Saturday, March 30, 2013

Is the competition good enough?

Dallas Aleman | Towpath Tennis Owner | Tennis Guru

This is one of the most significant misnomer of questions in tennis. Too many times have we depended on our competitors to make us play well. What we need to realize is the importance of running your own race. An effective motivational tool to gauge how you compare to your competition is what's called the rearview mirror. The thought behind this is finding your own motivation that drives you to win instead of relying on those around you. In other words, play towards your goals instead of chasing after your competitors. There is no doubt that many people play up in the face of competition, but what we need to change is our perception of the belief that it is our competitors that bring out the best in us.

If you are counting on your competition to bring out your best game, you are surrendering control of your most important asset. Real achievement comes from driving ahead when no one else sees a path, and holding back when the rush of competition isn't going where you want to go. If you're dependent on competition, then you're counting on the quality of those that show up to determine how well you play. Worse, you've signed up for a series of false matches as the only way to get better. This is where the rearview mirror works for you as a great tool for self-motivation.

Self-motivation is and will always be the most important form of motivation. The most recent example of this is Nadal's resurgence to the top of the game. He didn't improve and recover by just looking for people to compete against (driving with his eyes on the rearview mirror). It's easy to measure your performance against others but if it's real performance you want, you need to drive ahead no matter what the competiton is doing and focus on your own needs.

There are very few players that really get it. When I hear the question, "who am I playing," it is a real clue to what motivates a player. Are you looking in the rearview mirror or are you like Nadal who is striving towards something beyond the competition?

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Tuesday, March 26, 2013

When is it time to restring my racquet?

 Kristianne Bontempo | Towpath Tennis Employee | Legit Tennis Fanatic

One of the most common questions we get here is about stringing. When is it time to restring? What kind of string do I need? What tension should I string at? Simple questions with many answers! We will answer each question in further blog posts but today we'll answer your basic question--when do I need to restring my racquet?
When was the last time you've restrung your racquet?
Well that all depends, there are a lot of factors involved. How much do you play? What's your game style like? What string do you currently use? What kind of racquet do you use? What shape is your racquet in?

The general rule of thumb is the number of times you play a week is the number you should string a year. So if you play on average twice a week then you should be restringing twice a year. However, this can change according to your style of play. If you hit with a ton of top spin then you might be coming in a lot sooner.
Or you might be the type of player that waits until the strings break. There really is no harm in waiting to restring,however your strings will lose tension and playability overtime and feel rather stiff.
Imagine your strings are like rubber bands. After a while, the bands will become brittle. The pros for instance are very picky with their strings for a reason. If stringing wasn't so important, why would the pros bother restringing their racquets before every single match!

You could also check visually to see if you racquet needs restringing. If you see increased notching in between the strings, the strings may play well but you might be subject to breaking. Obvious fraying is another obvious sign that it's time to restring. Moving of strings can be a sign, however that might also be because you hit with a lot of top spin so use your best judgement.

Finally, trust your gut. If it doesn't feel right, restring!

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Sunday, March 24, 2013

Mental Toughness Tip: Positive Visualization

Dallas Aleman | Towpath Tennis Owner | Tennis Guru

Do you find yourself freezing up at critical points, playing great in practice but lousy in competition, or letting self-doubt creep into the back of your mind? Guess what, we ALL do! Even the pros have their mental meltdowns at times. Your mind controls your body so the key is to train your mind to work for you.

Competitive play should be a happy positive experience where improving is the goal. Many of the struggles with getting better relate to how you visualize your upcoming matches, since the active imagination has no trouble envisioning the negative outcomes. The thing is, positive visualization doesn't actually decrease your chances of failing, but it does increase the odds of success.

Anyone can tell you to think positively but sometimes that's easier said than done. Whether your slumping during a match or having trouble sleeping the night before a big tournament, take this as an opportunity to try these positive visualization techniques.

  • Imagine yourself loose, even if that means physically shaking out your legs and arms.
  • Visualize hitting the perfect shot; an ace out wide, a forehand down the line, an overhead smash-whatever gets you going.
  • Repeat the image in your mind of your perfect shot over and over and over again. 
  • Envision the win. Don't get me wrong, you don't want to jump the gun but allowing yourself to see the end result is encouraging.   

These and many more positive thoughts are the way you create pathways and environments where a winning environment can take place. This not only programs your mind to think positively, but it will help you gain confidence and belief that just because your down 0-5 in a match, you can still come back and win-it's happened! So continue testing out these positive visualization techniques and let us know, does it work for you?

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Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Find out what your rating is

Kristianne Bontempo | Towpath Tennis Employee | Legit Tennis Fanatic

In our last blog post, we mentioned USTA’s latest method for how to self-rate. To make your life easier, we’ve attached the link to their simple video tutorial in self-rating.

However, while we don’t need to hold your hand throughout the actual process, we do want to help guide you in how to come up with your rating request. USTA has again made life easy by creating a rating chart, so we first advise you to compare your skills to the following:

(click link below for larger image)

Also check out the link below for a second chart that describes exactly what skills you would expect to possess for each kind of stroke per rating level.

Be honest with yourself and your skill level. You're not doing anyone any favors by rating yourself lower for easy wins (which might not be fun and will win you bad looks from other players) or rating too high where you’re constantly getting crushed (also not fun or great for popularity). If you find yourself deciding between two ratings, our rule of thumb is to self-rate yourself at the lower rating if you are a woman (who tend to see themselves about a .5 level too high-an NTRP social status thing) but at the higher rating if you are a man (men tend to be more concerned with winning than social status). After a year of playing, the dynamic rating system will have churned out a new rating for you based on your match results, which in fact might move you up or down a level after all.

If you need to appeal, the USTA has actually made this an easy process. If you think you have a good reason (e.g., haven’t played in years, “played” for a college but by sitting on the bench, have restricted mobility of some sort), then you may have a shot to submit a written appeal. Be aware that just because you make an appeal does not mean you’ll get it. In fact, the odds are probably against it unless you truly have a good reason.

Lastly, if you’re still struggling on what to self-rate yourself, ask any of our teaching pros for assistance. They know the rating system all too well and can give you a valid opinion or can set up a lesson for an evaluation.

Good luck and happy playing!

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Monday, March 18, 2013

Does self-rating work?

Kristianne Bontempo | Towpath Tennis Employee | Legit Tennis Fanatic

Summer USTA season is right around the corner, and one of the questions we help to answer is what’s up with self-rating and does the system work. Many new USTA members struggle to understand the rating system, as do members that have been playing in the USTA for over 30 years! Unfortunately the system can seem quite complex, but the USTA tries its best to make the process as simple as possible…right.

Prior to the days of self-rating, the USTA used verifiers to rate players. This method definitely had its pros and cons. A good thing about a verifier was that they could review a player with a questionable rating during a match and quickly correct it. But one of the most common flaws was the short time a verifier would have to rate a player, sometimes within just a doubles group with 3 other players also being verified. So because I’m a slow starter, does that mean the verifier will rate me off of my shanks and rimmers, or because I’m just a pusher the verifier will not see that I win 99% of my matches? Thankfully to save on time, expenses, and other quarrels, the USTA developed a dynamic computer rating system where players are being continually rated based on their actual match scores (instead of how pretty or ugly our strokes are). However, without verifiers to place new players in a level, newcomers or former players returning to the league after a gap of time must self-rate according to USTA guidelines in order to register for a team.

USTA has you complete an online survey that determines 
your NTRP rating.
How this works is new or returning members that haven’t played in 3 years (2 if over 60 years old) who want to self-rate are subject to answering on the USTA website, a series of questions in all honesty and to the best of their ability about their tennis experience, and then consider what their own skill level should be according to the NTRP (National Tennis Rating Program) guidelines. How could this possibly be flawed? Well, sometimes players either overrate or underrate because they answer questions too literally, don’t interpret them quite correctly, or fail to provide certain information. We continue to see players underrating themselves especially because someone recruiting them told them to rate at that level for a stronger chance of winning with their teams, or older returning players being overrated just because they once upon a time played for a college team.  

This online rating system doesn’t always ask the right questions to uncover facts such as hardly playing while on a college team or that you were only an average high school player who walked onto a mediocre college team. Or what about the difference between a junior player ranked 50 in a very populated section vs. one with the same ranking in a remote section—should they be the same? The difference between a senior 3.5 player and an adult 3.5 might in reality be more like the difference between a male 3.5 and a female 3.5. And suppose you’re a really good singles player but a lousy doubles playerthe NTRP system will treat you the same in both singles and doubles. The self-rating system simply does not account for these kinds of issues, they’re just considered the same. 

Sure there are consequences for those that underrate (or overrate). You have the occasional disqualifications here and there for being underrated, or you have some players who can’t find a team to take them because they’re overrated. There is also the issue of the spike of juniors (18 year olds not in college yet) self rating. The questions given can’t always gauge their skill level off of their smaller track record. This is why juniors can be a hot recruitment target since they are typically fast, hit harder, and can improve quickly (and we wonder why the 40 and over league was created-hmm)

Self-rating can be a tricky business, but in our next blog post we will guide you in how to self-rate. We’re curious, how do you think the USTA should self-rate? Do you think the current system we have is working? Let’s hear your thoughts.  

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Thursday, March 14, 2013

How to regrip your tennis racquet

Kristianne Bontempo | Contributor

We often are asked at the tennis desk how to regrip a racquet with an overgrip. It's actually quite easy, so we made a simple tutorial so anyone can do it!

When is it time to regrip? 

When your grip loses its tackiness, is starting to wear off, or looks like this (yuck!)

If your racquet already has an overgrip, start by removing the old one and clean the grip from any sticky residue. 

Now unroll the new overgrip.

Attach the most narrow end of the overgrip to the butt cap of the tennis racquet.

Wind the grip around the racquet. Wind to the right if you're right handed; wind to the left if you're left handed (we went right).

Trim the grip. When you've reached the head of the tennis racquet, cut off any remainder. It helps to draw a line around the grip then cut along this line for an even stopping point.

Fasten the grip. Add the finishing tape to the top of the grip to keep it from unraveling.

You’re done! Your grip should have a nice tacky feel and is now ready for a serious beat-down.  

Installing a replacement grip is almost identical, except some stapling at the butt cap may be required when starting. Otherwise, follow all the same steps as installing an overgrip.

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Monday, March 11, 2013

Top 10 biggest pet peeves from our tennis pros

Kristianne Bontempo | Towpath Tennis Employee | Legit Tennis Fanatic

It takes a special person to become a tennis pro. You not only have to know the in’s and out’s of the game (plus it doesn’t hurt to actually be good), but you need a special kind of patience to work week after week, while seeing only the slightest of improvements. Let’s be realistic, nobody’s coming off that court an overnight tennis prodigy.

But we have a special admiration for the tennis pro for everything they do, from scheduling lessons at all hours of the day to always having an optimistic attitude from the moment we step onto the court. They give so much to us that we thought we’d give a little back to them, so we’ve asked our tennis pros to list their top 10 biggest pet peeves. I know it’s hard to believe that they’re ever annoyed, but hey we’ve been guilty of these at some point, so what a great opportunity to find out what to avoid by staying on our favorite tennis pro’s good side.
  1. Negativity - be ready to play because you want to play
  2. Not picking up balls - 3 balls on your racquet doesn’t count
  3. When you say “I can’t” - because you can!
  4. Coming to a lesson sick - coughing, sneezing, regurgitating, stay home
  5. An inside out backhand volley - one word: UG-LY
  6. Asking for advice but then not implementing it - why ask?
  7. When you don’t try - laziness is for the couch
  8. Asking for advice then responding with “I know” - if you knew, you wouldn’t be asking
  9. Getting pegged by a ball - ouch!
  10. Hearing you say, “but my other pro didn’t teach me that” - enough said

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Saturday, March 9, 2013

Are you a competitive player?

Kristianne Bontempo | Online Store Manager | Legit Tennis Fanatic

Three ways to deal with competition:
  1. Embrace competition
  2. Defend against competition
  3. Avoid competition
What type of player are you?

Scenario #1: You’re in a tournament. Balls are no longer coming at a man-made pace. They are more like bullets zinging past you or landing around your feet. Your winners are becoming THEIR winners. You try one approach, then another but nothing seems to work. What do you do?
  1. After letting your racquet “slip out” of your hands a few times, you realize it’s time to get out of this mess and save your reputation. You pull a back muscle, you start to limp, your strings have gotten too loose, you have a plane to catch.
  2. Set yourself a new goal. You find yourself preparing early, leaning into your shots, following through. You focus on playing one point at a time, seeing how many times you can get the ball back over the net.
  3. Because your ground strokes seem to be going awry, you retreat to a defensive stand well behind the baseline and half-heartedly flail away at what you can.
Scenario #2: Oh no, your group has you playing against someone who’s a level below you and pushes the ball too softly for you to hit it properly, uses some kind of weird spin on the serve, and has extraordinary luck with volleys off the rim. What do you do?
  1. Figure out how to play this kind of opponent and learn to enjoy solving this kind of problem.
  2. Call the league organizer later to complain about your court and request you only play with certain other players.
  3. Grumble about the bad shots you’re getting, wish your opponent to hit the ball harder, and reiterate how this kind of game is hurting yours.
Scenario #3: You’re playing a league doubles match. You feel your opponents are beatable but your partner is having a really off day. What do you do?
  1. Groan or roll your eyes to your opponents about your own frustration with your partner.
  2. Refuse to play with that partner again.
  3. Compliment your partner’s good shots even if they’re not pretty or don’t win the point.
Scenario #4: Your opponent has now made two bad line calls. What do you do?
  1. Say nothing as you don’t want to start something unpleasant.
  2. Look to get even on the calls, maybe at a key game point.
  3. To show you have some doubt, just ask if your opponent is sure on the call, then raise your shot-making goal to hit every ball unquestionably inside the lines.
1) a. 1pts b. 3pts c. 2pt   2) a. 3pts b. 1pt c. 2pts   3) a. 2pts b. 1pt c. 3pts   4) a. 1pt b. 2pts c. 3pts

10-12 points: You not only embrace a challenge, but you attack and revel in it. The competition becomes part of you. You set goals for yourself, find ways to meet them, and then set new goals. Bravo for sticking it out and staying tough until you’ve achieved a new level of success!
7-9 points: You give yourself plenty of excuses when you need them, minimize or criticize your opponents or partner, and find the end result more important than the journey. You’re not driven by the challenge of the sport but maybe by protecting your reputation or social status. If this sounds all too familiar, it’s time to get your goals realigned.
4-6 points: Even though you have your competitive moments, the thought of sitting through a challenging match diminishes any enthusiasm you had left. You might be relieved when it’s over, and feel hopeless about your efforts. It’s a negative or overwhelming experience for you. You need to rethink why you’re playing, maybe go back to some basics, and try to find the fun in tennis.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Welcome to Towpath's official blogsite!

We started this blog for the purpose of giving more insight on the game from the viewpoint of the average tennis player (who just happens to work at a tennis club). We're not interested in following tournaments or professionals on the ATP tour. We enjoy watching them, but honestly would have to strangle ourselves to talk about players' stats all day.
So as somebody who's been around tennis their entire life and is no stranger to the club scene, we've been bombarded with questions and general inquiries about the game. What makes one string different from the other? How do you deal with an odd match ruling? What if I don't like my doubles partner? Who do we think is the sexiest tennis pro? We've been compiling answers and how-to's for everyone that's asking (well maybe not for that last one). With access to one of the largest pro shops in Ohio, we have first hand knowledge of the hottest equipment and styles currently on court and a full staff of tennis professionals that truly know their material.
We hope you'll keep checking us out since we can talk tennis around the clock, so avoid missing a post by please subscribing. Even the most talented of us might learn a thing or two-who knew tennis could be so interesting!