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JAK'S MONTHLY ESSAY SERIES: Achieving Your Personal Best

Why club players don’t practice

May 2023

The very best players on the planet are out practicing every day with their coach to “try to improve” as Nadal always says at press conferences after a loss. And that’s Rafael Nadal saying that no less! They are not exclusively playing only points, sets, and matches day in and day out. 

So why do club players ignore and avoid improvement through shot making practice? Why do they treat practice like the plague, or more currently, like the pandemic? 

It’s such a conundrum since everyone wants to do well, get better match play results, and win more. Some, particularly those who never practice, curiously also, typically, even avoid engaging in a productive, proper warm-up before match play. 

"Let’s just play." Nonsensical if improvement is something you aspire to.

If you do not, and you’re quite satisfied with your existing playing skills, and results, that’s fine. But if that’s the case, then let’s not whine about, or are perplexed about, why you’re losing too many of these never ending matches.  

In part at least, practicing is out because too many club players are mostly “matched-out,” or “played-out,” not unusually accompanied by a resulting perception of practice as drudgery, which then piles on to an actual awareness of too much on-court time. Factor in their scheduling norm of only playing more and more matches, league or friendly or social, and you’ve got a game stuck on a plateau hanging by your fingertips. 

These never ending matches are predictably viewed as lots of fun, when winning. It’s all good. Yet, not so much when losing. Particularly when losing is experienced too often.  

What’s the solution? Playing more and more without practice is definitely not it!  

How about realizing that practice, particularly when all by yourself (ball machine, backboard, drop hitting, serve practice) can be both enjoyable, satisfying, and fun. Even Zenish. There’s no pressure in having-to-win, a misguided singular metric for success. That belief represents a game growth killing mind set, present in too many clubbers, who, would you believe, cling to winning as the only thing – while standing pat with holes in their games yet, nonetheless, expecting better results (?) – including even in friendlies with nothing at stake but one’s ego.  

Prioritizing performing your best is the coin of the competitive tennis realm – at every level. Perform well, and have a good chance to get that win. The “wins” are a product of better performances. Perform poorly, often because your mind is preoccupied with the fear of losing or making an error, and the “W” becomes elusive. 

It’s all about the performance! Even if you don’t get the win, you’ll feel good about yourself if you played well, or at least better, even in a loss. 

So what’s one of the best ways to enhance your match play performances? Practice! Not scheduling match after match after match after match – not to mention those truncated warm-ups - ad infinitum, without any regular practice. Huh? 

It’s a process. One brick at a time… the success template. 

Any practice component will do: ball machine, hitting wall/backboard, drop hitting, serving to targets, or drilling one-on-one with a practice partner, all of which can be very satisfying. No eye-rolling double’s partners to be concerned about. No overly uncooperative, combative opponents to get under your skin in the warm-up. Just you working on your game in a no pressure setting at your own pace and tempo. 

And, by the way, it actually can be fun and satisfying when you sort out that troublesome inside-out cross court doubles backhand from the deuce side for example. Getting the feel of that uncomfortable altered grip, and toss, necessary to bend in second serves with aggressive spin, maybe even a kick. Or developing a lethal drop shot – such a huge weapon in club play. And whatever else you need to improve.

Repetition.  

Think of it as an investment in your game, especially in the off-season when league play is diminished here in Florida. No investment, no return…that’s putting your game improvement under the proverbial mattress.

Copyright©2017- by Jak Beardsworth Tennis. All rights reserved, including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form.

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Past Essays

  • June 2024 - KNOW YOUR DOUBLE’S IN-POINT SITUATION WHEN BACK or RETURNING SERVE
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  • April 2024 - Coulda, shoulda got that: The Art of Poaching
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  • March 2024 - Get Your JuJu On
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  • February 2024 - Giving Opponents too Much Respect
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  • January 2024 - Rally Ball Or Pull The Trigger
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  • December 2023 - The Forgotten Stop Volley
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  • November 2023 - "You're Only as Good as Your Second Serve"
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  • October 2023 - good misses vs bad misses
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  • September 2023 - Why good players are good players!
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  • August 2023 - On poaching and fake poaching: Becoming a Force at the Net in Doubles
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  • July 2023 - The Beautiful Game is Getting Ugly
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  • June 2023 - The Approach Dropper: Lob Killer
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  • May 2023 - Why club players don't practice
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Essay Archives

Click a year to view more essays

2023

  • April 2023 - DON'T FIGHT TIGHT
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  • March 2023 - Classic finish line failure
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  • February 2023 - Defending the lob over your net partner - The "Switch"
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2022

  • December 2022 - E. I. D. - Extended Impact Duration
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  • November 2022 - Movement Enhancement to Stay Better In-Point Connected
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  • September 2022 - Advanced Visualization 301
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  • August 2022 - Tennis' uniqueness: warming-up the enemy
    [read more]
  • July 2022 - Extracting Double Faults Through Receiving Positions... and more
    [read more]
  • June 2022 - Consider Serve and Volley
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  • May 2022 - How the Toss Primes the Serve Relaxation Pump
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  • April 2022 - Ball Watching and Science
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  • March 2022 - Caving
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  • February 2022 - Kenny G and Emmo
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  • January 2022 - The Knees
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2021

  • December 2021 - The Match is with You
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  • November 2021 - The Backup Racket in Your Bag
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  • October 2021 - Every Tennis Player Can and Should Have a Weapon
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  • September 2021 - LEARNING NEW SKILLS: First the Process, Then the Results
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  • August 2021 - The Challenge of Visualizing… For Some
    [read more]
  • July 2021 - Playing with both your feet and your hands
    [read more]
  • June 2021 - Finding the Range
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  • May 2021 - The Focus
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  • April 2021 - About Your Butt Cap
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  • March 2021 - The Essential Forehand and Backhand
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  • February 2021 - On Being a Doubles All-Courter
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  • January 2021 - Same Grip Volleying Myths
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2020

  • December 2020 - On mechanics and style
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  • November 2020 - THE BIG 3: The Glue That Keeps Your Best Game Together
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  • September 2020 - Protocol and Game Tradition Revisited
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  • August 2020 - As Good as Your 2nd Serve
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  • July 2020 - Shot Shaping
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  • June 2020 - Getting a Point in Jeopardy Back to Neutral
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  • May 2020 - A Positive Mind-Set: On and Off the Court in Today's C-19 Reality
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  • April 2020 - The Zombie Tennis Creed – Top Ten
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  • March 2020 - A Roadmap Into "The Zone"
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  • February 2020 - The service toss: myths and realities
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  • January 2020 - Shot Gazing
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2019

  • December 2019 - The Dreaded High Bouncing Moonball Dilemma
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  • November 2019 - Chalk Flew: Troublesome Line Calling without Hawkeye in Clubland [read more]
  • October 2019 - In the Spirit of Don't Drink and Drive… Don't Think and Hit [read more]
  • September 2019 - Old School vs New School [read more]
  • August 2019 - Getting the Ball Where You Want It [read more]
  • July 2019 - Taking Points Off…What? [read more]
  • June 2019 - Confidence Is Confidence: Take It Wherever You Can Get It [read more]
  • May 2019 - TENNIS INNOVATION IMPLODES [read more]
  • April 2019 - Defending the Court with Older Bones: A Club Player's Guide to Saying "Nice Shot" Less [read more]
  • March 2019 - Do You Have Doubles Rally Tolerance? [read more]
  • February 2019 - I Knew Jimy Van Alen: A Historical Look Back [read more]
  • January 2019 - The Mind is a Terrible Thing to Waste: Mental Toughness Skills [read more]

2018

  • December 2018 - Less Bling is the Thing [read more]
  • November 2018 - Anatomy of a Doubles Serve Return…from the Inside Out [read more]
  • October 2018 - Older Dogs and New Tricks: Still Improving at Any Age [read more]
  • September 2018 - The All-Important Dynamic of Gripping [read more]
  • August 2018 - The Cinemascope Syndrome: Undermining Your Ball Watching [read more]
  • June 2018 - Serving and Returning Better with a Quiet Eye [read more]
  • May 2018 - The Man Who Breathed for Two [read more]
  • January 2018 - Rituals Anyone? [read more]

2017

  • December 2017 - Why Serving is so Difficult in Clubland [read more]
  • October 2017 - Managing your body and mind in tennis space [read more]
  • August 2017 - Why Bother Breathing to Improve Your Game [read more]
  • May 2017 - The "Maintaining" One's Game as One Ages Fallacy [read more]
  • February 2017 - Punta Gorda Tennis Clubs: Setting the Bar [read more]
  • January 2017 - State of the Club Game: The Growing Death of Sportsmanship [read more]

Check back often for more essays.