USTA is a unique experience. On the one hand, it allows you to hone your skills and make lifelong friends. On the other hand, there are days you question why you would subject yourself to spending a beautiful afternoon across the net from some one whom you would normally not hang out with. But you’re not here to get the scoop on all the melodrama, you’re here to refine your skills. After much soul-searching and narrowing, I’ve come up with 5 top habits you may consider incorporating into your regimen to improve your physical and mental skills on and off the court. I have used some business analogies as I believe many of the skills I’ve learned in business has translated into tennis.
My tennis journey began in the spring of 2010. I began knowing nothing at all except that I wanted to sport those cute tennis skirts tennis players wear. Hey! I’m a girl, what do you expect? Searching for beginner drills, I found a local tennis complex called Edmond Racquet Club. I ran cross country in school, but I don’t have any athletic skills.
My husband likes to call me clumsy. Nevertheless, I told myself I would commit to learning the sport because I wanted to challenge myself and possibly have something the whole family could enjoy. I was then asked to join a 3.0 team where I stayed for a season. The next year, I decided to captain my own 3.5 team. I stayed at 3.5 playing singles for another season in which we made it to nationals. The USTA algorithms bumped me to 4.0 and I stayed there for two seasons when USTA ruled I was a 4.5.
5 Key points
1. Targeted, focused practice - What do I mean by deep practice? It’s not your ordinary practice(just mindlessly hitting the ball). This is something else: a highly targeted, error focused process. I go into a drill, practice match, or lesson the same way. I pick a skill(s) I’m improving and focus on it. For example, it could be my topspin forehand or backhand swinging volley. Whatever it is, I’m looking to hit it. Hit, attend to mistakes, hit it again, repeat over and over again. You must be attentive, focused, and hungry to master it.
2. Find a reliable hitting partner - A likable hitting partner about your same skill level allows you to hone your skills that you’ve been working on in an non pressure environment. That partner for me was a cool, casual retired Marine guy. I hit with him at least once a week.
3. Play lots of matches - Play matches in tournaments and ones you’ve setup on all different courts. Play all levels, male and female. My goal was to increase my anticipation from varying shots and paces. Practicing competitive matches also allowed me to hone my mental skills. Look, the truth is I have had to learn to deal with certain personalities on the court. This helps in business and in life. Get used to it. Playing a lot of matches permitted me to learn how to adapt in challenging situations where your opponent is ahead or the momentum shifts. Being adaptable, the ability to quickly change strategies, willpower, determination, focus are all attributes of a good tennis player. Similarly, they’re perfect attributes for an entrepreneur as well.
4. Watch tennis matches and read tennis books - Nothing improved my mental map for correct technique than watching Professional tennis matches. I didn’t realize it but I was setting up my brain for muscle memory. Reading books has helped me increase my mental toughness. You’ll meet all types of characters on the court, might as well be ready for all the tricks and mental games they try to employ.
5. Stay in tip-top shape - Whether you’re playing doubles or singles, footwork is paramount. I don’t think for a second I would have been able to stay on the balls of my feet in anticipation for a short ball if I was overweight. My fast twitch start and run would have been slower. I would not have been able to endure long three hour singles matches. If you get to the ball faster, you have more options with it. How do you achieve tip-top shape, you ask? Eating clean and strength training are both equally important. Since I’m a mother of three and owner of a sushi bar chain and fitness and business coaching businesses, I like being efficient with my time. So I employ HITT workouts which is a combination of cardio and strength training in 30 minutes or less. As a tennis player, you’re probably already spending insane amounts of time on slow cardio, so we need to be efficient with our time. Your aim is to get your heart racing and sweating bullets for @least 20 minutes a day. Strength training also prevents injury by building muscle to prevent tennis elbow and all other sorts of tennis ailments. Even more important, meal planning and prepping consists of planning your diet regimen for the week so you’re not binging on junk food. It’s 80% of the fitness equation. I didn’t undermine it and you shouldn’t either.
One final note, it’s very important to stay in the moment when you’re on the court. These days, our attention span is short or we concentrate on doing everything right. Mistakes is where the gains are made. In business, I like to say failure precedes success. I’m going to leave you with my last tip to help you stay focused on the right things. These are the sensations I strive for when I’m in practice matches, drills, and lessons.
This post is in partnership with Mary Nhin. The article above was originally published on theleanceo.com.
Mary Nhin is based out of OKC. She is whole food lover, health and fitness coach, newspaper wellness columnist, food and fitness blogger, recipe developer, and a huge advocate of living your life by design. Mary encourages others to become an entrepreneur by making your passion your purpose. She loves seeing others control their own schedule and create a life they love.
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