Think you cannot improve your technique without hours and hours of practice with a coach? Think again!
I'm not saying tennis coaches are useless or that you shouldn't get one. Not at all! If you can afford it, go for it! It's the best option, without a doubt. But if you are on a tight budget, like me right now, then don't even think you're done with tennis. Because you're not!
There are so many other ways to better your technique, trust me. You just need to make the best use of what you have. It's that simple!
As I said in the blog about my tennis comeback, I don't have a coach right now and I'm not planning to have one for a while at least. At the same time though, I want to get back in shape and start competing again ASAP, since that's what I love the most about tennis. Which means I need to practice and somehow make sure my technique is not only good, but also constantly improving.
So here's what I came up with to ensure that all the above happens. Even without a coach.
#1 I watch YouTube videos about tennis
That's right. Instead of watching Netflix and HBO series, I watch tennis YouTube videos (almost) every night. You think that's weird? Well, I think it's weirder wasting time every night instead of getting closer to your goal! But I guess it's a matter of priorities.
So, what do I watch? Sometimes just pros' slow motion, but most of the time videos explaining and showing how to improve a specific aspect of tennis: strokes, footwork etc. It depends on what I'm working on at the moment.
But why did I make this tennis YouTube videos thing a routine? Because I want to be sure that every time I am on the tennis court I know exactly what aspect of my tennis technique I need to focus on. I don't want to just "hit the ball", I want to hit the ball consciously.
And it may sound obvious, I know, but it's not. Especially when there's no one constantly telling you what you're doing wrong and what you should be doing instead.
#2 - I practice shadow swings
If you're not familiar with this term, no worries! 'Shadow swings' is just a fancy term to say I mimic the movement of my strokes, without actually hitting the ball.
Personally, I find shadow swings a great way to remind my brain of the right movements, and make them automatic when I change little things. Plus, they don't require a tennis court, making things easier and within everyone's reach, which is always good!
How often do I practice them? Twice a day: first thing in the morning, as soon as I get up, and in the evening, right after watching tennis videos or just before going to bed.
#3 - I visualize myself playing tennis
If watching tennis YouTube videos instead of Netflix sounded weird to you, I'm sure this sounds even weirder!
But yes, that's what I do every night once I'm under the blankets. I play on repeat the movie of myself playing forehand and backhand.
I do it just before falling asleep with the hope to send a clear message to my brain. Something like "please, strengthen these specific skills during my sleep so that tomorrow these moves will be second nature to me".
I have no idea if it works or not, but I have faith. Lately I've been reading a lot about the benefits of sleep for the brain, so I'm ready to experiment. In the worst case, nothing changes. So why not give it a try?
#4 - I film myself playing tennis
How else would I make sure I'm improving my technique (coach apart, I mean)? To be honest, I really cannot think of any other way!
Obviously, I'm not filming all of my practices. That would be useless. Or, if not useless, very time consuming. Instead, I'm filming about 5-10 min a few times per month, then go home and watch it in slow motion, to ensure I'm actually refining my shots and not introducing new mistakes.
I see it as a kind of "status check", like a test. Something essential that keeps me on the right track.
Without this step, making progress without a tennis coach would be literally impossible. But luckily there's technology!! And infinite will from my side! So... everything is possible!
Where does this approach come from?
This approach is very systematic, and reminds me a lot of how I used to study when I was at school and uni. Actually, now that I think about it, I guess that's how I came up with it.
My "study method" was like this. 1. I'd first read a certain topic and underline the key things. 2. I'd make some diagrams to visualize the connections between the different concepts and the big picture. 3. Then I'd revise them in my mind, to make sure everything made sense. 4. And finally I'd test my understanding by repeating aloud.
Now, when it comes to tennis, instead of reading I watch YouTube videos, and instead of making diagrams I practice shadow swings. I don't revise concepts but movements, and film myself playing instead of repeating out loud to make sure of my progress.
I'm still not sure how effective this approach is (as I'm currently testing it myself), but if it works as well as my study method, then it won't take long before I see good results! That is for sure!!
But enough about my unconventional way of improving my tennis technique! Now I want to know about you!
Let me know in the comments if you also do "weird stuff" to improve your tennis.
If so, what is it? How does it help you? I want to speed up my progress as much as I can, so new ideas are more than welcome!
If not, why not? Is it a matter of time, or you just think tennis lessons with a coach are more than enough? Let me know, I'm curious to know what you think!
Hope you enjoyed reading about my a-bit-unorthodox way of improving my tennis technique, and are now more convinced that tennis on a budget requires a huge amount of determination and will, but is not impossible. If so, high five so I know you did!
Would you play tennis all day and night just to get better?
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