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The 80% Rule

March 11, 2017

After reading Richard Koch's theory of the 80/20 rule, I have found that we can apply this in tennis in different aspects of our practices that will help us improve our game.

Let's take a look.

The most obvious connection with this rule and tennis is the act of over thinking that is done with tennis. There is an unlimited amount of videos telling you how this one tip will bring your game to the next level yet it seems like we use these videos for "quick fixes" rather than seeing the big picture. If you truly analyze your game (find someone a lot better than you and you will understand what I mean as they will expose your weaknesses right away) you will notice that there will not be 100 things to fix but rather a few that take precedent. For example, if you feel like your opponent is consistently putting you on the run on every point, there is a high chance that your serve and return are liabilities. Rather than working on depth in your ground strokes, starting the point off on your terms with a strong serve and return would make a much more significant difference. Try to think that focusing on 20% of your game will improve 80% of your performance. This is, what I like to say, "efficient and effective."

Another problem with our practices is rooted with the how tennis much technique is embedded into the sport. We tend to obsess over the perfect forehand or serve rather than having the fundamentals and focusing on competing. There is a difference between looking good during matches and actually winning them.

Here's a way to look at it:

Notice as as you practice you start to see improvement up until the progress slows down to a point where your time can be used on other aspects of your game.

This relates to being a "jack of all trades, master of none." The time it takes to become a master in any stroke in tennis does not benefit you as much as ensuring that all of your strokes are strong enough to endure any pressure from your opponent to expose them.

So the take away from this is two things:

First, for future practices, think about the smallest amount of things to work on that will allow the biggest impact.

Second, take the time to be good at all your shots but the time it takes to master them is not worth it unless you have gotten to the point where you are strong in all your strokes (which is hardly the case for most people).

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