David W. Smith, Senior Editor TennisOne
If you were surrounded by a thousand people and nine hundred of them, like yourself, could only speak one language, then you probably would consider yourself an average linguist. However, would you consider the ten percent of the people, who could speak at least one other language, gifted human beings? Of course not. You would, most likely, consider those people who took the time to master a second language as having the desire to pursue that skill; not a suggestion that they are the only ones capable of speaking more than one language or that any one of the other nine hundred people were incapable of adding a second language to their communication abilities.
Yet when discussing tennis with people all over the world, the perception often is that advanced tennis is only achievable by a select group of "gifted" individuals. On one tennis forum, I read a passage like this: “90% of the people in this forum will never become advanced tennis players.”
My response was this: ď90% of the people could become advanced tennis players.Ē From my experience in teaching individuals as well as coaching literally thousands of players, from high school aged juniors, to seniors in their 80ís, I have found that at least 90% of those who decide to play tennis can indeed reach levels associated with advanced play. And yet, if we look at the vast majority of tennis players, less than 15% reach the 4.5 level and less than 10% get to 5.0. So, it is easy to see where people presume that 90% of any tennis-playing public can't reach advanced levels of play.
This perception made me think of the reasons why someone would label so many people as incapable of reaching higher levels. And, why would my perception of the potential of individuals be 180 degrees in the opposite opinion?
Perception of Performance
Since so many people are of this opinion I started looking at the excuses that people make for themselves to set in motion this self-fulfilling prophesy. Here's what I came up with:
- They started too late.
- They are not athletic enough.
- They enjoy the social play at the levels they are currently at and donít care to improve.
- They are too old.
- They believe that advanced play requires advanced hand-eye coordination or quickness or great anticipation.
There are probably many more excuses than these; however, my thoughts were not focused on what the excuses are, but what influenced a player to create a particular excuse or perception of limited ability.
Obviously, perceptions are formed from experience and it is through our experiences that we create the perceptions of our limitations. On a side-note, other experiences can produce confidence, cockiness, and even arrogance! However, once a perception is ingrained, it is often very difficult to change. So, if experiences are the root of either limitations or confidence, what kind of experiences are contributors to one or the other?
In watching many thousands of players in competitive environments, it is obvious that the players who play at lower levels donít have the same stroke patterns, footwork patterns, and strategic understandings that are observable among players at higher levels. Yet, these lower level players have plenty of hand-eye coordination, enough foot-speed and mobility, and are able to swing the racquet with enough speed to impart ample pace and spin to most shots.
Certainly, playing tennis with friends and regular hitting partners brings a sense of enjoyment. There is absolutely nothing wrong with wanting to play at the same level with these people. Yet I find it amusing that each player in any social match still wants to play well and win. Those people who use the excuse that they want to stay at a certain level because of the social element seems at odds then. (As if the act of improvement would suddenly dissolve any and all relationships!)
If anything, when students improve, they seek out additional players to compete with, enlarging their social circle of tennis players. I wonít deny that some players may get jealous of a player who improves dramatically and may be intimidated by that playerís new skills and abilities. However, in most cases, an improved player is able to make rallies more interesting, last longer, and create success for any given partner. We almost always hear about players who others love to be partnered with. However, there are many inferior players who almost no one wants to be stuck with as a partner! Which partner are you?
Bottom Line: The Good News
In reality, if you are reading this newsletter or if you are a subscriber to TennisOne, then you really would like to improve. And, as I have shown, there really is no excuse for you not to seek higher levels of play nor should you expect to fail at reaching those levels.
Bottom Line: The Bad News
If you have been playing tennis for a long time at the same level there is no quick fix or simple, secret procedure that you can do to play better. You need to change elements of your game; maybe not all elements, but some. Ask yourself these questions: Do you have an effective, offensive second serve? Can you volley from all parts of the court including angle volleys and, high and low volleys from deep in your own court? Do you have a repeatable swing pattern on groundstrokes? Do you know where the optimal places are to hit in singles and doubles?
Very few of us will ever be able to hit the big forehand like Fernando Gonzalez, but most of us have the ability to advance to higher levels.
If you answer yes to all of these, then chances are you not only are a skilled player already, you have the game to play more competitive tennis as you improve the aim of these advanced strokes. However, if you are uncomfortable with certain shots, if you are inconsistent or unable to perform each of these advanced stroke and strategy patterns, if you donít understand advanced strategies and how certain shots prevent or improve your chance of winning or losing a point, then you will need to seek ways to improve them. This usually involves some element of change, and this is where more bad news comes in.
Change is difficult. This is why I teach beginners the “Advanced Foundation”—a method of learning that does not require change for players as they advance. But for those who have been playing for years, your task will be to find what parts of your stroke or game needs to be changed, how to change it, employ tools to practice it in many settings, and engage the changes in competition for a sustained period of time.
Good news: this can be done!
If it is more comfortable to stay at the level you than it is to make changes in your game, then I have already supplied several excuses you.
For the rest of you, stay tuned! I will be outlining a specific program in coming months to help you successfully make the changes you need to advance.
(Click link to purchase Dave Smith's Book Tennis Mastery, at tenniswarehouse.com.)
As always, we would love to hear from you! Questions, comments, personal experiences all create helpful dialogue for everyone! Please click here to send us your email.
Training an 8-Year Old: Part 2
In his continuing series on the training of an 8-year-old (his daughter, Kyla), over the course of this year, Dave Smith outlines initial training patterns and the philosophy behind each. In addition, he discusses Kyla’s perception of tennis and how she is relating to the developmental processes she is going through. This is an excellent primer that can be adapted to any child.
Forget the Strokes, Move Your Feet!
Since the sport was invented, tennis players of all ages and levels have been in search of the perfect stroke. We read about the Agassi forehand and gobble up the information like a hungry child and then rush to the courts to work on our new stroke. Yet contrary to popular opinion, Greg Moran insists tennis is not a "hitting" game, but rather a "moving" game and one must react quickly in order to respond to a moving object. Thus, a tennis player’s number one priority should be getting into the proper position at the proper time, not refining "classic" stroking motions.
Australian Open - All About the Second Serve
As Roger Federer and Serena Williams swept to victory, both matches were ruled by the serve. In the men's final, Gonzalez served reasonably well, but was unable to do anything against Federer's delivery. In the women's lopsided final, Serena served extremely well, but Maria had recurring problems with her delivery, and paid dearly. Jim McLennan analyzes the match through the tale of the tape.
ProStrokes Gallery: Mary Pierce's Serve
At 32, Mary Pierce is still a threat on all surfaces. She owns two Grand Slam titles, the 1995 Australian Open and Roland Garros in 2000. But this big hitter is still in the game, having reached the finals of Roland Garros and the US Open in 2005. 2006 was interrupted with injuries to her right foot, and right ankle early in the season, followed by a shoulder strain and left knee injury as the year concluded. Trained by Nick Bollitieri, Mary hits big off both wings, and will be dangerous in 2007 if healthy. New for this issue, the Pierce serve.
The Etcheberry Experience DVD
For more than twenty years Pat Etcheberry has been providing athletes from around the world with the winning edge. We call this the Etcheberry Experience, and players with an Etcheberry experience have hoisted Championship Trophies at over one hundred major championships, including 28 Australian Opens, 18 Wimbledons, 22 UP Opens, 22 French Opens and 15 Olympic medals.
And now it's your turn! This is your chance to experience the same drills, exercises and words of tennis wisdom that Pat gave to Pete Sampras, Andre Agassi, Jennifer Capriati, Martina Hingis, Jim Courier, Justine Henin-Hardenne, and others, that helped launch them on their incredible careers. For the first time, Pat Etcheberry shares his training secrets in a series of DVDs for players of all ages, their coaches, and trainers.
If you wish to be removed from our newsletter list, please send an email to email@example.com and leave the subject line blank. A confirmation email will be sent to you, and you will be removed from our newsletter list once you reply to that confirmation.
Copyright Notice: The contents of the TennisONE web site and contents forwarded to you by TennisONE are intended for your personal, noncommercial use. Republishing of TennisONE content in any way, including framing or posting of these materials on other Web sites, is strictly prohibited. See our full copyright statement