New Year's Resolution Tennis
It happens every year. Millions worldwide make the resolution to get in better shape, starting January 1st. For recreational tennis players, most of whom play only doubles on a consistent basis, there's a more specific version of this. It goes like this: “this year, I'm going to get in better shape by playing a lot of singles matches.” It's a good idea, but like most New Year's resolutions it's common for this plan to derail quickly. If recreational players looking to use singles tennis as an exercise tool follow the right path, they can easily achieve their fitness goals and have a lot of fun on the singles court at the same time. Let me show you the path!
Whether you're a regular doubles league player, or a re-entry player looking to get back on court, embarking on a steady diet of singles matches presents a serious hurdle right off the bat: injury potential. Unlike doubles, which is only a cardio exercise at more advanced levels, singles can be a workout at any level. It involves a lot of sprinting, stretching, lunging, bending, stopping, and starting. It's often done on the hardest playing surface in sports: cement! For the average weekend warrior jumping right into singles matches without any physical preparation is a likely ticket to the physical therapist. So the first step I advise future singles fans to take is spend a month before your first singles match working on flexibility. Here's an example of the kind of exercises that should be done before any tennis match/practice session:
After the tennis practice, or at the end of the day on non-practice days, here's a more static cool-down routine: Cool Down Stretch Routine
Along with the need for greater flexibility, getting used to the increased movement in singles is the next goal. I advise my students pursuing singles league glory to look into the nearest Cardio Tennis class they can find. These group lessons are designed to have players hit as many balls and move as much as they can for 60 solid minutes. Each session comes with it's own instructor led warm-up and cool down, so risk of injury is low. Players can find Cardio Tennis classes near them by going to Cardio Tennis Headquarters.
Another benefit of these classes is the chance to meet a lot of potential practice partners. Those practice partners come in handy for practice singles matches. Just as students studying for a test prepare by taking practice tests, tennis players who want to be good match players need practice matches. Play a couple in week 4 of this one month prep time.
One month of consistent stretching, Cardio Tennis, and a few practice matches brings the next big decision in this singles project. Should you:
- Take private lessons for 6 months to get your strokes razor sharp, then start playing matches
- Start playing matches and take lessons at the same time.
Successful recreational singles players all have one thing in common: they play a lot of singles! Taking private lessons is a great way to progress your strokes, but there's only one thing that makes you a better match player: playing matches! If you chose option 1 above, those 6 months could've been spent racking up singles matche experience. Find a local flex singles league (flex means it allows you to schedule matches at a time of mutual convenience with your opponent over set time period; typically a 7 day window), and get in there! First time players should enter at the lowest possible level and hit the courts! One example of such a league would be the USTA Flex League.. Another national flex league is Ultimate Tennis.
Once you start playing, a big obstacle to making that resolution stick presents itself: expectations. Many players go into their first season of singles matches with the expectation of winning a certain number of matches (a .500 record is common). If they don't meet that goal (likely), they're upset and stop playing. New Year's resolution bust! Instead of wins/losses, have expecatations that can be controlled. Here are a few examples:
- do your best to complete as many shots as possible with a full follow through
- give your best effort to run after every shot (fitness was the initial reason for doing this right?)
- Be honest on every line call
- Add opponents to your network of practice partners (being a friendly player helps in this!)
Those are all goals you can have 100% control over, so your chances of meeting your expectations goes through the roof! You'll also feel good about the match afterwards, and will keep on playing. Now you're on the road to letting all your friends know you kept that tennis New Year's resolution!
Posted by Mandy Shephard on January 26, 2016 in Tennis Tips.