Practice Makes Perfect: The Importance of Tennis Practice
As with any skill, tennis requires practice. The best way to get better at tennis is to play tennis. Whether on the court or off, there are many ways to improve your game. Even if you’re a recreational player, having the mindset of a professional can take your game to the next level.
There are many ways you can make your practice time count, and sometimes you may even be practicing when you don’t even know it.
As humans, practice is one of our tools for learning skills. We are instructed by some form of lesson, be it a person, book, or video, and then we mimic those actions. This is the most basic form of practice. Being immersed in learning a skill helps you to improve. The more time you spend doing something related to tennis, the better your game will be. There are many ways to practice, from actually playing with someone on the court to reading a tennis magazine. A mixture of types of practice is needed to see the most improvement. Obviously, you will never gain the necessary coordination if all you do is read about tennis. Conversely, if you only play tennis but do little reading about it, you will struggle with the mental aspects of the game.
10,000 Hour Rule
In Malcolm Gladwell’s book “Outliers,” he discusses what it takes to master a skill. The answer is relatively simple: 10,000 hours. This equates to approximately three hours a day, every day for 10 years. Now as discussed above, not all practice has to be done on the court. Practice can include reading, watching matches, teaching, or even cross-training, such as running or participating in another related sport. The idea behind this theory is that mastery requires quantity over quality. Those who put forth 100-percent effort all the time for just five hours per week in sport time will not gain as much as those who spend multiple hours per day immersed in tennis, whether they’re in the mood for it or not.
One aspect of tennis that is often overlooked is the need to be able to concentrate. Concentration should begin the second you walk onto the court and end after you have left it. Many tennis players lose quality in their game because of a lack of focus. A 100-percent concentration is needed in a tennis match, so consider practicing techniques to improve your ability to concentrate. There are several ways to do this. Eating a variety of superfoods, such as avocados or blueberries, has been shown to increase concentration. Also, focus-based activities like solving puzzles or meditating and mindful thinking will help to improve concentration. Then, bring the skills you have learned from those activities into your tennis game. Remember, even the time you spend learning to concentrate counts toward your 10,000 hours.
There are many ways to cross-train for tennis. The most important is perhaps some form of cardiovascular exercise. Tennis is an anaerobic activity that requires the ability to recover aerobically. This means that tennis does not build your cardio endurance, but the ability to quickly recover is necessary. So any form of cardio exercise will be beneficial. Many tennis players enjoy cycling. If you prefer to take up another sport for cross-training, soccer is a good option. Building strength in the weight room is also a great form of cross-training but does not increase cardiovascular endurance. Whatever you do, choose something you enjoy so that you will keep doing it!
Practice is a very important part of your tennis training, even at the recreational level. Remember, practice isn’t just going to the court and hitting a ball, but it certainly must include that. It can also include learning about your sport, increasing concentration, and cross-training. Put intention behind your practice, but above all, make sure you do it, rain or shine!