Wintertime is Tennis Time!
It’s been pretty miserable tennis weather out there recently, and if you don’t have access to indoor courts you might be thinking that all is lost. I’m happy to inform you that all is not lost. The skills necessary to play tennis are many, and it’s incorrect to assume that you can’t become great if you find yourself with stretches of time during which you can’t get on to a court to play. Let’s take a few moments here to list a few things you can do to improve your game without the use of a real tennis court:
Footwork: Ever notice how lots of people can hit a really great ball? Yeah, there are tons of people who can hit hard, seemingly wonderful looking shots. Why aren’t they pros? Footwork is why they aren’t pros. It’s super easy to hit balls that conveniently come right to you. Tennis is a mental game first, but it’s a footwork game second, and you definitely do not need a court to improve your footwork. Join an indoor soccer league, take up hacky sack (seriously), do jump rope drills in your basement, and dodge-ball is ridiculous for adults to play, but it definitely keeps you on your toes. And, surprisingly (I know this one first hand) boxing is wonderful for both footwork and fitness — not to mention toughness. Your strokes might not be improving much, but you’ll be shocked, with a little focus on footwork, at how much your game improves.
Mental Focus: How many times have you been playing a match where everything seems to be going well — you’re ahead and about to win when, suddenly, you become a surprise candidate to become the next mayor of chokesville? That’s your mental game that’s suffering there. Don’t feel bad; it happens to everyone. But, there are steps you can take to improve on it. What you need to do is find an activity that puts you into an identical situation but which doesn’t require court reservations or much effort at all in preparation. My secret is ping pong! The skills required are not the same, but the mental focus is absolutely identical. Another excellent activity is platform tennis (leagues operate in the winter). Or, switching gears completely… chess. Yes, chess! Being able to focus on what you’re doing without feeling stress is a critical component of tennis, and there’s no better pressure cooker of an activity than competitive chess. When you come back to tennis you’ll be Mr. Cool himself.
Ball Drills: Lastly, you don’t even need to drop the tennis racquet when confronted with a confined space. You can do wall volleys and ball handling skills, both of which really help your feel, touch and hand/eye coordination. There are dozens of ways you can bounce the ball on the racquet. You can do flip flops, wall bounces, frame bounces, between the legs, left hand, behind the back… . The combinations go on and on.
So there you have it. These are all activities which contribute to the improvement of your tennis game. They aren’t just fillers either. These drills, activities, and skills all improve your game in exactly the same way as certain specific drills your coach might put you through if you were on a standard sized court. Yes, it’s always nice to have a court because you can do everything on a court, but it isn’t always necessary. Get on to a court whenever possible, but do not despair if it’s an impossibility. There a lots of ways to improve; you just have to sometimes get creative.