Adam Blicher is someone I quickly admired before I even thought about asking him for an interview. In the quest for knowledge for my upcoming book, I looked to his podcasts on interviews with experts on tennis. I highly recommend you check them out! Adam presently lives in Denmark so our Skype interview was a bit more special knowing that I’m communicating with someone on the other side of the world working on the very same things I am: a base of knowledge on tennis to help others increase their performance. I hope the information I acquired from our talk helps you out with your own quest in teaching yourself tennis!
Adam’s Speciality is soft skills in tennis. He likes to call it “helping people make better choices under perceived pressure.” Within that, he has specific goals for his players that include:
The players that he works with thrive as human beings.
They develop on and off the court.
They perform better under pressure.
To accomplish these goals, he works with each player in identifying limiting beliefs and through that, develop their self-awareness. He also helps his players in creating realistic expectations and develop strategies for various situations on court. His tips are practical for any level and should be taken seriously with your training. Let’s dive in!
Tip #1: High Expectation Are the Enemy
Having too high expectations can hurt your happiness, your development, your performance and your overall well-being. This is a common reaction among tennis players. We have a great performance in a lesson, drill or even a match so we come out to the court with high expectations to be met regarding how well we will play. Adam warns us that this can be a detriment to our ability to play well as expectations transpire to disappointment. The chances of playing well is slim due to the complexities of the sport. There is a high degree of difficulty in learning a skilled sport like tennis. It will be rare for all of the elements of performing well to come together at once. To put it simply: don't measure yourself against your best ever level on a daily basis. With unrealistic goals, there is added pressure to perform and a higher chance that you will get emotional over the poor performance (more on this later). I remember Taylor Dent talking about this in a workshop with his players. When a player performs well in a tournament there is almost always a drop off in performance the next week as they expect to play just as well as they did previously. Let go of those expectations and watch your game improve!
Tip #2: Questions To Consider
Teaching yourself tennis is a very differentiated task as each player has different needs. Adam realizes this and urges you to ask yourself a few questions to allow you to have the right path towards improving your game:
What are your strengths? It’s important to know what you’re good at. If you have a big serve, make sure you are practicing it daily so you can rely on it during big points. Is speed your ally? Consider working on topspin and consistent play as you are probably good at getting to more balls than your opponents.
When stressed where is your focus? Being perceptive of your focus is important when you are facing difficult moments in the match. If you direct your focus towards your inner state, then you will have no focus left to actually execute your game plan and your shots. When players try to fight their inner state and change it, that is when Adam believes a player will most likely choke. Adam continues to say, “if the same person instead is told that actually it's super natural to feel worried, stressed out, be thinking negative and the real purpose is to shine back the shining torch (your focus) to the game plan and actually executing your shots, then the person has a shot a performing under peak pressure even when thoughts and emotions are going crazy inside.”
What do you focus on during the point? Besides preparing yourself for big moments in your matches, what is your focus point while hitting? Scientifically we know that external cues are better than internal cues when athletes are under perceived pressure. E.g. It's better to think about net clearance than finishing with the elbow high at then end for a forehand. Remember you can’t lose focus but rather lose focus on the right things to focus on. Don't get stressed out if you feel like your focus is oftentimes shining the result or your internal state. Remember that it's much more important to be able to refocus than keeping your focus. No-one can focus for an entire practice or match, but the very best players are better at consistently refocusing when they are disturbed either by themselves or something outside of them. As a result of that ability it looks like they are dialed in and focused all the way through."
Tip #3: Prepare To Lose To Win
What is the average percentage of points won for a professional to win a grand slam? Adam quotes an average of about 56%. That means a player who wins a grand slam fails 46% of the time. This can be quite frustrating if you are not understanding how difficult it is to win a lot of points in a match. In other words: have a tolerance for failure. Adam gives an example of a player who wins the first two points of a game and then misses an easy forehand. The player immediately flips out on the miss instead of understanding that he has won 2 out of 3 points. A 67% winning percentage will get you to win any match! Having that type of mindset can get you through a lot of tight matches.
Tip #4: Be Social
To improve your tennis game it is important to network and connect with others of your ability to have a group of players to hit with or even join a league with. This comradery allows you to not feel so isolated in your quest for improvement and also get help with your training. Try to find players through the USTA website or local clubs. The more players you know the better chance to improving your game!
It’s not about the strokes of tennis but what you can do with them. Don’t be the flashy player who looks good hitting but has a hard time transforming those strokes to winning tennis. Take Adam’s tips to heart and watch your game improve substantially!
Another look at the best way to drive the ball vs hitting with topspin.