Josh's Fresh Take: April 2018 Edition

Respect the Game

Coach and Communications Lead, Josh Martin, weighs in on topics in the world of tennis and shares his two cents.
Tennis can be one of the most frustrating sports to play. It is incredibly technical. We often do not see someone walk on to a tennis court without ever having played the sport, pick up a racket, and hit a 10-ball rally from the service line. It just does not happen. Even if you are one of the most talented athletes in the world, it is still incredibly difficult to get immediate success.
In other sports, if you are generally athletic you can get away with stepping on to the pitch and having a varying level of success pretty quickly. Soccer, football and softball, for example, all arguably fall in this category. I recently joined a soccer team with Urban Rec that is made up of generally-athletic individuals that have both played and never played before. Personally, I have not played a soccer game in over 12 years. As a team, we have a long way to go. Sure, we have lost all three of our matches and have only scored twice, but we don’t look completely hopeless out there. From my wealth of soccer knowledge, which is incredibly insignificant, the lack of success has more to do with our tactics rather than individual skill level. We have to learn not to scramble, to stick to our positions and to move up the field as a unit. My point is, in soccer if you are generally athletic, you should be a decent or semi-decent player relatively quickly. Some of you may disagree, but personally from my experiences in team sports this is how I feel.
Now back to tennis. Sure, having hand-eye coordination and being athletic is a BIG advantage, but that does not make the sport any easier to grasp. I have seen junior and adult beginner players come in and expect to start playing from the baseline, immediately thinking that they will be able to have cross-court, down-the-line, drop-shots and volley rallies, when in reality they can barely have a 5-ball rally from the service line. This is where the frustration begins.
To gain success at the fastest rate, it is often recommended for athletes to leave their rackets on the bench and to play “throw tennis”; using two hands to send the ball over the net, getting sideways before the ball bounces, following the toss through over the shoulder, and to be constantly moving by bouncing on the toes. These fundamentals that are instilled from “throw tennis” then carry over incredibly well to tennis. You give the athlete their racket back and all of a sudden they know they should be getting sideways, following through, getting set before the bounce, and so on.
Not many people realize how technical tennis is and within each fundamental there is a lot of work to be done, for example set-up, grip, impact point, recovery, and hitting-zone. Having realistic goals will get you where you want to be. If you are a beginner, start with a 5-ball rally from the service line, then advance to a 10-ball rally, and slowly progress to the baseline. Work on setting up from each shot before the ball bounces, recovering to your position, and making sure impact on your ground-strokes is at waist-level for every shot. By slowly working and practicing each fundamental, you will be at your goal in no time. And then you will want to improve something else by continuing to develop your skills and techniques to the best they can be.
But, by jumping these steps and not paying attention to close details within your game, you will further hinder your development. So my advice to you is to respect the game, focus on those fundamentals, and stick to realistic goals to avoid frustration.
Josh’s Fresh Take, signing off.