Career of a tennis player is not a piece of cake. Not only it consists of continuous ups and downs but it also lasts for many years. Successful professionals play for almost 30 years so it is important to have this time-distance in mind. Because you can’t take the time back…
When you practice day by day you have to make sure that you make right decisions. When you work on your forehand it is crucial to repeat correct technical movement. When you implement new strategy it is important to understand why you play the ball in the exact spot on the court. The same rule applies to your career approach. When you take any activity you have to keep in mind how it is going to help you.
Many players make mistakes by looking at things from the short-term perspective. All they see is the next ball, next practice, next tournament. Focusing on here and now is important aspect of development but it is just a step to achieve something bigger. Your „bigger” focus has to be on your dream and your dream is ….. a long term goal.
If you get to the gym your long-term goal is to stay healthy. It doesn’t matter how fast you are or how powerful your muscles are because if you get seriously injured your career can be over. That is why you can’t overload too much because it can give you positive effects for next weeks but it will have detrimental effects for much more longer. When you start working on technical corrections with your serve it is not important to make it perfect for the next tournament in 2 weeks. You want to possess technically-sound serve for the purpose of competing successfully against top players in 4-5 years. This is long therm thinking. If you know why you do something and when you should expect visible results it is much easier to cope with some early difficulties and maintain motivation even if you have to wait for wins a little bit longer.
Each player is an individual but there are some common mistakes that most of the tennis players commit. These mistakes stop them from developing solid skills and achieving own potential. Below you will find these mistakes so read them slowly, learn from them and never commit them again!
Mistake No1 – „I have to win all tournaments”
Periodization is a method that let coaches use more effective training sessions. But periodization can’t be applied just to set proper structure of practice. Players have to be aware that tournament schedule also has some priorities. Professional players focus mostly on Grand Slams and they are aware that previous tournaments are played to get in the best performance for these 4 crucial competitions. Maybe you are not at the same level but you still has to put some long-distance future into your mind while playing tournaments. If you know which tournaments are more important than others it is much easier to understand why some training periods are more intense and harder so you have to be motivated to put more effort even while being tired.
Mistake No2 – „It hurts so I have to stop”
Body awareness is crucial if we want to play competitively for many years. The older we are the more we start to understand our body and apply proper techniques to get the most of it. Young players have to try to improve this skill (Yes! It is a skill) so they can see the difference between bad pain and good pain. Bad pain is related to injury and definitely we should stop exercise or change it so we don’t hurt ourselves. Good pain is related to being tired and this is the time where the champions work even harder and losers stop to complain. When you have really intense drill the last few sets are the most important because you have to physically and mentally deal with uncomfortable conditions. If you break this barrier consistently you will develop character traits of a champion and uncomfortable things for most athletes will become your comfortable routines forever.
Mistake No3 – „I do it and it doesn’t work”
Player makes a mistake and says: „Why do I miss this easy ball?” Coach wants to help, knows the reason and answers back: „You don’t bend your knees. Try to use your legs for better control.” Player is motivated. He knows what to do. The next ball comes, player bends knees and … another mistake. Player looks at coach and says: „And what? I bent the knees and I missed.” Have you experienced this scenario? Probably you did many times. As a player or as a coach. The answer to this short-term thinking is patience. If you want to reach stars you have to give yourself a time to do it. Everything is possible but with proper amount of time. Do you want to win Wimbledon? You can do it but not as a 12 years old. Do you want to lose significant amount of weight in a healthy way? No problem but don’t aim to achieve this task in 2 weeks. As a tennis player all your actions have to be connected with the picture in the future. If you are aware how much time you need to make new habit automatic you will stay calm and achieve this task for sure. If you want to be a prodigy and win all Grand Slam tournaments before you turn 16 you put a lot of obstacles in front of you. There are a lot of uncomfortable factors in your career so don’t add another one by yourself.
Long-term thinking is a motto for all successful athletes and business people. You can’t achieve consistent results if your vision ends in 2 days. You can use short-term thinking as steps toward your dream but you have to be aware of this dream! Change your mentality and your game will also transform. For the better!
Marcin Bieniek is a professional tennis coach and founder of instructional website http://tennisisland.us. Marcin has been working with USTA, top 100 ITF and WTA/ATP players. He is a frequent contributor to TennisPro and TenisKlub magazines and he was a speaker at International Coaching Tennis Symposium 2016 at Hilton Head Island, USA.