It Out Yourself
It is good to seek advice. But don’t listen to everything people tell you. Assess a person’s tennis career and how successful they have been before you take their advice. There is so much information out there it can be overwhelming and seem contradictory. Try different things and see what works for you.
13. Take Advantage of Opportunities
My dad’s favorite saying is “When the oven is hot, bake the bread.” There will be rare opportunities that come along in your tennis career: the chance to hit with a top-ranked player, a tryout for a prestigious training camp, or a session with an elite tennis coach. Whatever the opportunity may be, jump on it! Don’t be lazy: take advantage of every single opportunity. It may be the last time you get that chance.
14. Take Better Care of Your Body
Stretch a lot. Correct muscular imbalances. Warm-up before you play. Eat healthier. Keep your body in top condition, because it pays dividends in the future. Small injuries or imbalances when you are young can lead to career-ending injuries later on in life. Invest in your body so that you can enjoy tennis for your entire life.
15. Tennis isn’t Everything
Don’t let the outcome of a tennis match determine your attitude for the day. In the end, tennis is just a sport and a vehicle for self-growth (and damn good exercise, too). Be more objective about your wins and losses. Ask yourself what you did well, not so well, and how you can improve your tennis game. After that, go out and enjoy your time with your family and friends. Losing at tennis isn’t the end of the world.
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