How to Improve Your Game

Why do some players seem to never improve or improve at such a slow rate?

Why do some players reach high levels of skilled play while others, even those who practice with equal determination, fail to reach such levels? 

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These questions MUST be answered by all who wish to achieve skilled play.

Bad technique is the number one reason why players do not improve yet desire to do so.  Or said in a positive manner, learning good technique is the fastest way to improve your tennis.  Technique is defined as ball striking and movement.

One must always evaluate one's technique. You can only improve your strokes if you consciously focus on them.

  • Does a player know there are flaws in his or her technique?
  • Does a player compare their technique to an appropriate model of efficient technique?
  • Does the player have access to the right information and has the player accepted this information and made a commitment to working on their technique? 

Unfortunately I see a lot of people (players, parents, coaches, Associations) wanting the 'wins' now.  Winning means ranking points, ranking points means invitations to certain events. However, when one plays with a 'primary' focus to 'win now' you sacrifice and sabotage your long term development.  Why, because you manipulate your game to 'win now' and don't develop all your tools, then later in life you don't have the tools you need to compete at the higher levels.  The focus 'now' should be on development and steady incremental progress.  The focus 'now' should be on doing things that contribute towards your long term goals.  (read more about 'Get Goals' or 'Growth Goals' here.

Have you ever wondered if it is helpful or hurtful to have more than one coach for your child?  Click here.

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Far too many players do not assess their techniques and so do not make the decision to improve with action steps and intention.  Some because of low desire, some because of bad information, bad coaching or a lack of structured practice.  

Years can go by and if your child is not taught the sound fundamentals of tennis during this time and if a long term development plan was not created nor put in place your child will become neurologically hard-wired with poor technique and limited tactical options. 

This is why players stagnate and limit their improvement—and ultimately, limit their potential, because of ineffective patterns and techniques.

Through this unfortunate process both players and parents can become frustrated. Simply put, the child is not getting better. At this point frustration can be misdiagnosed as burn out. It is not easy to learn that not only have you been doing something wrong...but that you have been doing it wrong for a long time and may have paid a lot of money for such instruction! They have hit a wall because a proper foundation for development was not put in place.

A proper foundation for devepment comes from a systematic, focused path of improvement—a focused practice of skills that must be mastered. This information and skills which are required for mastery must be broken down and learned in “chunks,” or sections, and these chunks must be practiced in a progression from beginning level to advanced level.  Following this way of learning means mastery of these strokes—and of the game—will be your future!

Tennis is about the acquisition of skills. Find a coach who can teach skills and has plans for long term development and stay the course with him or her.  

Once a player has experienced proper technique through good coaching and they hit reliable and repeatable shots they do tend to get very motivated with the results! And this overflows to continue working on the shot and other shots.

It is a wonderful feeling when you get to the stage where you can hit a great shot without even thinking about it!  But what most people forget is that the players who have this ability usually worked really hard for it for a long period of time with proper coaching!

So developing a fundamentally sound game takes time but unfortunately many players and parents have a ‘fast food, instant gratification, I want it and I want it now’ attitude.  Players who want to be successful must understand that success is incremental.  Becoming an accomplished player is a marathon not a sprint. It takes a decade of thousands of hours just to become a college level player. But many junior players and parents want to find a shortcut.  

Some may think that one improves merely by playing against better players.   John Wooden, the legendary basketball coach once said, 'don’t mistake activity for learning’. Some parents and players may call a drill session a great lesson especially if it is fun.  However for it to be a lesson, learning has to take place.

As Vic Braden has said, "you want the learner to be an independent thinker. Learning is only taking place when a child misses a shot and he or she knows why the shot was missed."

However, any technique can be mastered with the right amount of effort, practice, concentration and dedication.

Our classes are offered to students who want this kind of long term relationship with a coach.

  1. Have you made the decision to start working on technique?
  2. Are you coachable?  
  3. Are you willing to pay attention to what your coach is saying?  
  4. Do you really try to understand and ask the right questions if you don't understand? 
  5. Do you take the material taught and try to sync it in your memory, even writing down notes? 
  6. Do you work on it on your own time and come back ready to apply it in the next lesson so that each lesson is a progression?

Since your last lesson:

  1. Have you consciously and deliberately practiced what was taught?
  2. Have you evaluated your position in the mirror or with video on each of the checkpoints?
  3. Have you shadow practiced without a racquet?
  4. Have you shadow practiced with a racquet?
  5. Have you mentally rehearsed the technique?
  6. Have you performed each of these steps hundreds of times during the last four weeks?
  7. After the four weeks, can you confidently say that you're well on your way to mastering this stroke?

If yes, then you are a Goal Oriented Tennis athlete.

© GreatBase Tennis School of Wake Forest  2011