November 3, 2017
Find a successful tennis player and they often describe a long process rather than a sudden "epiphany" that was the reason for their success. So it is no wonder that there are so few successful tennis players out there. The obsession for instant fixes and promises of easy transformations plague the advertising industry. It's hard to blame them for delivering false promises of easily acquired tennis skills. If they would say that their method would be tedious, time consuming and does not guarantee success, they would probably be out of business. Unfortunately, that is what it takes to keep improving your game. So instead of getting into the habits that allow us to get to that point, let's dive into why it's so hard to keep these habits in the first place. Then maybe we can see the obstacles to our improvement before they come into view. We will then look at habits that you can acquire on and off the court to improve your game.
Don't Confuse Goals With Habits
James Clear recently wrote about how people often confuse goals with habits. This often happens due to the fact that goals are a lot more fun to talk about than habits. Who doesn't want to envision the end product of hard work rather than focusing on the hard work itself? This fogs our view of what all the sacrifices are needed to achieve those goals. Many of us got on the court dedicated to improving their game after seeing Federer do it in this past season. The problem is that this goal cannot be reached without the necessary habits to get there. So how can we focus on the little things that matter?
Plant The Right Seed
BJ Fogg, a professor at Stanford and founder of "Tiny Habits," says; "If you plant the right seed in the right spot, it will grow without further coaxing." The main idea is to incorporate habits into your game that can become effortless rather than resented and eventually neglected. Let's take a look at a few ideas that will help you on and off the court.
On The Court Habits
There is a reason why Nadal (See below) has his quirky routines. It keeps him in the same mental state between every point which keeps him unfazed from what his opponent is doing and also gives him the best chance of playing the next point to the best of his ability. Many recreational players miss this golden opportunity to improving their game. The fact that anyone can set up habits for their matches makes this the "low hanging fruit" of increasing one's tennis performance. Brad Gilbert touches on this in his book "Winning Ugly" by saying that too many players walk right up to the baseline to serve rather than going to the back fence and finding a moment of clarity before their next point. It takes a lot of discipline at first but once you can establish your on court habits you will notice how much more focused you can become in your matches.
Off The Court Habits Ultimate Filter
This is the route of all player's successes. What are the things that a tennis player does on a daily basis gives them either the strengths or weaknesses that they will have on the court during their matches. Instead of thinking about all the things that you need to do on a daily basis to be a good tennis player (or for that matter, a good husband, wife, coworker, etc), envision the player you want to become and use that as a reference guide for what decisions you should make. For example, if you have a big match tomorrow, what are the things a winning player would do at that moment to prepare for that match? Those constant questions can guide you to the right actions and make life a lot simpler to navigate through as you try to set a foundation of habits that will be your guide to a more improved version of you!
A Video To Check Out
Here's a video that is a simple yet effective drill to increasing racquet head speed on the forehand side. Check it out!