It's that time of year when girls all over South Jersey are busy preparing for tennis tryouts, usually held sometime in August, at their local high school. Although most coaches will provide some type of open-court time to help groom those interested in the sport, this is only a small part of how a player should prepare if they are serious about making the girls team for the fall season. Here are 5 basic things you might consider that will no doubt give you an edge against the competition:
- Private or semi-private lessons: A knowledgeable instructor can help you grow by leaps and bounds as they provide technique, tactical, and training assistance. Play as much as possible soon after a lesson and attempt to apply what was learned.
- Hit lots of tennis balls: The technique of immersion, used regularly in learning a world language, is extremely practical for tennis. Spend as much time on a court as possible (preferably in point play) so that you can nurture a comfortable and excited feeling when walking through the gate. Repetition–hitting specific shots over and over again–helps you develop consistency and lessen mental fatigue. Less surprises during a match usually equals better results. Remember-you PLAY how you PRACTICE.
- Physical training: Endurance is a huge part of tennis (especially for singles play). When tired, you stop moving your feet and everything else fails as a result. Running is important, but remember that tennis is a quick-sprint sport and not a cross-country run. Work on footwork drills (preferably using an agility ladder), sprinting drills (can be used to pick up balls on court), and lots of quick direction changing runs both side-to-side and front to back. Strength training (especially for the upper body and core) is helpful, but don't ignore working the wrists and developing a stronger grip by squeezing a tennis ball (or grip strengthener) while doing other sedentary activities.
- Mental training: Learn as much as you can about tennis–how to keep score, rules of etiquette (review The Code), what basic tactics work for the pros, etc. Watch tennis on network television, YouTube clips, ESPN3 steaming or The Tennis Channel. Play tennis in video games and be competitive (be careful as poor technique works in video but not in reality). Seek out some tennis podcasts (iTunes or other podcatcher), either video or audio, that can be seen or heard on a computer, tablet, or smartphone.
- Flexibility: It took training in martial arts for me to understand the value of flexible muscles on a tennis court. Seek knowledgeable advice on stretching muscle-groups and actively do so whenever the opportunity for sitting in place arises (stretch while watching a movie or TV show for example). When tight muscles do not fight themselves, you increase endurance and lessen chances for injury.