Monday, October 28, 2013

How to lose graciously

Dallas Aleman | Towpath Tennis Owner | Tennis Guru

Did you know that if you play this game you are going to have to learn how to lose? There is a difference between losing vs. taking a loss and finding a purpose. In order to improve when you're beginning to play tennis, you are going to have to accept so many losses that it seems like there is no end to it.

Nobody says they like losing but you have to be able to enjoy the process, which is more important than a particular win or loss. You have to learn how to overcome the setbacks and see that progress comes over a period of time. You also have to learn how to be a gracious loser and congratulate the winner, while always keeping in mind that there will be another day and another meeting that just might have a different outcome.

So how do you learn to lose and like it?
  • Your losses reveal your true competitiveness. After a loss, are you ready to throw in the towel or get back in the ring? Champions like Rafael Nadal and Serena Williams have short memories of every loss and are ready to return to the arena with a more determined attitude and will.   
  • A loss can reveal your weaknesses (even if you don't want to admit to having any). But this can embolden you to work on those holes in your game and avoid making the same mistakes.
  • A loss can challenge you. You win alone, you lose alone. Take responsibility for the reasons that you lost, and look at how you can change them in the future. 
  • No tears in tennis. You have to go onto the court knowing it's not the end of the world if you lose. The score is only one small measure of the outcome for your effort. 
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Tuesday, October 15, 2013

What is shadow stroking?

Dallas Aleman | Towpath Tennis Owner | Tennis Guru

Have you watched players such as Maria Sharapova, NovakDjokovic, or Marion Bartoli shadow stroke? They step back from a point they've just played and they practice a forehand or a backhand, sometimes to an excessive amount. But does this practice of shadow stroking actually work or are they just wasting energy?
I think for any top player, we should never assume they are simply wasting energy. What these players are actually doing is a “computer reset” for their muscles to remember a stroke they practiced hundreds of thousands a time. Tennis and stroke production comes down to a collection of movements that add up to a finished dynamic product. That product is your tennis game, so when you play every movement counts. The more times you shadow stroke your forehand for instance, the quicker it’ll be to find your groove.  When you’re confident about your strokes, you allow yourself to be loose and agile where you won’t easily fall victim to breaking down under pressure. You know exactly how you should feel on the court. There’s a reason they call it muscle memory. 

However, please note that your stroke is dynamic. There is no such thing as a ‘finished’ forehand or backhand. Your game is a never-ending experiment so when you find the right groove, try to capture it by practicing shadow stroking. The more you do it, the less likely there will be a breakdown of a shot. Remember, it was Djokovic against Federer who hit the loosest, most fantastic forehand to change the outcome of the 2011 U.S. Open finals. Now do you think shadow stroking is a waste?

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Thursday, October 3, 2013

Play as good as you practice

Dallas Aleman | Towpath Tennis Owner | Tennis Guru

Why is it that you can play well in practice or in a lesson and then when you play a match, you play poorly at times?
It may be the way you practice or the type of lesson you take. If your practice partner or pro is always hitting the ball back in your strike zone where your strokes are grooving, then you are preparing yourself for only one type of ball. You are essentially ‘playing catch’ where no ball really challenges you. This type of practice is great to correct a defective stroke but it’s not so good for preparing you for matches.

During actual competition, you are going to see the player that hits with spin, drop shots, uses the whole court, or the dreaded moon ball. They are your nightmare and you are cannon fodder for them. That is unless you know how to turn things around to your advantage. By beating the enemy you must learn their game and if you can’t seem to figure it out during practices, then match play is your best bet. Challenge yourself to find those types of shots and players that don’t just ‘play catch’ with you.

When you find yourself struggling against a player that doesn’t fall into your catching game, remind yourself this--you learn to improve the best when you are struggling in an uncomfortable situation.

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