Quick story for you to illustrate a critical tennis improvement principle…
The other night after dinner my 9 year old daughter challenged me to a game of “Connect Four”.
In case you aren’t familiar it’s a classic game of trying to string together 4 checkers of the same color (red or yellow) in a vertical playing wall by dropping them into the top.
This is a picture of the box so you can get the idea or take a trip down memory lane.
I played it a lot with my brothers when I was a kid so I was excited to sit down with my daughter and relive a bit of my childhood…
The first game started off at a brisk pace as we took turns dropping our color of checkers into the top.
I blocked a few obvious attempts of hers to string together a few pieces and then focused my attention on setting up a trap to one side of the field of play.
Everything was lining up exactly the way I wanted…
…but just as I triumphantly reached for what would have been my forth and winning connected piece I heard a small but excited voice call out:
I checked the board and sure enough my daughter had just beaten me in our first ever head to head Connect Four game.
How did it happen?
The same way our tennis tactics and strategy get stuck in a rut for years or even decades…
Here’s where that critical improvement principle comes into play:
You can only consciously focus on ONE thing at a time.
When my eyes and mind started fixating on my “master plan” to string together four checkers on the right side of the board I completely lost track of the other side even though it was only 6 inches away.
Seems silly but the truth is all kinds of things are happening around you each and every time you step onto the court that you have ZERO awareness of.
The weak preparation in your opponent’s backhand…
The string of points you’ve won after serving out wide…
The hitch in your service motion that has always been there…
The shift in momentum after the wind picked up…
….and thousands more possibilities every time you play, practice, or train!
Now, here’s the thing: you can’t ever been aware of everything. None of us have tennis “God mode” where we can instantly know and see all things happening on the court so don’t feel badly about it.
The question you really need to be asking yourself is this: “What’s most important RIGHT NOW?”.
In the 30 seconds leading up to that loss to my daughter I was blinded to everything happening on the board accept what my own plan was.
The same thing happens during your matches and while you’re practicing.
What’s the solution?
There’s only one that covers all the bases: VIDEO!
As I work with more and more students it becomes abundantly clear to me that video is the only way to truly know what’s really happening out there. Even when I’m standing right there next to them!
It allows you to slow down, stop, and reverse time so you can be sure what you’re seeing with your own eyes actually matches reality.
If you haven’t ever used video to analyze your strokes or your match play then you’re missing huge opportunities to improve. I guarantee it.
Don’t do what I did with my daughter and assume (aka guess) you have everything under control.
Find out for sure so you can avoid weeks, months, or even years of work in the wrong direction.
That’s all for now but thanks for reading!
If it was helpful (or if you’d like to make fun of me for losing such a simple game to a 9 year old) shoot me a quick reply and let me know.
Hope you’re doing fantastic on and off the court.
P.S. If you’re intimidated by the technology or analysis side of videoing your own game please know we’re here to help!
There are a few 1 on 1 coaching spots left on our calendar for October, November, and December.
Full dates and details are here:
One on One Coaching With Essential Tennis – Click Here
P.P.S. When it was time for my daughter to head to bed I was ahead 4-2. Gotta keep an eye on her, she’s really smart and sneaky!