Category Archives for "Tips"

TFP 057: Top 10 Things That Improved My Game in 2017

TFP 057: Top 10 Things That Improved My Game in 2017

On today’s show, I reveal the top 10 things that improved my tennis game in 2017.  It’s always critical to periodically examine your progress so that you can figure out what is working and what you may need to change to become a better tennis player.  I sat down and made a list of things that I did differently in 2017, and then marked the top 10 of those changes to discuss on the podcast.  I encourage you to pick one or two of the things I mention on the show, try them out, and see how it works for you.  Let me know what you think in the comments below!

Thanks for listening, and I hope you enjoy this episode!

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Links Mentioned in the Show

Tennis Fitness Workout Guide

SMART Goals Guide

Cliff Bars – White Chocolate Macadamia

Progress Planner

Tennis Technique Summit

International Tennis Performance Association

Why Dynamic Stretching is Superior to Static Stretching Before Competition

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10 Greatest Tips I've Received From World-Class Tennis Coaches

The 10 Greatest Tips I’ve Received From World-Class Tennis Coaches

As host of the Tennis Technique Summit, the world’s first online tennis conference, I’ve had the pleasure of speaking with many incredibly knowledgeable and top-notch tennis coaches.

I want to share their wisdom with you to help you on your journey to becoming a smarter, more successful tennis player.

Without further ado, here are the 10 greatest tips I’ve received from world-class tennis coaches:

Sven Groeneveld v21. Sven Groeneveld – Maria Sharapova’s Coach, Orange Coach

Loosening Up: “I would ask the player to try to make errors, to hit out and let the hands fly. And to feel what it really feels like to be relaxed. Then slowly focus on the breathing, the relaxation, the bounce, the contact. And the result will come at the end. If you can improve your actions, you will improve your result. We are too focused on the outcome.”

A great tip from Sven about how we can loosen up ourselves and play more freely. I remember another coach who used to tell his son to try and blast a couple balls and the fence with them. Sometimes that’s what you need to do to regain the freedom and range of motion for your strokes. The worst feeling is to play tight, not be able to hit out on your shots, and make errors or be dominated during points because of it. We must learn to play more loose, more relaxed, and Sven’s tips above will help you do it. And when you focus on things like your breath, the bounce and contact, there isn’t much room to think about extraneous thoughts or tighten up because of the pressure.

johan kriek2. Johan Kriek – 2-Time Australian Open Champion, Johan Kriek Tennis Academy

Mental Game: “You may be a level 3 player, but when you get emotional, you revert to a level 1 player. The mental part of the game is a massive undertaking.”

This quote from 2-Time Australian Open Champion Johan Kriek solidifies what I and my podcast guests have been saying all along. Focus on the process and not the results. While there certainly is a place and a way to use emotion positively, many of us lack the experience or training to properly channel that emotion. We get too wrapped up in what we want to happen at the end rather than concentrating on executing in the present moment. Turn your attention to what you need to do to win points, and you’ll have a better chance at winning the match.

Jeff Salzenstein Headshot3.  Jeff Salzenstein – Top 100 ATP, Tennis Evolution

Serve Technique: “Slowing down first, moving slower, being more methodical with your tossing arm, not rushing, will help you with your toss and your rhythm. A lot of players move their arms too fast or they flick their wrists or do other things, and that really impacts the serve.”

What do the greatest servers have in common? Impeccable rhythm and timing. What do you see with most amateur players with weak serves? A herky-jerky, rushed service motion. Part of that is because players start the motion too quickly, which prevents momentum buildup and a natural-flowing progression towards powerful acceleration. If you start your service motion more slowly and deliberately, and let your body do the work instead of just the arms, you will have better timing, a more accurate toss, and decrease the chance of injury. Oh, and you will add a lot more MPHs to your serve, too.

David Ramos Headshot USTA4. David Ramos –  USTA’s Senior Manager of Coaching Education and Performance

Using video: “Try to use video to help guide your discovery. It’s pretty easy these days to set a tablet on the court and record your practice or match. You want to get a good idea of what it looks like when you are able to do things well, and when you are struggling, and try to find what the differences are. Use video on a regular basis to give you feedback.”

Why do the best coaches in the world videotape their players? To spot technical and strategic deficiencies in their game so both player and coach know what to work on to reach the next level. This is especially critical for those of you who don’t have full-time or consistent coaching. Without it, it is extremely difficult to objectively self-assess our game during matches and practices without recording our play and analyzing how we performed afterwards. You might think you have the greatest serve, forehand, or backhand. I challenge you to record your play, watch it, show it to a coach or fellow player, and even share it online among knowledgeable players and coaches. And like Dave says, it is super easy to record these days. All you really need is a smartphone, and to make it easier, bring along a friend and/or tripod to prevent shaky video.

Billy Pate5. Billy Pate – Head Coach, Princeton University Men’s Tennis, Nike Tennis Camps

Competing: “There are a lot of different ways to win.  Every coach is looking for a great competitor. Don’t get discouraged if you have some “ugly” technique. We’ve seen a lot of ugly technique work and win. It’s what’s under the hood and in your heart.”

At the end of the day, we won’t all have flawless technique like Federer. Heck, Gulbis reached the Top 100 with a very “interesting” looking forehand. When it is match-day, forget about technique and focus on executing your game plan, finding solutions against your opponent, and competing to the best of your ability. Beautiful technique means nothing if you aren’t willing to play through adversity, weather the storm, and come out on top by focusing on playing solid, no-nonsense, high-percentage tennis. It can be a confidence-buster if you think you have deficient technique, but just as in life, we do the best with the cards we’re dealt and make the most of it.

Ian Westermann Headshot v16. Ian Westermann – Essential Tennis

Volleys: “When it comes to firmness, it’s not either or. You have to be able to match the firmness with the situation you are in and with the desired outcome that you want. A lot of coaches are black and white with the firmness when in reality it’s a million shades of grey. No two volleys are going to be exactly the same.”

A lot of tennis players think every volley has to be hit the same. Every volley out in front, or always a certain degree of tightness/looseness in the arm. When the reality is, you have to adjust according to the type of ball coming at you and the type of volley you want to hit. This is the same philosophy that other world-class coaches like Feisal Hassan teach as well. Will a half volley have the same feel and technique as a high volley? Will a slow floating volley be hit at the same contact point and backswing as a fast-moving ball hit straight at you? I think you kNOw the answer to that question if you read Ian’s quote above.  It takes time, practice, and an open mind, but you will find your range and learn the difference adjustments needed to hit great volleys no matter what type of ball you are receiving.

Mark Kovacs headshot v27. Dr. Mark Kovacs – Kovacs Institute

Kinetic Chain: “If you move your hips, your shoulders have to turn. That’s the preferred and optimal method. If you just focus on the shoulder turn, sometimes the hips don’t move, and you can put put your shoulders in a compromised environment that will rob you of pace and potentially overload the shoulder and elbow potentially in the motion.

A common question for me to tennis experts is: what initiates the kinetic chain? Who better to ask than the man who co-authored a fantastic study entitled “An 8-Stage Model for Evaluating the Tennis Serve” and is an expert in sports science? Too many players initiate their movements with their arms on most strokes, and the better ones initiate with the shoulders. However, as Dr. Kovacs mentioned, the optimal driver of the movement is to start with the hips. Sometimes when we rotate with the shoulders, the hips do not come along for the ride, which is inefficient and prevents maximum power and acceleration on the stroke. However, if you initiate your motion with your hips, then your shoulders must move, and you prevent under-rotation of your lower body. In general, we are using way too much arm and not enough hips on our shots. Hip rotation is the key to unlocking power.

Allistair McCaw Headshot8. Allistair McCaw – McCaw Method

Optimal Learning: “A great technique we use in coaching is called chunking. We focus on one area, or if the athlete is able to manage two areas at once, I would go no further than that. Sometimes coaches overload information. Keep the main thing the main thing.”

I’ve had lessons before where ten different instructions were shouted to me before I had to hit the ball. It is extremely difficult to absorb anything in these circumstances. Most of us cannot learn more than one thing at a time. And that’s fine because the optimal way to learn is to put 100% focus on one thing until you learn it completely, and then move on to the next concept. This is precisely what Allistair advises to coaches who are teaching students, and this also applies if you are trying things out on your own. Take the serve for example. If you had 100 students focus on increasing hip rotation, tossing the ball at 1 o’clock, and keep the head up at contact all at once, how high do you think the failure rate would be? Instead, focus on developing hip rotation for a solid 30 minutes or however long it takes until it feels natural, then move on to the toss.

Tomaz Mencinger Headshot9. Tomaz Mencinger – Feel Tennis

Making Mistakes: “It is much better to accept a double fault and let it go, than to be hard on yourself and get upset and irritated. No top player has zero double faults. Just accept it and refocus on the next point rather than overanalyzing why you double faulted.”

Double faults and other mistakes can be the negative turning point in a match for tennis players. Or, it can just be another point like all the rest of them. The key is not to make such a big deal of your mistakes, because mistakes will happen. The sooner you accept this concept, the better your overall performance and results will be. This is also the main concept in certain meditation practices (Headspace is my favorite meditation app), and mindfulness-based tennis psychology, where instead of battling with your own mind and over-thinking why you made a mistake, you accept that it happened and stay focused on the match. Once you lose that focus, the match is practically over.

Yann Auzoux Headshot10. Yann Auzoux – Tennis Central

Footwork: “Start small and grow bigger. If it begins with just implementing more jump rope in your routine for example, it’s a great start. Anything you can do to make your feet move faster, be in more control over your center of gravity, balance, and your ability to move faster, is worth it.”

One useful piece of equipment that the Tennis Technique Summit coaches have consistently mentioned is the jump rope. Jumping rope can help you in a multitude of ways, from general fitness, to better balance, a stronger core, endurance, speed, and many other benefits. How about this for a challenge: implement 5 minutes of jump rope two times per week in your fitness routine, and take note of your footwork intensity and general fitness. I’m willing to bet that you will feel faster and fitter on the court in a few weeks. And at the very least, you’ll feel better about yourself knowing that you are taking small steps that will turn into big results in your tennis game.

I hope that the 10 greatest tips I’ve learned from world-class coaches above will help you in your journey to becoming a better tennis player.

If you aren’t convinced to check out the Tennis Technique Summit yet, which is free to watch from March 22-27, here’s a short highlights video that I had my video editor make for you to check out:

I highly encourage you to register for The Tennis Technique Summit! You’ll get to watch 30+ hours of video interviews and presentations with over 25 world-class coaches, including the ones above.

To check out the Tennis Technique Summit for free, enter your first name and email address below! See you there!

Get Your Free Ticket to the 2017 Tennis Technique Summit!

Join 25+ world-class experts from March 22-27. Register Now!

Kim Selzman Tennis Quick Tips

TFP 036: 6 Quick Tips to Improve Your Tennis Game with Kim Selzman

On Episode 36 of TFP, Kim Selzman from The Tennis Quick Tips Podcast and joined me to give you some of her best tips to help you improve your game.

Kim started playing tennis at 40 years old and fell in love with the game immediately. She is a super passionate tennis player that enjoys sharing what she knows and learns about the game with her audience. Well that sounds a little familiar! 🙂

Kim does an awesome job of giving her audience value-packed tips that are quick and easy to implement, and can really boost your game. She has produced over 140 podcast episodes and it was a lot of fun to speak with her on the show. I also included her podcast in my article The 41 Best Tennis Resources Every Player Should Know.

Time-Stamped Show Notes

  • [2:58] How Kim got her start in tennis
  • [5:34] Kim’s website and podcast
  • [9:09] 3 tips to improve your serve
  • [15:35] One tip Kim follows every time she plays tennis
  • [18:52] Why Kim changed her mind about lobbing
  • [22:43] Resources that Kim uses to improve her game
  • [26:03] Favorite tennis books Kim would give as a gift to someone who wants to improve their tennis game 
  • [30:33] One key tip to improve your tennis game
  • [34:06] Where can we find Kim online

A big shout out to Kim for coming onto the podcast and giving us some great tips on how we can all become better tennis players!

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Links Mentioned in the Show

A special gift from Kim for our listeners!

Winning Ugly – Brad Gilbert

Arthur Ashe on Tennis

Tennis Beyond Big Shots – Greg Moran

Interview with Dr. Mark Kovacs

Complete Conditioning for Tennis Players

Note: The links to the books above are affiliate links, so if you make a purchase after clicking, I make a small commission. Thanks either way!

If you enjoyed my interview with Kim, let me know by leaving a review for The Tennis Files Podcast in iTunes or your favorite podcast app!

How to Choose the Right Tournaments for Your Game

How to Choose the Right Tournaments for Your Game

Choosing what tournaments to play can be tricky. You shouldn’t be getting blown out every match, but you don’t want to win every match without a challenge either. Your goal should be to compete in tournaments where at some point, there will be a player there to make you work hard to win. This is how we learn to be better competitors and improve our tennis games.

Here are the steps you should follow, in order, when trying to navigate the world of tennis tournaments:

1. Determine Your Skill Level

You need to honestly assess where you are in your tennis career, what your strengths are, and what areas of your game need improvement. Look at your match results over the past year. What NTRP rating (i.e. 2.5-5.5) are you? You can also ask your tennis friends and instructors who have watched you play on their opinion of your skill-level. Based on their feedback and your own self-analysis, you can figure out what level of tournaments will most effectively challenge your game to improve.

2. Write Down Your Goals

Figuring out your short and long-term goals will help you choose what tournaments to play. For example, is your goal to become a 5.0 singles player, improve your doubles game, or practice competing in preparation for a bigger tournament? To help you figure out how to create SMART Goals, check out this post. Your goals will help narrow your focus to the tournaments that will accomplish your goals in the least amount of time. For example, if your long-term goal is to become a 5.0 singles player, you will realize that you should concentrate mainly on playing singles tournaments. You can download my free guide (with fillable worksheet) on how to set SMART Goals below.

CLICK HERE to download your free SMART Goals Guide

3. Find Out What Tournaments are Available

Figure out what local, sectional, and national organizations run tennis tournaments, go to their websites, and familiarize yourself with their tournament search site. For example, the USTA is the organization that manages the majority of tennis tournaments (via tennislink) for players in the United States. If you are a member of a tennis club, ask a pro or fellow player for advice on how to enter tournaments. It never hurts to ask! And many tennis clubs host tennis tournaments by age and skill-level. Choosing what tournaments to play can be daunting with so many options, so now let’s figure out how to do it.

4. Register for Tournaments at Your Skill Level

Start testing the waters of tournament play by entering ones that correspond to your skill level. For example, if you are a 4.0-level player, enter tournaments that say “NTRP 4.0” or something similar. The ratings/skill-level nomenclature can vary depending on what region or country you are from. Play these tournaments and track your results. I recommend playing a minimum of three of these tournaments before you can accurately assess your next steps. I would also stick with tournaments in your age group in the beginning. And the tournaments you play should align with your goals that you determined in step 2 above.

5. Assess Your Results and Reevaluate

If you are consistently reaching the semi-finals or better, then mix in tournaments into your schedule that are one-level higher. For example, if you reached the semifinals of two out of your last three 4.0 level tournaments and won the other one, make 4.5 level tournaments a substantial part (around 1/3 to 1/2) of your schedule. When I first started playing tennis, after three junior futures tournaments (beginner-level at the time), I knew it was time to move to the next-highest level of tournament play after my results: win, semis, win.

Once you are dominating tournaments at your skill-level, make the permanent leap to the next one, assuming your goal is to become a better tennis player and not just to collect trophies. This will ensure you keep challenging your game so you can improve, just like the weight lifter gradually increases reps or weight to build strength and muscle. Conversely, if you have been struggling to get past the first round, consider playing lower-level tournaments (if allowed), or work on your game for a few weeks and come back stronger for the next one.

6. Sparingly Mix in Tournaments That are Substantially Above Your Skill Level

I believe that occasionally playing tournaments that are a full point (i.e. you are a 4.0 and play a 5.0 tournament) or skill-level (i.e. intermediate to advanced) above what you currently are can help your game. Sure, you are likely to get blown out, but there are huge benefits to sparingly playing at a very-high level relative to your skill-set.

First, playing against extremely good players will give you extra motivation to see where your game has the potential to be if you train smart and hard. Second, playing against this level will fill you with an intensity and focus that you have never felt before, because if you don’t push yourself to the limit during these matches, you will get clobbered. Third, by establishing relationships with these high-level players, you may find a new hitting partner or friend that can help mentor you (remember, you need to be friendly and talk to players to make this happen!). You can learn a ton by sitting down and watching these players. It wouldn’t hurt to take a couple video clips, play them in slow-motion, and see the differences in your strokes and footwork, either!

On Episode 21 of The Tennis Files Podcast, I talked about my experience playing an ITF Futures Tournament at The University of Virginia in Charlottesville. While I am a 5.0 player, I wanted to really push myself to the limit and experience what it was like to play against professional tennis players who are trying to make it on the ATP Tour. I played the 11th seed in qualifying who was ranked around 1100 in the world at the time, and I lost 6-1, 6-0. While my opponent beat me pretty handily, it was a thrill and a big eye-opener to be around such amazing players. It filled me with intense motivation to train and helped me figure out what I needed to improve in my game to confidently perform against this level of players without being exploited. It’s been a few months since the tournament, but I am still pumped thinking about playing it again next year and coming back stronger.

How Frequently Should You Play Tournaments?

The most important considerations for this question are your physical fitness and enthusiasm to compete. When you keep playing tournaments, you acclimate to the environment of competition, intensity, and pressure situations. The best way to become more comfortable in a new setting is by repeatedly putting yourself in that same situation. Therefore, if you are in good physical condition and have the passion to compete, then fit as many tournaments as you can, within reason, into your schedule.

For a serious tennis player, playing two tournaments a month and reevaluating this frequency after three to four months is a reasonable way to figure out the optimal frequency for tournament play. It is critical to reevaluate your body’s capacity to perform at high intensity after each tournament to prevent injury and burnout. Additionally, if there are major parts of your game that need improving (especially technique), this can be another factor in potentially reducing the frequency of your tournament play.

When Should You Reduce Tournament Play?

Tournaments are an integral part of any serious player’s development. However, there are times when playing tournaments can stunt a player’s growth. Here’s when you should reduce or suspend tournament play:

1. When You are Changing Technique

The bigger the technical change, the more you should be willing to suspend tournament play until you are comfortable with implementing the change in pressure situations. When a match gets close, you will feel the pressure to win and will revert back to what is most comfortable. This wastes all the time you spent trying to change your technique in the first place. Because we are competitive, it takes a huge amount of discipline and focus on our long-term goals to maintain a new technical change during crucial points in a match. Instead, you can accelerate the mastery of your new technique by practicing it in a pressureless environment (i.e. practice with a coach or fellow player) and then gradually move to point, set and match play when you are ready.

A normal progression would be something like this: spend two weeks practicing your new service motion with your coach and by yourself, then play practice points and games with your training partners for two weeks. If you can maintain your new service technique throughout the practice games, then start playing practice sets and matches with your training partners. If you are comfortable with your technical change at this level of intensity, then consider playing tournaments. If not, go back to one-level lower of intensity (practice) and reevaluate after a week or two.

The most important consideration is that you prioritize your long-term goals when you make a technical change in your game. This will help you concentrate on implementing the change in your game even if it means playing less tournaments for a while and losing more matches in the beginning.

CLICK HERE to download your free SMART Goals Guide

2. When You Are Injured

No matter how passionate you are about tennis, it is not smart to play tournaments and matches with an injury. The severity of the injury and the importance of the tournament are highly determinative of whether you should play. But injury is a signal from your body that you need to rest and recover. Unless the tournament is of extreme importance to you and your injury is minor, will not become worse, and is manageable, you should not play the tournament.

3. When You are Burned Out

There’s no point in playing a tournament unless you are ready and capable of giving 100% effort. This all starts in the mind. If you are mentally exhausted, you need to take a break and do something fun. Take a week off tennis and play a different sport. Try a less intensive format of tennis like World Team Tennis or a charity event. Go paint some pottery (yep, I did this last weekend, and it was awesome)! You will come back refreshed and ready to rock it the next time you are back out on court. A true passion for tennis will give you the best chance of excelling in this sport, and when that passion runs low, go have some fun to rejuvenate your body and mind. The courts will always be there for you.

4. If you are a Beginner

If you just started playing tennis, you should first get to a level where you can competently play a match. If you can’t hit more than a couple balls across the net at a time, then playing a tournament and getting blown out can potentially discourage you from playing the game for good. And a beginner lacks many basic fundamentals and techniques that need to be developed before competition. When you start competing too early without these fundamentals in place, you will start ingraining bad habits into your game that can become permanent and take a long time to fix if not monitored and corrected by a coach or self-corrected.

Check out my Ultimate Beginner’s Guide if you are relatively new to tennis. It will show you how to improve your skills to the point where you will be ready to start competing. And my free eBook, The Building Blocks of Tennis Success, will show you how to maximize your tennis development.

Tools to Organize Your Tournaments

Here are three simple (and free!) tools you can use to help organize your tournament schedule which I have recommended in previous posts:

Mind Meister  – Free mind maps (aka organizational diagrams) to chart out the steps you need to take to reach your goals. Click here to learn more about mind maps, and here to get started creating them!

Trello – Another awesome free tool to organize your workflow and track your progress on projects and tasks. I use Trello (not to be confused with Trollollo 🙂 ) to ensure my blog postspodcasts, and tennis training gets done on time. You can add notes, checklists, attachments, and even pictures to your entries.

Google Calendar – Just open up google calendar through your gmail account on the interwebs and schedule all your appointments and set alarms to help keep you working towards accomplishing your goals.


Take the first step at the top of this post right now: determine your skill level. 

Starting is the hardest part to accomplishing anything in life. Once you know your skill level, progress to the next step of figuring out your SMART Goals in tennis, then find and register for tournaments at your skill level and stay focused on continually improving your game.

CLICK HERE to download your free SMART Goals Guide

I hope this post has helped you figure out how to choose what tournaments to play and encourages you to get out on the court and compete. As you can see, selecting the right tournaments isn’t that difficult, either. Playing tournaments will improve your game and teach you how to become a strong competitor. Now that you know what steps to take, make it happen! If you have any questions about tournaments, feel free to email me at

For more advice on how to improve your tennis game, get a free copy of my eBook, The Building Blocks of Tennis Success, by filling out the short form below!

A Guide to Formulating Optimal Match Strategy Picture

How to Formulate a Winning Game Plan

CLICK HERE to download my free strategy guide.

Most tennis players underestimate the importance of strategy and preparation. But the deeper you think about your game, your opponent’s game, and how you can exploit your opponent, the more optimally you will perform. And having a game plan helps prevent many of our biggest mental distractions, from getting nervous to a lack of concentration.

Why Do You Need a Game Plan?

Think of yourself as a general leading your troops (your tennis game) into battle.  A general prepares its army by thinking about its own capabilities and all information about its adversary. Every single detail is analyzed before the battle begins.

Similarly, you must consider your game, your opponent’s game, the conditions, and then formulate a winning strategy based on that information to give yourself the best chance of winning your match.

When you have a game plan in place, it serves as your roadmap to success. You can play your match with one simple objective: to execute the strategies in your game plan. I will go into detail about the numerous advantages of having a game plan in the next section.

If you are still skeptical, I encourage you to read Brad Gilbert’s insightful book, “Winning Ugly” (affiliate link). Gilbert had what many considered “ugly” strokes, but he maximized his capabilities (and his bank account: $5.5 million in prize money) by thinking his way through matches and executing superior strategy to defeat his opponents. Gilbert reached #4 in the world and has coached several grand slam champions, including Andre Agassi, Andy Roddick, and Andy Murray (if your first name starts with “And” and you are a top tennis player, Brad is coming for you!).Gilbert takes his readers through his thought processes while preparing for big matches, including wins over Boris Becker and John McEnroe. Gilbert’s pre-match considerations of how to play his opponents was the key reason for his victories. Gilbert would not have stood a chance against his more talented and athletic opponents without formulating and executing the optimal game plan against them.

Some of you may be thinking, “Well, this sounds great and all, but I won’t know who my opponent will be, so a game plan is pointless.” While your contention deserves a soft, slow clap at best, you must still prepare for matches by considering your game, what you do best, your weaknesses, and then apply a strategy that will optimize your capabilities.

You Will Win More Matches with a Game Plan

Answer this question: How many matches have you lost that hinged on one break of serve or were decided by a tiebreaker?

You’ve probably replayed the crucial points in your head countless times, wishing you had played them differently. Maybe you should have hit the approach to the backhand or played more aggressively on the key points.  I bet you could live with some of these losses easier if you had tried to execute the optimal strategy.

Strategy is especially crucial when two players are evenly matched. When this is the case, the player who executes the superior strategy will win.  A one or two point swing is all you need to win these matches. And a well-thought out game plan will make a huge impact in your match results.

If you haven’t been formulating a game plan before matches, I don’t blame you. I used to be that guy who heard he had a match and just showed up, 30 minutes removed from a pleasant nap. However, I realize how huge of a difference it can make to analyze your game, your opponent’s game, and formulate a strategy based on that knowledge to help you win.

Now that you know the importance of a game plan, let’s examine the specific advantages of having one.

Advantages of a Game Plan

1. Helps you play under pressure

Do you get nervous during crucial points in your matches? That’s because your mind isn’t focused on strategy, but instead on winning and losing. You need a game plan to fall back on to prevent this from happening. If you know what you need to do to win points, and you focus on executing your strategy, you will block the results-oriented thinking that causes you to get nervous. I have interviewed several top coaches, players, and performance coaches on The Tennis Files Podcast, may of whom suggest that focusing on the process is the key to optimal performance, especially in high-pressure situations.

2. Helps you stay focused

Having a game plan keeps you mentally engaged in matches. Many of you have emailed me and said that your number one issue is they have trouble focusing during matches. My response has always been that if you formulate a game plan with strategies and point patterns that you can use during a match, then it will be a lot easier to stay focused. It doesn’t matter whether you are down 0-5 or up 5-0.  Concentrate on sticking to the strategy that got you to 5-0 and keep using it until the match is over. If you are down 0-5, keep fighting and consider whether you are losing because you aren’t executing your strategy, or if you need to adjust your strategy based on what has happened in the match.

3. Helps you start the match off strong

If you know the point patterns, strategies, and tendencies that you can take advantage of during the match, you can start using them immediately. This is the direct opposite of how most players start off “feeling out the match.” Playing without a game plan will often result in a slow start. Making a comeback from way down is difficult and a royal pain in the rear. Why not have a game plan in place and use it to dismantle your opponent from the beginning? 10 minutes of planning is much easier that spending 40 minutes grinding your way back down two breaks of serve.

4. Helps you feel in control of the match

If you play a match with no game plan, you might feel lost or uncertain on what to do. This will negatively affect your performance. It is like running through a forest with a blindfold. All you are doing is reacting to the play of your opponent. If you have a plan of attack in place that you can execute, you will be comfortable and in control of your play because you know that you need to do X, Y, and Z to be successful. A game plan will make you feel confident about your game and provide you with a direction to follow during the match.

5. Helps you become a smarter player

As you practice analyzing your game, your opponents’ games, and formulating successful strategies, you will become a more intelligent tennis player. And you will become better at dealing with all sorts of different players. Your mind will be engaged, your problem solving skills will improve, and you’ll keep adding strategies and point patterns to your repertoire. Who the heck wouldn’t want this to happen to themselves? Keep formulating game plans and you will become a smarter tennis player.

CLICK HERE to download my free strategy guide.

When Should I Formulate a Game Plan?

You should formulate your game plan as early as possible so that you can practice implementing it before you play your match.  Tournament draws usually are released several days before the first round matches, so you’d have time to practice your game plan. For those who play league matches, you often don’t know who you are playing until a couple minutes beforehand.

In the latter case, you should still think about how you can play the match in a way that takes advantage of your strengths and masks your weaknesses. Then, as soon as you find out who your opponent is, you can start to think about strategies and point patterns you can use to exploit his or her game.

If you have time, you should definitely write down your game plan. Writing down my game plan helps me remember what I need to do much easier than just thinking about it.

You can even go the extra mile and store notes of players on your computer. This may sound hardcore, but it will help you later down the road when you have to play the same player again. I highly recommend you download my free guide on how to formulate winning game plans, so that you can create and keep records of each player you face on your computer.

If you don’t have time to write out your strategies, use your time while driving to the match to think about how you should play against your opponent.

When I played a kid in Texas at a national open many years ago, he had a piece of paper with notes on it that he would read during changeovers. I remember questioning the kid, thinking he had done something wrong by having secret notes on me. But he prepared for the match well and it paid off. He had a written game plan in place, executed it well, and won the match.

How do I Formulate a Game Plan?

The key to formulating an optimal game plan is to ask yourself a series of questions about your game and your opponent’s game. Even if you don’t know who you are playing, you can still think through how you can set up points to favor your strengths and minimize exposing your weaknesses.

1. Answer The Following Questions About Your Game

    • What are my strengths?
    • What are my weaknesses?
    • How do I win most of my points during matches?
    • What is my biggest weapon on the court and how can I use it the most?
    • What shots do I hate hitting the most?
    • What style of play am I most comfortable with?

2. Answer these Questions About Your Opponent 

    • What do you know about this player?
    • What are this player’s strengths?
    • What are this player’s weaknesses?
    • If you have played this player before, what made you successful against him/her?
    • How was this player successful against you?
    • Is my opponent a mentally tough player?
    • What shots bother or annoy my opponent?
    • What style of play does your opponent primarily use (i.e. baseliner, serve/volley)

You may have heard people advise you to “not look at the draw.” This is not entirely optimal. Sure, you shouldn’t look at the draw to predict who you are going to play in future rounds. You have to focus on one opponent at a time.

But one reason that people advise to not look at the draw is so you don’t get psyched out by who you are playing. I don’t think this is good advice. To debunk this claim: if you are going to get psyched out about your opponent, wouldn’t it be even worse to find out right before you are about to play him or her as opposed to beforehand?

If you know who you are going to play, and you have played that person before, seen them play, or gotten advice from a coach or friend on your opponent, you should ask yourself several questions.

3. Formulate Your Game Plan

Once you ask yourself the questions above, it is time to formulate a plan based on your answers. There are a couple main things you have to focus on when formulating your strategy

    • How can I use my strengths to exploit my opponent’s weaknesses?
    • How can I minimize my opponent’s ability to exploit my weaknesses?
    • What point patterns can I use to win a lot of points?
    • What point patterns will frustrate my opponent the most?

An Example of How to Formulate a Game-Plan

Here’s an abbreviated example of how I used a pre-match game plan to effectively dismantle an opponent.

At a US Open Sectional Qualifying tournament in New Jersey, I decided to research my first round opponent. My friend suggested that we check if my opponent had any videos of himself playing on Youtube. We found a video of my opponent, and learned that he rarely attacked serves and would often block back his backhand return.

I also knew that my forehand is my strength, I am an aggressive baseliner, and I prefer not to hit as many backhands. Based on this information, I knew that I could go for more of my first serves and throw in serve and volleys to his backhand. I also knew that if we got into a backhand rally, I could hit a safe topspin or slice backhand down the line to get the point back to hitting my forehand. My game plan was to hit as many forehands as possible (my strength) to his backhand until I got a short ball which I could attack, preferably to his weaker backhand.

Since I had a game plan, I felt a lot more comfortable about what I needed to do against my opponent. I started the match off strong and won much more handily than I would have without considering this information and formulating strategies to take advantage of it.  Without the game plan, I would have been more nervous, have had to take a few games to discover my opponent’s tendencies, and had no direction as far as what I should be doing in the match to maximize my strengths against my opponent’s weaknesses.

Final Thoughts

The pre-match game plan is one of the most underutilized and overlooked advantages that a tennis player can use to win tennis matches. The smarter, more strategic tennis player will win far more often than the one who shows up to the court without a roadmap for success. I encourage you to ask yourself the questions above and then think of how you should play points to give you the best chance to succeed.  Thinking about what to do before each match is well worth your time and effort.  Think like a general, and your game will salute you no matter what the result is in the end.

Download a free copy of my guide on How to Formulate Optimal Match Strategy by filling out the short form below!

18 Best Tennis Resources

The 41 Best Tennis Resources Every Player Should Know

Have you ever googled the term “tennis resources” or some variation, and clicked on the first few results? I did, and I didn’t quite find what I was looking for. That’s why I put together this comprehensive compilation of the best tennis resources that will help you improve your game. As the old saying goes: “If you can’t find it, build it!”

The 41 Best Tennis Resources

Tennis Books

1. The Inner Game of Tennis 

This is the most widely read tennis book known to man, and the most recommended read by my podcast guests to our audience. The Inner Game of Tennis by W. Timothy Gallwey shows us how we can use our mind effectively to perform our best on the court, especially in high-pressure situations. The Inner Game of Tennis is a timeless classic. If you are having trouble overcoming mental obstacles and want to know how to play tennis with a clear mind, you need to read this book!

2. Winning Ugly

Brad Gilbert, a former world #4 and coach of Andre Agassi, takes you into the mind of one of the most strategic and resourceful players ever to play tennis. Although he never had the most elegant strokes or big weapons, he used his mind to “win ugly” and defeat tennis legends, like Bjorn Borg and Jimmy Connors. You will learn how to assess opponents, formulate a winning game plan, and give yourself the best chance of winning. There’s a ton of awesome, high-value content from Brad that will help improve your game.

3. Doubles Tactics

An in-depth analysis of doubles strategy to help you play the best strategic doubles matches of your life. Louis Cayer has captained the Canadian and Britain’s Davis and Fed Cup teams and has worked with 6 number 1 players and 24 top 50 ATP, including #1 doubles player Jamie Murray this year. Othmane Garma, coach of ATP doubles world #18 Treat Huey (who I both interviewed on The Tennis Files Podcast), told me that Louis Cayer has been instrumental in teaching him world class doubles play. If you want to learn winning doubles formations and strategies, I highly recommend this book.

4. The Building Blocks of Tennis Success

Yes, I am the author of this (e)book 🙂 I highly recommend you download a free copy of The Building Blocks of Tennis Success because it will teach you how to maximize your tennis potential. My ebook covers goal setting, training smart, technique, mental fortitude, competing, health and fitness, and other important aspects of tennis. Best of all, it is free, and you can get it here.

5. The One Thing 

This book, while not tennis-specific, will help you focus on what you need to do to reach your ultimate tennis and life goals. Instead of trying to accomplish a million things at a time, Gary and Jay show us the importance of concentrating on the big picture goals. Instead of just crossing things off the list, we need to accomplish the things that further our long-term objectives. These principles apply to tennis, and this book is a fantastic read that can be a huge game changer for your tennis. Do you want to improve the quality of your tennis game and your life? If yes, then I highly recommend you check out this book!

Find Tennis Partners Coaches Courts

6. Tennis Round

Tennis Round makes it easy to find hitting partners by skill level near your area. You can search TR’s player database according to their NTRP rating and send and receive text messages and emails for free to connect with other players. Other features on Tennis Round include reporting your scores, accumulating points, and viewing results of other players on the site. I have been contacted and reached out to players with Tennis Round with great results. Sometimes I’m a little hesitant when the player doesn’t have much of a profile and just a first name, so proceed at your own risk and meet at a public place (perhaps a tennis court will do! 🙂 ). Definitely worth a look!

7. Global Tennis Network

GTN helps you connect with other tennis players, and even lets you search tennis courts around your area! You can find tennis leagues, ladders, and tournaments on the Global Tennis Network as well. GTM is another neat tool that you should check out if you want to find tennis partners over the internet.

8. PlayTennis 

With PlayTennis, you can find a tennis partner by zip code. I tested this one out and noticed a couple players that I know on the search results list. Another decent resource for finding a hitting partner. On top of that, you can also find coaches, courts, programs (clinics), and even tennis stores at PlayTennis. To contact players, you need to sign up, which is free.

9. Tennisopolis

Check out this massive network of over 51,000 tennis players around the globe! You can sign up and join its network for free to view the profiles of other members. From there, I think you’d be able to find a couple hitting partners! There are also over 750 tennis partner groups on Tennisopolis! For example, the VA/DC group on its homepage has 866 members! Hopefully one of the tennis partner groups is local to you. Join in on the fun and find a tennis partner at Tennisopolis!

10. Tennis Maps

Plug in your address or zip code, and Tennis Maps will spit out a map with a ton of flags and other icons indicating tennis courts near your area! Click the flag and then “more info” for a detailed map of the tennis court. It even tells you whether the courts are lighted, have a backboard, are public or private, how many courts there are, if they have a tennis pro, and more! A very helpful resource indeed!

11. Pulse Play 

A new tennis smartwatch and app co-founded by multiple grand slam champion Andy Ram. I interviewed Andy on Episode 27 of The Tennis Files Podcast about his career and the features of Pulse Play. One awesome aspect of PulsePlay is the ability to find playing partners. Once you create an account (free!), you can search for players. The experience is a lot cooler and more seamless with the Pulse Play smartwatch (enter code TENNISFILES for an exclusive 15% off discount! – Note: this is an affiliate link), but I’d definitely also listen to the podcast episode and check out the app/information beforehand to make an informed decision. I love technology!

Tennis Courses

12. Feel Tennis Instruction

Tomaz from Feel Tennis Instruction emphasizes using your body’s natural mechanics to play tennis more efficiently. His philosophy makes sense and appeals to those who want to feel more relaxed and biomechanically sound on the tennis court. I interviewed Tomaz on Episode 6 of The Tennis Files Podcast, which you should definitely check out! He also has a fantastic online course called Serve Unlocked that will help you improve your tennis serve.

13. Jeff Salzenstein

Jeff is a former Top 100 ATP pro who produces tons of awesome courses on all aspects of tennis, from technique to fitness and the mental game. I have checked out several of his videos and courses and benefitted from them. A couple of my favorite tips from Jeff are “elbow the enemy” and “the buggy whip forehand.” Definitely consider checking out his courses! I also recommend that you listen to my interview with Jeff on Episode 28 of The Tennis Files Podcast to get a better idea of what he is about and how knowledgeable he is about tennis.

14. Fuzzy Yellow Balls

Will Hamilton has put together a bunch of fantastic instructional videos that breaks down stroke mechanics in an easy to understand fashion. He also happens to live around my neighborhood! Will is another high-level instructor with tons of free and purchasable instructional videos that will help you improve your game.

15. Essential Tennis Instruction

Ian Westermann is another top-level online course creator. He has a ton of well-produced and helpful videos (not to mention some hilarious ones as well!) that will help your tennis game. He has expanded recently to include more coaches on his staff and has a pretty cool studio where he produces many of his videos, which is impressive. Ian, like me, also has a podcast devoted to helping players improve their tennis game, although it hasn’t been updated as frequently lately.

16. Online Tennis Instruction

Florian Meier does an excellent job of breaking down strokes and explaining technical concepts. He has a ton of free videos online, everything from getting a more biting backhand slice, to serve and volley footwork and toss fundamentals. Florian is another top-level online instructor providing a ton of value that I highly recommend you check out.

17. Jeff Rothschild 

Jeff is a registered dietician, NSCA Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) with a Master’s degree in Nutritional Science. He has a website at with a ton of awesome advice about tennis nutrition. Jeff’s clients include Mike Bryan, Stefan Kozlov, James Valentine from Maroon 5, and other elite ATP and NCAA tennis players. He has also worked with endurance athletes, boxers, swimmers, and a number of touring musicians at TriFit in Santa Monica, CA. One of my most downloaded podcast episodes was my interview with Jeff on Episode 14 of The Tennis Files Podcast. I recommend you check out Jeff’s eBook and Jeff’s Nutrition course.  Both of them will show you how to properly feed your body to play the best tennis possible. If you click through this link that Jeff set up for my audience, you will receive over 50% off his nutrition course!

Tennis Podcasts

18. The Tennis Files Podcast 

I certainly would like you to listen to this one! 🙂 I have a weekly tennis podcast devoted to helping you improve your tennis game. I interview professional tennis players, coaches, and other tennis minds to help you become a better player. And when no one feels like talking to me, I host solo episodes discussing everything from technical tips, to mental strategies and awesome resources, based on over two decades of playing the game at a national, Division I college tennis, and current 5.0 and Open level. I really enjoy producing the show, and consider it a great privilege to speak about tennis to all of you. I can’t thank my audience enough for all the amazing emails, reviews, and suggestions. Your kind words and support keep me motivated to produce the best content I can! I’d really appreciate it if you’d subscribe to the show and write a review! Thanks for listening!!

19. Essential Tennis Podcast 

Ian has over 240 episodes containing expert advice on all aspects of tennis. I am a strong proponent of immersing yourself in tennis to keep focused on improving your game, and Ian’s podcasts are a great way of doing this on the go. His episodes are solo format and usually under 20 minutes, which is great for those who like shorter podcasts

20. Tennis Quick Tips 

Kim Selzman does a great job of providing tennis tips in short podcast episodes to help amateurs improve their tennis game. Kudos to Kim for producing over 140 episodes of quality content! She has a very endearing and upbeat attitude on her shows, and it is a pleasure to listen to her tennis advice!

21. Tennis Psychology Podcast 

Host Dr. Patrick Cohn focuses on perhaps the most important part of tennis: the mental game. The majority of his episodes are 5 minutes or less and provide excellent tips on keeping your composure, staying focused, and competing effectively. Like Ian’s podcast, this one hasn’t been updated as frequently lately, but hopefully that will change soon. Still, there are a ton of episodes available in the archive that will help your mental game.

22. The Adam Blicher Show 

Adam has another fantastic podcast centered around interviewing professional tennis players and coaches to help players improve their game. Adam is a high-performance coach and I have been impressed by his interviews and awesome social media posts on Facebook. He’s consistently brought excellent coaches onto his show and I’ve definitely enjoyed the value they’ve provided to Adam’s listeners.

Where to Buy Tennis Gear

23. Tennis Express

Tennis Express is one of the best online tennis shop out there. They have great prices on tennis racquets and gear, and free shipping depending on how much you buy (at the publishing of this post, it says free shipping on everything, which is awesome!). I’ve always been pleased with my purchases from TE. You should definitely check out Tennis Express if you want to purchase anything tennis-related.

24. Tennis Warehouse 

Tennis Warehouse is one of the giants of tennis gear and equipment. They have fantastic prices, free 2-day shipping over $75, and great staff/customer reviews on racquets, shoes, and other products. They also have a great racquet demo program ($20/week for up to 4 racquets). I’ve bought a ton of stuff from TW and their customer service is also top notch. Nuff said.

25. Holabird Sports

Local to Maryland is another online tennis kingpin in Holabird Sports. They offer a great selection of racquets, shoes, strings, and everything in between. Holabird gives you free shipping over $25, so it may be a better option when you want to order less gear. The third of what I consider the big three in the online tennis gear world.

There are certainly some other great online tennis shops (Midwest Sports comes to mind) so feel free to google search products to your heart’s content if you have a ton of time. Otherwise, just stick to the three above and you will be more than pleased with your options.

26. Your Local Tennis Shop 

There are thousands of these, so I don’t have names for you. But local shops are valuable for the expertise that the store owner and staff can give to you. You can ask questions in person, physically feel and try certain products, and enjoy speaking with human beings about tennis face-to-face. If you prefer this vibe and enjoy supporting your local businesses, then local tennis shops are a great option to get your tennis gear!

Tennis Forums

27. Talk Tennis Warehouse

I really like the TW forums because of the passionate members, the well-structured categories, and the helpful posts. There are all sorts of threads from pro tennis and equipment, to the college game and instruction. The forum is very active, which makes for a constant flow of information and sometimes valuable content (especially in the tennis tips/instruction thread). TW is my preferred forum, even if they are a little strict with me creating threads about my content (I only did it once 🙂 ).

28. Reddit Tennis 

The Reddit tennis forum can be helpful and interesting at times, and make you feel like the most hated person on the internet during others. It seems like the most popular posts on Reddit Tennis are either about the pro game or funny pictures and gifs. Regardless, there are a decent amount of posts geared toward tennis advice and fruitful discussion. Some of the posters are quite knowledgeable and provide fantastic content on the forum (shout out to dropshot!). Reddit Tennis also has its fair share of haters/trolls, but that’s to be expected on just about any forum out there. It isn’t organized like the TW forums, but the posts and questions can be entertaining and deliver great content every now and then.

29. Tennis Forums/Men’s Tennis Forums

If you are a pro tennis junkie, then Tennis Forums (women’s game) and Mens Tennis Forums are for you. They are both frequently updated with discussions about the latest pro tournaments and opinions on the players. Even though these forums are geared toward the pro game, you can pick up tips to help improve your game based on the discussions of the mental/strategic/technical aspects of the pro matches.

30. Facebook/Linkedin Groups 

I know what you’re probably thinking. “Bro, do you even forum?” Yes, yes I do. Facebook has fantastic tennis groups full of passionate players and coaches. I am a member of several of them, including Competitive Tennis Coaches and Tennis Freaks.  On Linkedin, I participate in the Tennis Fans (a group about rotating devices that keep tennis players cool….just kidding!) and Tennis Industry groups. Many of the members offer thought provoking questions and opinions on the game, and as long as people remain respectful, everyone can benefit!

Find Tickets

31. Stubhub

Stubhub is one of the biggest and most well-known brands when it comes to purchasing tickets. When you aren’t buying tickets from the original seller, you want a name you can trust, and Stubhub certainly fits the bill. They also generally have reasonable prices and the fees don’t seem too crazy.

32. VividSeats 

I’ve also used VividSeats to purchase tickets to tennis tournaments and other events. Like Stubhub, many of the tickets you purchase are instantly downloadable which is very convenient. One time I was going to purchase US Open tickets but found out that I had to meet somebody within a couple mile radius of the Open, so make sure it says “instant download” or something to that effect if that’s what you are looking for.

33. Original Seller/Ticketmaster

Often, the original seller (i.e. will charge the least amount for tickets. This is because the individuals who offer tickets for resale generally want to sell their tickets for a profit (unless they are looking to get rid of them and don’t care about that). It depends so I would check both the original ticket seller and the reseller sites above to find the best deal. One thing to note is the prices from the original seller generally stay fixed, while reseller site prices fluctuate based on the market, weather forecast, and other variables. I noticed that US Open tickets for the second Sunday went down by $40 once news of Hurricane Hermine came out!

34. Groupon/Living Social 

Every once in a while, Groupon/Living Social will have a deal for tennis tickets. I’ve seen it for the Citi Open every once in a while, and its decent. So far, I’ve only seen tickets for tennis tournaments pop up close or during the event, so you probably can’t plan too far ahead. But definitely perform a quick search on discount sites like Groupon and Living Social to see if there are any deals.

35. USTA

The USTA (and other associations) will email you with a ticket deal or discount code every now and then. It is worth checking your email or performing a quick inbox search to see if you’ve received any messages about the tournament you’d like to attend. The USTA has offered a buy one get one free (weekday) and percentage off codes in the past, as have other organizations.

36. Your Company 

If you work for a company (most of us) or an organization, inquire whether they have any sort of deal with the local tournament near you. One place I worked for got free tickets to the Citi Open (Legg Mason at that time) and many times, people who get the tickets at your company can’t even attend. You’d be surprised how many companies purchase box seats at tournaments and get free tickets. One of them might be yours! It never hurts to ask! 🙂

Tennis Blogs37. 

In addition to having great online courses, Tomaz regularly puts together value-packed blog posts. A lot of his articles contain a relevant video, and he has a knack for explaining tennis concepts in easy to understand and helpful ways. Definitely worth a read!

38. Tennis Consult 

I have enjoyed reading the blog posts at Tennis Consult. Two of its contributing authors, Allistair McCaw and David Mullins were guests on The Tennis Files Podcast. I’ve read fantastic articles from Allistair, Dave, Todd Widom, Allen Fox, and others on the various facets of tennis. I highly recommend you check out the articles on Tennis Consult.


Another of the top online tennis instructors also has a great blog that will help you improve your game. Will also includes guest posts from tennis experts like Feisal Hassan.


I’m a fan of Jeff Rothschild’s unique and expert take on the nutritional and coaching side of tennis. From fighting the heat to preparation during rain delays, Jeff provides us with valuable insights on how we can get the best performance out of our bodies.

41. Tennis Files 

I truly believe that my tennis blog is one of the best out there for the simple reason that I am here to serve you. I always have my audience in mind when creating content, and it makes me really happy to hear how my articles and podcasts have helped your tennis games. There’s nothing I love more than giving out advice and having people play better tennis because of it.

I post an article and a podcast episode every week, and hope that my consistency and quality of my content (despite also having a full-time job, whew!) will benefit your game. Things always come back to you in spades when you give to others, so I don’t mind racking up the good karma 🙂

I hope you found my 41 Best Tennis Resources guide for tennis players helpful! I will keep this post updated with the latest tools and links.

[Note: some of the resources above include affiliate links, which means I receive a small commission if your make a purchase after clicking. Either way, thanks for checking them out!]

What’s your favorite tennis resource that has helped improve your tennis game? Tell us your favorite resource/category in the comments section!

And for more value-packed tennis tips, I’d love for you to download a copy of my free eBook, The Building Blocks of Tennis Success, by filling out the short form below!

4 13 Proven Ways to Find the Perfect Hitting Partner

13 Proven Ways to Find the Perfect Hitting Partner

Where are all the tennis players hiding?

Sometimes it can feel exasperating when you need a hitting partner but can’t find one. That’s why I made this comprehensive list of methods and resources to help you find the perfect hitting partner. If you still have trouble finding someone to play tennis with after trying everything on here, then it’s time to pack your bags and move from whatever tennis-hating city you currently live in. Here is a list of 13 resources and tools you can use to find the perfect hitting partner:

1. Ask Your Local Tennis Club

Ask to speak with a coach or director from your local tennis clubs. Let them know what your level of play is (beginner, intermediate, advanced, 2.5-5.0, etc), and that you are looking for a training partner. The staff-member will generally be delighted to have someone that their students can practice with. The coach may even ask you to hit in with the student during a lesson. Not too shabby!

2. Make Friends at Tournaments

Tournaments are a great place to find similar and higher-level players who you can train with. As with all things, it pays dividends to socialize and network when you aren’t playing or preparing for your matches. I have met a ton of my training partners through tournaments, simply by saying hi, complementing how they play, and exchanging phone numbers. This is my favorite place to find players, because they are all competing at a high-level and want to get better, just like I do.

3. Play USTA Leagues

Playing in the USTA leagues have been one of the best experiences in my tennis career. I have met tons of awesome people, practices with many of them, and traveled to great locations during the postseason. USTA Leagues are a bit more relaxed than normal tournaments, so it is an easy way to connect with people and find hitting partners. Simply by being on a team, you will have access (through team emails) to 10+ people at your rating-level that you can ask to play tennis with. Even though I am on the Board of Directors for my local county tennis association, which manages many USTA leagues, I’ve always loved the USTA Leagues for all the amazing people and great hitting partners I’ve found through them.

4. Join a Tennis Club/Clinic

If you can afford it, join a tennis club and/or enroll in a tennis clinic. Once you attend, you’ll instantly meet several tennis players who you can ask to train with. You’ll also be able to size them up (like you would be able to at tournaments and USTA league matches) beforehand to see whether they would be a good training partner for your goals.

5. Post Your Contact Info at the Courts

I’ve seen players stick a piece of paper with their contact information on the tennis court fence or on a bulletin board. The best bet here is to include several tearable (not to be confused with terrible!) slips of paper with your name and phone number and/or email. If you have any privacy concerns (use this at your own risk!), just include your first name and create a separate email address for this purpose. Normally at least a couple of these slips are taken from the posting. I just hope they aren’t telemarketers! 🙂

But Mehrban, I’m Shy and Don’t Want to Ask People to Hit in Person! Got Any Other Ideas?

Trouble Finding a Hitting Partner Laughing

You read this far and still can’t find a hitting partner? That’s hilarious! [Photo by: ataelwCC BY 2.0]

You are in luck, my friend! Like you, I am a child of the internet. An internet wizard, if you will. And the internet is amazing because there are a ton of resources and sites that will help you find tennis players to train with. All it takes is the click of a button or two. Here are the best online resources I’ve found to help you find hitting partners:

6. Join or Create a Facebook/Linkedin Tennis Group

Facebook and Linkedin groups are a great resource for finding like-minded tennis players and coaches. I am a member of the Competitive Tennis Coaches group on Facebook, which fosters a lot of great discussion. Several of my guests on The Tennis Files Podcast are also members of this group. An example of another great Facebook group with eager tennis players is Tennisopolis (also see #10 below). If you can find a local tennis group, you will have a solid number of people who you can connect and play tennis with. No group? Create one! And invite players to join! I’m sure they would be thrilled to be a part of your Facebook or Linkedin group, and you’ll be seen as the leader, which will probably make you more of a sought-after player. Boom! Tons of tennis partners right at your finger tips to connect and play with!!

7. Tennis Round

Tennis Round makes it easy to find players to hit with near your area. You can search TR’s player database according to skill level and send and receive text messages and emails to connect with other players for free. Other features on Tennis Round including reporting your scores, accumulating points, and seeing results of other players on the site. I have been contacted and have reached out to players with Tennis Round. Sometimes I’m a little hesitant when the player doesn’t have much of a profile and just a first name, so proceed at your own risk. Definitely worth a look!

8. Global Tennis Network

Global Tennis Network helps you connect with other tennis players, and even lets you search tennis courts around your area! You can find tennis leagues, ladders, and tournaments on the Global Tennis Network too. Another neat tool that you should check out if you want to find tennis partners over the internet.


Head over to PlayTennis to find a tennis partner by zip code. I tested this one out and noticed a couple players that I know on the search results list. Another decent resource for finding a hitting partner. On top of that, you can also find coaches, courts, programs (clinics), and even tennis stores at PlayTennis. To contact players, you need to sign up, which is free.

10. Tennisopolis

Tennisopolis currently has a network of over 51,000 tennis players around the globe. You can sign up and join its network for free to view the profiles of other members. From there, I think you’d be able to find a couple hitting partners! There are also over 750 tennis partner groups on Tennisopolis! For example, the VA/DC group on its homepage has 866 members! Hopefully one of the tennis partner groups is local to you. Join in on the fun and find a tennis partner at Tennisopolis!

11. Online Forums

The best tennis forums I’m aware of for finding tennis players include tt.tenniswarehousereddit (tennis), and Craigslist. Once you are signed up (free), you can post a thread asking to find a player to hit with. While you probably won’t have a clue who it is you are talking with, you may connect with and find a great training partner through online forums. Because of the anonymity, once again, proceed at your own risk! I have heard many people find hitting partners this way.

12. Pulse Play

Pulse Play is a new tennis smartwatch and app co-founded by multiple grand slam champion Andy Ram. I interviewed Andy on Episode 27 of The Tennis Files Podcast and he spoke about the features of Pulse Play. One of these features is the ability to find players to play tennis with. Once you create an account (free), you can search for players. The experience is a lot cooler and more seamless with the Pulse Play smartwatch (enter code TENNISFILES for an exclusive 15% off discount! – Note: this is an affiliate link), but I’d definitely also listen to the podcast episode and check out the app/information beforehand to make an informed decision. Definitely a cool product! Ah, the wonders of technology! 🙂

13. Smartphone Apps

If all else fails, search for tennis apps in your phone’s app store and see which of them work for you. A couple apps you may want to check out that I have seen are Tennis360Hub and RapidTennis. With advances in technology, a bunch of cool new ways have been created to find hitting partners. Most of the time, the good old-fashioned methods (#1-#5 above) will do. But if they don’t, or you want an alternative way to network, give the internet and smartphone app solutions a try!

There is one hitting partner that will always be there for you, doesn’t talk much, and is usually an easy find:

Tennis Wall

There’s no ball that this tennis partner can’t hit back. [Photo by: Pavel P.CC BY 2.0]

I hope that the resources and methods above help you find the perfect hitting partner! And remember, just because some of them seem foreign to you doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try them! If you can think of another effective way to find hitting partners that isn’t included here, let us know by writing it in the comments section below! Let’s make this the most comprehensive guide ever made for finding hitting partners! 🙂

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For more awesome tips on how to improve your tennis game, download my free eBook, The Building Blocks of Tennis Success, by filling out the short form below!


10 Reasons Why You Should Hire a Tennis Coach

A lot of tennis players don’t want to invest the money or the time to hire a coach. But this can be one of the biggest mistakes you are making in your tennis career. 

As a tennis player and coach, I have learned the immense value of having an expert help me improve my tennis game. When we want to learn a skill, the most efficient way is to hire someone to show us how to do it. If you are hesitant about getting a coach, or happen to be a coach that wants to prove to your students why they made the right choice, check out my top 10 reasons why you should hire a tennis coach below:

1. Accountability

Coaches who are passionate about seeing you succeed will hold you accountable if you aren’t giving your best effort towards improving your tennis game. Your coach will know that you haven’t been practicing your follow-through on your forehand that you learned last week, and whether you have been using the new footwork patterns that you promised to work on. A good tennis coach will constantly evaluate your game and give you feedback based on your progress or stagnation. If you aren’t up to standards, you not only have to answer to yourself, but you have a lot of explaining to do to your tennis coach.

2. Mentoring

One of the main roles of a tennis coach is to be a mentor. Coaches will teach you what you need to do to succeed, get you on the right mental path to success, and keep you motivated to train hard to reach your goals. When I spoke to Allistair McCaw, a recent guest on The Tennis Files Podcast and the world class trainer of Kevin Anderson, he said “Coaching is about serving others, being there for others, and putting others first.” One piece of advice I’ve heard over and over again (Think and Grow Rich – Napoleon Hill) is to get a mentor.

3. Spotting Mistakes That You Can’t See

Coaches will recognize flaws in your game that you wouldn’t have seen in a hundred years. Have you ever had a friend ask you why you did something that you had no idea you were ever doing? Good coaches are invaluable because through years of experience and training they can spot even the most minuscule technical flaws or strategic mistakes that hamper your progress. The next best thing to a coach is to video yourself playing. But even then, depending on your skill level, you may not be able to recognize when and what you are doing wrong.

4. Accelerating Your Improvement

Coaches will find flaws in your game and help you fix them quicker than you could by yourself. Most amateur players approach their tennis problems something like this: “My backhand sucks, but I don’t know how to fix it. Maybe I’ll watch Federer and copy his backhand!” A good tennis coach will look at your backhand and tell you specific instructions like “more shoulder turn, more knee bend, you aren’t following through correctly.” Sure it costs you some money, but wouldn’t you rather save the time and aggravation? If you visit a foreign country, do you try to figure out where everything is on your own, or do you ask someone for help?

5. Elevating Your Intensity

If we pay for something, we tend to take it more seriously. I don’t know about you, but when I finally convinced myself it was worth it to shell out $95 for one hour of tennis lessons with Li Na’s former coach, I told myself I’d better be damned sure to be as focused as possible. I wanted to soak up as much information as I could and laser etch that knowledge onto stones so that it would never be forgotten. When you pay for tennis lessons and know that a coach will consistently be evaluating your progress, you will elevate your intensity and concentration by leaps and bounds. If you can match that intensity in a regular hitting session with your training partner, then you are either an amazing person or a cyborg, because you will often have your most intense training sessions with your tennis coach.

6. Consistent Training

Hiring a tennis coach will provide you with consistent training sessions to improve your game.  If you set up recurring lessons with your coach, you’ll have a set schedule of tennis on your calendar to look forward to and prepare for. And since you have to practice what you learn in your lessons, you will have to set up more training sessions with partners or by yourself. This illustrates why hiring a tennis coach can be the catalyst for increasing your tennis training and ensuring that you are constantly working on your game.

7. Formulating Strategy

Formulating the right game plan before tennis matches can make a huge different in the outcome of your match. And who better to help you learn and create specific strategies for success than your coach? Good tennis coaches have a plethora of experience and knowledge about the strategic aspects of tennis. Even players with ugly strokes (a-la Winning Ugly by Brad Gilbert) can defeat more technically sound opponents with superior strategy. A coach will help you learn and implement point patterns and recognize when you should use them.

8. Motivation

Coaches can provide the inspiration you need to elevate your game. Sometimes we feel low on confidence or lost as to what to do next. Sessions with your coach can be the kick in the rear you need to get back on your saddle and start going full throttle again. A good coach will know what makes you tick and motivate you to succeed. There will be times when you need support and guidance from a more objective party other than your family and friends. This is where a coach can step in and make a huge impact on a player’s mental state and approach to the game.

9. Keeping it Real

Good coaches will be truthful and give you an honest assessment of your potential. You may think you are the next Andre Agassi. But your coach will be right there to point out all the things that Agassi did right that you’re doing wrong. Your coach can help you set SMART goals that are achievable and a bit outside of your comfort zone (for a free guide on how to set SMART Goalsclick here and fill out the form at the end of the article!). Coaches know your skill set, what you are capable of improving, and where you can realistically expect to be in your tennis career in the coming months and years. There’s nothing more helpful than to think you have an amazing forehand or rock solid serve, only to have a coach point out your flaws and help you make those shots even better come next match.

10. Investing in Your Game

The mere act of putting down hard-earned cash for a tennis lesson says something about you. It shows that you are serious about your tennis game and want to improve. You value the happiness and enjoyment out of playing a satisfying tennis session and match. Perhaps you are competitive. Or maybe you just like getting better. Whatever the reason, you have shown that you love tennis and want to get better at it. Otherwise you would have spent your money on a nice dinner or a fancy dress shirt. The act of investing time and money in your game is a powerful step in advancing your tennis career, and you have to do it if you want to maximize your tennis potential.

Money can be made, but an education is priceless.

How to Find the Right Coach for You

Much like #10 above, it will pay dividends to invest some time into finding the right coach for you. This means talking to other players and asking for recommendations and/or reviews, checking how the coach’s students have performed and improved since they started taking lessons with the coach, and figuring out the coach’s teaching style and whether they can adapt to your style of learning.

You can also ask your local tennis clubs for recommendations and get opinions about your choices on online forums. And check out Play Your Court, which is a platform/app that makes finding a good tennis coach really quick and easy. You just answer a couple questions and then PYC will match you with tennis coaches in a matter of minutes. You can book tennis lessons (affiliate link) with the instructor of your choice easily through the app. CourtPlay is another similar app which you can take a look at to find tennis coaches online.

Final Thoughts

Do your homework when selecting a tennis coach, dedicate yourself to listening and learning everything you can from your coach, and your game will improve enormously. You will have a mentor, instructor, strategist, technical expert, and motivational figure to figure out how to take your game to the next level. You can spend a ton of time trying to figure out what’s wrong with your game and fix it by yourself. Or you can hire someone to help you improve in a fraction of the time. The support and guidance that you will gain from hiring a coach will be well worth it.

For more tips on how you can improve your tennis game, get a free copy of my eBook: The Building Blocks of Tennis Success by subscribing to my free newsletter below!

1 smart goals tennis forehand clay

SMART Goal Setting For Tennis Players

According to research, only 8% of people accomplish their New Year’s Resolutions. Few people set goals, and even fewer accomplish them.

What’s all this goal-setting hubbub got to do with tennis? Many of us desperately want to become highly-skilled tennis players. We dream of winning big matches, striking winners in clutch situations, and hoisting shiny tennis trophies above our heads. But the next minute, we’ve opened a bag of corn chips and flipped the channel to reruns of Seinfeld.

The problem with most tennis players (and people in general) who want to improve is that they don’t set goals. And the rest that do don’t set smart goals. Anyone can tell themselves they want to be the best tennis player in the state and win big tournaments. But where do you go from there?

Chances are, you need to reevaluate the goals that you have set to make sure they include the criteria necessary to ensure that you will have the best chance to accomplish them.

The key, my tennis friends, is to set SMART Goals.

How Can SMART Goal-Setting Help Tennis Players?

Have you ever grabbed a piece of paper and sat down to write your goals, only to get back up and do something else after 15 minutes of confusion and an unused pencil? 

Setting the right goals that will maximize your tennis career and quality of life isn’t easy without knowing the right criteria. We’ve all set goals that have been too difficult to achieve, too broad, and that failed to advance our long-term goals. SMART goals are different. SMART goals ensure that we stay motivated and consistent so that we will accomplish them.

After reading the rest of this post, you will know how to set goals that give you direction, purpose, confidence, and a blueprint for success. SMART goals will tell you the precise actions and frequency you need to help you accomplish your goal. Without SMART goals, you’re swimming to an unknown island without a map.

What is a SMART Goal?

Your SMART goals must be:

1. Specific

You will optimize the chances of achieving your goals if you are as specific as possible when formulating them. Overly broad goals like “I want to increase my NTRP rating level” gives the player little direction to follow.

Compare that with the following goal: I will increase my NTRP rating by .5 in 1 year by practicing my serve three times a week for 1 hour a day by myself or with a coach to improve my serve.

Boom. Now that is a specific goal! The more specific, the better!

To help you make your goal as specific as possible, ask yourself these questions:

  • Who is involved?
  • What do you want to achieve?
  • When will you achieve it?
  • How will you achieve it?
  • Why do you want to achieve the goal?

Then answer those questions!  I recommend that you use a Mind Map to map out your answers. They are free to use and help you organize your thoughts and plan of action on your computer.

By formulating specific goals, we give ourselves a detailed roadmap that we can use to pursue consistent and purpose-driven tennis training.

2. Measurable

Make sure that you can measure success with your tennis goal. A lot of players set goals but have no way of knowing their progress.  If your goal is to become a better tennis player, that’s great. But how will you know that you’re improving?

For example, if you set a goal to increase your NTRP rating by .5 in one year, this is a measurable goal, because in one year, if all goes well, you will increase your NTRP rating. But this goal is still a little too broad. We can do better.

A goal like “I will practice my kick serve every day before school so that I can hit 10 kick serves in a row in 3 weeks” is another example of a very specific goal. This type of goal is clearly measurable because you will know whether you accomplished your goal by whether you can hit 10 kick serves in a row in 21 days.  That’s the type of goal you want to set, because it will further your longer term goals like increasing your NTRP level.

3. Attainable

You have to be realistic with yourself when setting SMART goals. There is a delicate balance between being realistic and detrimentally ambitious. You should always push yourself to achieve things which are out of your comfort zone. At the same time, many fail to take into consideration several important variables, such as:

  • Time
  • Effort
  • Cost
  • Relationships

Remember, aim for the stars and you will reach the moon. But if you aim for the stars with a bow and arrow and a $5 bill, you might want to consider trying to reach the top of a mountain first.  You probably won’t be able to turn pro if you are almost 30 and just started playing tennis, but aiming to win a sectional tournament (be more specific than this!) may be the challenge you need to get your game to the next level.

4. Relevant

Your goals must be relevant to your long-term aspirations. Setting a goal to hit 10 kick serves in a row in three weeks will improve your chances of increasing your NTRP ranking, so this goal meets the relevancy criteria. By contrast, mastering a tennis skill like the tweener probably makes little sense for your long-term tennis goals.

You will reach your long-term goals in the least amount of time necessary if you align your short-term goals with what you want to become several years down the road. This ultimately means that you should set tennis goals to improve whatever skill in your tennis game that will give you the biggest return on investment (aka ROI). For most of you this will mean working on your serve. For many others, it may be improving your footwork or forming a consistent practice routine. The possibilities are endless, so choose a goal that will best further your long-term goals.

5. Timely

You should attach a definite time period to your goal. In the example above about increasing your NTRP ranking by .5, we attached a one-year time period.

Last week, I wrote about how to crush your goals with a sense of urgency. One of the key principles I mentioned in that post was Parkinson’s Law: “Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.”

When you set a goal, if you don’t attach a time period to accomplish it, then nine times out of ten you will relax and do something else because there is no due date. But when we attach a reasonable time period to our goal and understand what drives us to accomplish that goal, we end up maximizing our focus and effort-level. Attaching a time period ensures that we stay motivated, and apply consistent, purpose-driven action towards reaching our goals.

Examples of SMART Tennis Goals

-I will increase my NTRP rating by .5 in 1 year by practicing my serve three times a week for 1 hour a day by myself or with a coach to improve my serve consistency.

-I will practice my serve for 45 minutes a day every morning to improve my second serve. My goal is to be able to hit 10 kick serves in a row in 3 weeks.

-I will improve my hydration for the summer by drinking 8 glasses of water a day for the next two months; 4 glasses by noon and another 4 before bed.

Remember: make sure that your goal is as specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and timely as possible! Then the path to accomplishing your goal will be clearly defined.

Short versus Long-Term Goals

You should utilize both short and long-term goals to ensure success.

The best thing you can do for your tennis career and life is to first figure out where you want to be in the long-term. For example, think about where you want your tennis game and skill level to be in the next 5 years. Analyze what you need to work on to get there. Then create smaller, short-term goals to help you reach your long-term goal.

Let’s say you are currently a 3.0 player, and your long-term goal is to become a 4.5 player. In order to reach the 4.5 level, set SMART short-term goals that are directed towards improving certain elements of your game that will yield the greatest ROI so that you will get to the 4.5 level in the least amount of time possible.

Resources I Use to Set and Accomplish SMART Goals

Mind Meister  – Free mind maps to chart out the steps you need to take to reach your goals. Click here to learn more about mind maps, and here to get started creating them!

Trello – Another awesome free tool to organize your workflow and progression on projects and tasks. I use this to ensure my blog posts, podcasts, and tennis training gets done on time! You can add notes, checklists, attachments, and even pictures to your entries too!

Freedom Journal – The Freedom Journal helps you reach your goal in 100 days. I write in this journal every day and night to keep me focused on writing every single day in the morning. Check it out here on amazon!

Google Calendar – Just open up google calendar through your gmail account or the interwebs and schedule all your appointments and alarms to help keep you working towards accomplishing your goals!

Cell Phone Alarm – Set a reoccurring alarm or calendar appointment, and once your phone rings, go forth and conquer! Perhaps this phone will suit your needs 😛

Final Thoughts

Use SMART goals to take your tennis game and life to the next level.

Every action is driven by thought, and it is up to you to figure out what goals you need to set and accomplish to become the tennis player and person that you’ve always wanted to be.

Think big, make your goals specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and timely, and you will be amazed by how much success you can have in life.

To download your free guide on How to Set SMART Goals for Tennis Players, subscribe to my newsletter below!

4 Crush Your Goals Sense with a Sense of Urgency

How to Crush Your Goals with a Sense of Urgency

A couple days ago, I looked back on all of my biggest accomplishments. I wondered what made those times different from many other moments in my life, when I took the easy road, pursued temporary instead of long-lasting pleasures, and kept putting tasks off until the next day.

I remembered the two weeks before 2012 sectionals, when I did sprints up and down my parents’ driveway every single morning, court conditioning in the evenings, and trained as hard as I could to help my team win and get to nationals. And those long summer nights preparing for the bar exam, when I left the law school library and headed straight to Starbucks to study my review books for a couple more hours.

I kept telling myself that I had to keep studying, because I never wanted to take the bar exam again. And I trained hard everyday before sectionals because I didn’t want to let my team down.

I prepared so intensely for those events in my life, and ended up going undefeated at sectionals (4-0 in singles), and passed the bar exam on my first attempt. But why was I able to achieve these results one moment, and not bring myself to finish a simple task like writing a two-sentence email the next?

Then it hit me. I realized the presence of an emotion that has helped me, and countless others, endure hours of hard work, preparation, and anything else it takes to perform at our best, without hesitation. It is the sense of urgency.

Below, I examine why the physiological and mental effects of the sense of urgency makes it one of the most powerful tools that mankind has to push it toward accomplishing goals, from the simplest to the most monumental.

The Power of the Sense of Urgency

A sense of urgency is a very powerful emotional motivation that translates into increased focus and optimal decision-making. Take a look at these two examples:

(1) “My tournament is 3 weeks away, so I better start training as hard as I can right now, otherwise I will not win the tournament.”

(2) “My tournament is 3 weeks away: I have plenty of time to practice, so I can relax today and will find someone to train with tomorrow.”

In example one, the player feels a sense of urgency that while she rests, someone else is out there training. The player knows that she needs to do everything she can to improve and be at the top of her game, otherwise she will lose. The player in example two does not feel a sense of urgency, so he does not have the same drive and motivation as player one. As a result, his preparation is suboptimal, and he will not perform his best when it counts.

Success is largely driven by a person’s sense of urgency. If you think that accomplishing something is vitally important, then come hell or high-water, you will find a way to get over any obstacles in your path to reach your goal.

Some common sense of urgency thought processes are as follows:

(1) If I don’t train my hardest, someone out there will train harder than me and beat me.

(2) If I don’t give it my all, I will let my team down.

(3) If i don’t study diligently, I will fail my exam.

(4) My family has poured a lot of time and effort into my tennis and education. If I don’t do my best, I will disappoint them.

(5) I want to be the best tennis player in the world, and I can’t do this without giving it everything I have.

Can you see how the sense of urgency thoughts above can drive you to perform your best?

How Does a Sense of Urgency Help You Crush Your Goals?

1. It Motivates You to Perform

What better motivation is there than to tell your mind and body that accomplishing your goal is critical?  I liken the effect of a sense of urgency to “fight or flight” syndrome. Physiologically, you feel an increase in energy, your mental focus, and your determination to accomplish your goal. There is no time for laziness. There is no time to relax. There is only time to put in 110% because there is no other choice. You either perform or face the unimaginable consequences of failure.

2. It Makes You Focused and Consistent

The key to achieving a goal is motivation + consistency. As Jim Ryun says, “Motivation is what gets you started. Habit is what keeps you going.” There’s been so many times where I’ve gotten pumped to do something but never followed through with it. When you attach a sense of urgency to a goal, then you have to follow through. Accomplishing your goal becomes critical to your existence. You make it your first priority from the moment that you wake up to when you go to bed at night, and up until the job is done.

3. It Attaches Negative Consequences

Perhaps the most powerful aspect of the sense of urgency is that it attaches negative consequences to your inaction. If I don’t train hard and think to myself “who cares, I can just train tomorrow!” then I will relax because no negative consequences, in my mind, will come to fruition.

However, once you attach a sense of urgency to non-action, that is when you realize that there are negative consequences if you do not follow through with the optimal choice for that situation. This thought is extremely powerful. It tells our mind and body that it is critical for us to take action. We can all use the sense of urgency and negative consequences to our advantage.

Legendary athletes like Michael Jordan and Lebron James have undoubtedly used the following sense of urgency reasons and corresponding negative consequences to motivate them: “If I don’t train my hardest, I will never become the greatest basketball player ever” and “If I don’t give it my all, I will let my team and the city of Chicago/Cleveland down.” This makes a monumental difference in the effort level and preparation for these athletes.

Parkinson’s Law


Parkinson’s law directly relates to the sense of urgency concept because when you attach a time-restraint on your goal, you will increase or decrease your intensity and effort-level according to the period of time you allot to accomplish it.

For example, if I set a goal to hit 10 good kick serves in a row in 7 days, this short time period fosters a sense of urgency in me, and you bet your whip and buggy (do they still make those?) that I will be on the court every single day practicing my kick serve intensely to reach my goal.

Now what happens if I set a goal to hit 10 kick serves in a row in 3 months? I won’t feel the same sense of urgency to accomplish this goal because of the long time-period allotted, and will probably practice something else until it gets closer to the 3 month deadline before I practice my kick serves more intensely.

Do you see the difference? My intensity, frequency of training, and focus changes dramatically according to the time I designate to accomplish my goal. In the first instance, I set my goal to happen in 7 days, so I’m out practicing every day. In the latter case, I have 3 months, so I don’t practice with the same intensity and sense of urgency. The work expands to fit the time available for its completion.

Parkinson’s law illustrates that the sense of urgency greatly increases our work output and intensity in large part because we attach a deadline by which we have to accomplish our goal. I don’t know about you, but in school I usually felt in the zone a week or couple days before the exam, not a month out!

The time period you choose for your goal should be realistic but not too long, because you are capable of accomplishing tough tasks in less time than you give yourself credit for. You can increase your chances of accomplishing your goals if you attach a reasonable time-period to complete them.

How to Use a Sense of Urgency to Crush Your Goals

Follow the 3 steps below, and you will experience a huge increase in your performance and crush your goals:

(1) Write down your top 3 short-term goals in tennis and/or life (too many and you will won’t be able to accomplish any of them), and attach a reasonable time-period for accomplishing that goal.

(2) For each of your goals, write down why it is critical to you that you succeed in accomplishing that goal.

In other words, I want you to attach a sense of urgency reason to your goal.

Here is a list of common SOURs you can use:

If I don’t succeed with this priority, then:

  1. I will live the rest of my life with regret
  2. I will let down my family and friends who have supported me emotionally and financially
  3. I will fail to live up to my potential
  4. I will not become the best tennis player that I can be
  5. No one will respect me
  6. I will let my team down 
  7. I will not accomplish what I want to so badly in life

(3) Think about the negative consequences of not accomplishing your goal (the sense of urgency reason, aka SOUR) and let that feeling sink in. Imagine yourself failing at the task and the negative emotions that you will feel. Then commit to doing everything you can to prevent this terrible feeling (aka feeling SOUR) from happening.

Example: In 3 weeks, I want to develop a consistent and reliable kick serve. If I don’t accomplish this goal now, I will never become the complete player that I’ve always wanted to be, and my chances of winning the tournament next month against top-level players will be slim to none. It will feel awful not to have a good kick serve knowing that I am very capable of having one if I just put the work in. I will lose a lot more matches without one, and I can’t let that happen. Result: 3 weeks of motivated, consistent hard work and a great kick serve.

A word of caution: As I and many of my podcast guests have mentioned, when you are actually playing a match or performing the action which you have prepared for, you must focus on the process. In other words, if you think about your sense of urgency reason during a match or when you are trying to accomplish a task, it can distract you.

For example, if you know you need to do on-court conditioning but feel lazy, that is the time you need to remember your sense of urgency reason. Repeating how you will disappoint your family if you lose at 6-all in the tiebreak of your match will probably not keep you very calm and focused during the point.

The key here is to use your sense of urgency reason to motivate you and foster a persistent feeling in your mind and body that you must accomplish your goal, optimize your performance, and succeed, because if you don’t there are hugely negative consequences that you must avoid at all costs.

Remember the acronym SOUR: if you don’t attach a Sense Of Urgency Reason to your goal, then you won’t achieve it and will end up feeling SOUR!

What If I Do My Best and Don’t Reach my Goal?

Easy answer here: you should be proud of yourself. If you wrote down a time-bound goal that is important to you, attached a sense of urgency reason, used it to prepare like you’ve never prepared before, and you came up short, this is an amazing thing. Because you will have performed so much better and accomplished so much more than if you had not given it your best.  The solution is to get back up and go for your goal again. As Julie Andrews said, “Perseverance is failing 19 times and succeeding the 20th.”

Obviously, we are all hoping you don’t have to fail 19 times first, but if you need to, so be it. Keep analyzing why you failed, what in your preparation and processes you can tweak to perform better next time, and when you finally reach your goal, it will be extra sweet.

For more tips to improve your tennis game, get a free copy of my eBook: The Building Blocks of Tennis Success by subscribing to my free newsletter below!

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