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How a Silly Tradition Helped Me Pass My USPTA Hitting Test

You can never stop learning but I must admit, I wasn’t prepared to learn something from what I thought was a ridiculous tradition from our boy’s high school tennis team. In fact, it has been a full year since the that tradition ended with a pair of seniors that started it their sophomore year.

High school tennis is a bit unique in that every team has a chance at making the biggest tournament of the year, the State Tournament. Everyone plays in a regional tournament before this and if any flight of a team earns a top 2 spot, they qualify for the state tournament. This is as pressure filled as it gets. This tournament determines if the high school season ends or continues for all the tennis players. So the morning of the tournament, one would expect a pretty intense focus to be a part of a team’s preparation for what they will be facing. You can hear music being played by teams that all come in one category; intense. That is, except our team.

They chose….Christmas music.

To make this even more awkward, the regional tournament is played during the first or second week of October. Even for Christmas enthusiasts, this is a bit too early. Not for our team though. I would roll my eyes and shrug my shoulders as other teams would look at us in disbelief.

Now I see the brilliance in this. Let me explain.

All tennis players have a sense of nervousness about them before a big match. This is normal and as long as “the butterflies all fly in the same direction,” it’s not a problem. As you probably have experienced, this is not easy to do. Nerves can get the best of players, robbing them of an opportunity to showcase their skills on a big stage. It can leave us shaking our heads and wondering what went wrong when all the preparation seemed to go so well.

I was recently introduced to such a high stressed situation when I was being tested for my USPTA teaching certification this past weekend in Phoenix (more on this at a later blog). There are multiple parts to the test but I was most concerned about one of them. The stroke production of the test required us to hit an area of the court while using different spins and strokes from the baseline and net. You only are given a max of eight shots (sometimes only 3) to demonstrate your ability to be proficient in that specific stroke. To make matters worse, the week before the test, Colorado received one of the largest snow storms in the state’s history, leaving the courts unplayable (and access to indoor courts is very limited). So I was a bit unsure of myself heading to the day of the testing.

Luckily I came up with a plan before the day of the test and it goes back to the silly tradition my past seniors did for regionals. I played Alvin and the Chipmunks the morning before the test.

I listened to them while hitting against a wall and serving along with my drive to the testing site. It made me laugh and feel quite ridiculous while preparing for this test. This allowed me to loosen up and not take myself so seriously. I can say that this is a very different method than I am used to. Before a big match, I would usually play pump up music from Eminem or ACDC. Looking back at this I realize how much tighter I became before playing. In a sport that requires a clear mind and a relaxed grip, that music was not helping me do either.

For your next match, consider playing some funny music that you can laugh at rather than get intense about. It may help you perform better than you except and most importantly, enjoy the moment rather than dread it. By the way, I scored the highest in my testing group with the majority of my targets hitting the “elite” area of the court with an overall accuracy score of over a 90%.

I guess I can learn a thing or two from my students!

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