Are you player ‘A’?
Are you having some coaching to learn about the game and improve your technique (squads and/ or lessons)?
Are you hitting with friends to practice what learning as the more balls you hit, the better you get?
Are you hitting more serves compared to other shots as it is the most important one?
If you keep missing volleys, are you practicing them on the wall?
If you feel you are not quick enough around, are you doing some skipping, sprints (on the court, up steps or up a hill)? If you get too tired to last a long match, are you doing some 20-30 minute runs? If you feel you could do with being a bit stronger (to help you have more power on your serve for example), are you doing some strength exercises e.g. press-ups, tricep dips, sit-ups, back raises, lunges?
If you want to challenge yourself and your game, and if you want to see how you deal with pressure, are you entering some competitions?
Or are you player ‘B’ who wants to win competitions (and fulfil your full potential)?
Are you having coaching to continue to learn the game?
Are you hitting hours and hours of balls with friends (i.e. rallying, playing drills, playing practice sets) whenever you get chance?
Can you volley under pressure (doubles practice helps with this)? Are you keeping your volley sharp by hitting them on the wall?
Can you ace people with your serve? Can you vary it (wide, body, middle)? Can you hit a deep spin 2nd serve and rarely double fault? Can you get 65% of your first serves in? Are you practicing your serve for 30 mins 3 times per week (not consecutive days or else your rotator cuff muscle can get inflamed)?
Are you physically ready? Are you quick around the court? Are you strong enough and do you have the stamina to keep good technique for 2 long matches in a day?
Are you spending time on the mental side of the game e.g. watching tennis on TV, analysing your practices and matches to learn from them, thinking about what you want to focus on in practices and asking your coaches questions (to speed up your learning)?
Are you competing and aiming to win competitions?
THE BOTTOM LINE.................
If you are player ‘A’, excellent! Go out and play, learn and enjoy the game. Play as much as you want, but make sure you work hard at school and get the best grades possible first!
If you are player ‘B’, make sure you work hard at school and get the best grades you can (it is possible to get high grades and excel at tennis!) and read the following collection of quotes from famous players and coaches:
How much you improve and how far you progress ( be it to play in your club team, university team, county team, local match-plays, British Tours, professional Futures, Challengers and ATP/ WTA events) lies in your hands!
Don’t make excuses and blame others e.g. the LTA, your practice partners, your coach, your parents, Cornwall’s geographical position, money, the weather!
Understand that your coaches, your parents and the LTA are there for guidance, coaching, training and support. What they're NOT RESPONSIBLE for is how far a player gets in their career!
In tennis, it seems to be around the ages of 15 that the blame game starts. It’s also around this when most kids drop out.
Yes, good coaching and money is needed to reach the top in a sport, but if you want it, you'll find a way!
Fact: every nation has players with excellent ability (or 'talent'), no matter how wealthy or poor they are.
As the saying goes, it’s not the amount of cash in the LTA’s/ academy’s/ club’s bank, but the amount of 'want' in the player’s 'tank'!
The biggest factor in a player’s reaching the top lies in the individual’s hunger & passion! How much are they are willing to work for it, live for it and how much do they love their sport?!
Did Grand Slam champions like Kuznetsova, Djokovic or Azarenka come from rich families, rich countries and rich federations? No. What they did have was a relentless mentality to reach the top.
Simply put, if you want it bad enough, you'll find a way, not an excuse!
SA, October 2014