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Do you suffer from improvement paralysis?

Achieving tennis bliss is every player’s ultimate dream and it begins with hitting the shots we want most of the time.  We call this Conscious Execution!  This process can happen by design but because we are creatures of habits, we develop plateaus in our progress all the time.   In my 25 years of teaching and playing, I have been exposed to over 20,000 players worldwide and this diverse exposure has taught me a thing or two.

Failure and plateaus are manufactured

Everyone knows that doing the same thing over and over while expecting a different result is insanity. Yet, if we honestly recount our regular practices, they are usually full of routines.

Partner’s redundancy:  We all tend to practice with the same partner over and over. What people don't realize is that this very fact is the #1 cause of improvement paralysis.  Think about your diet for a moment and what your life would be if you ate the same meal every day?  Not only would it become boring after a while but you would develop serious nutritional deficiencies.  The ideal number of diverse partners is 3 because you have three different opponents with different styles and personalities and enough variety to play singles or doubles any given day.

Exercise routines:  Amateur players’ practices are full of them.  The most common 1hr practice includes warming up inside the service boxes, then some baseline multi-directional groundstrokes drills followed by net exchanges with a few serves at the end and maybe a few competitive plays to cap the day.  This menu would be fine if it covered all the requirements players need to be complete competitors, but the reality is that it covers less than 5% of the game’s mastery.  The best routine is to have none and to be opened to trying every aspect of the game.

Resistance to change:  Tennis is just like any other field.  It continuously evolves and players who are serious about their craft should stay abreast of the evolution.  Nothing could be more blatant of a reality check than comparing videos of matches in the 80s with today’s tennis greats.   Amateur players today tend to stay within their comfort zone, when in truth, improvement can only happen when you step ouside of your barriers and test yourself.  

Lack of planning:  Because most players are self-made, the tendency is to play on the go.  There is not much thought process put behind building an improvement plan designed to address individual habits. Tennis is no different than cooking.  If you want to become a baking chef, you must practice that area of expertise for a while.  Similarly, if you want to master serve and volley, you have to practice it more than a few times year. Any weak area in a game can be expunged with the right plan.

Lack of competition: If you think about the typical learning process in school; you study the material and then you take an exam to test your knowledge retention and comprehension.  In tennis, the equivalent is competition.  In order to completely own a strategy, players have to test it under pressure.  Many players are resistant to competition because of the fear of losing.  Anyone who fears losing fears improving because competition is the only way to sharpen your tennis tools to perfection.

The takeaway here is that your habits will determine your results. If you are unhappy with the outcome, you must change the very source of your issues.  Learn to be creative, and expose yourself to the widest variety of players and styles. 

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