Tennis is a game of facing constantly evolving challenges and attempting to find an answer that can allow you to overcome them. Fortunately, we live in an amazing era, filled with a vast wealth of knowledge on almost any topic we can imagine, as well as the ability to access much of that information in mere moments.
Whether it is from a world-class coach, a well-respected organization, or a group of passionate tennis enthusiasts, there are a seemingly endless amount of techniques, tips, and solutions to be found for our beloved sport. Filtering through all of these ideas can be quite a challenge, but once you have decided to pursue a goal either for yourself or your students, the process of delivering this message and instilling the desired habits is what will bring about your success.
Here are some tips for implementing changes and making it stick. When learning new tactics and patterns, create a drill that allows you to focus on the intended behavior. Removing yourself or your players from the feeling of playing what feels like a “normal point” makes it much easier to build habits and find new skills. You can take away a section of the court or force only a certain shot to be played. You can use rewards and penalties to incentivize the behavior. Bonus points, instantly won or lost games, and other creative scoring rules can keep things interesting. A good drill will be easily scaled for increased or reduced difficulty and allow you to quickly open or close the game to help players find that perfect sweet spot of attainable challenge!
Make sure to develop key words and phrases to use that can easily be linked to a learned topic. If you can say just a few words to bring back an entire lesson of memories, then that will be a lesson that sticks. For technical and physical changes, it often is not enough to simply go out and try to make it happen. Every change should be reinforced by one or more unique exercises. There are many great teaching tools out there that are effective, fun and memorable. A fitness workout that builds the awareness, strength, and flexibility of a movement can solve problems that are otherwise impossible to resolve. Creative games and exercises that can be referred to and repeated whenever necessary are invaluable. Involve as many sensations as you can!
Remember to be patient. Learning a skill or technique can take months or years, but I believe that in that journey of discovery lies the true joy of our lifelong sport.
Jeremy Schmitter is a tennis coach at CourtSense's Tenafly Racquet Club. Before arriving at CourtSense, he held a coaching position at the Princeton Racquet Club for nine years. He served as an assistant coach at the College of New Jersey following his time working for legendary coach Rick Witsken in Indiana. He playe collegiately at Mercer College, where he competed in the NCAA Championships in both singles and doubles.