As the calendar turns and resolutions are made, many look for ways to personally and professionally enhance their lives.
This is an opportune time for tennis enthusiasts to elevate their game by cultivating positive habits on and off the court.
In this article, we’ll explore 8 tennis habits that can significantly impact your performance and enjoyment of the game.
Whether you’re a seasoned player or a newcomer to the sport, integrating these habits into your routine can make a noticeable difference in your skill level and overall satisfaction with your gameplay.
1. Consistent Warm-up Routine
Before diving into a match or practice session, take the time to warm up your body correctly. A consistent warm-up routine helps prevent injuries and ensures that your muscles are ready for the physical demands of tennis or pickleball.
Include dynamic stretches, light jogging, and practice shots to gradually increase your heart rate and flexibility. Not only does this prepare your body physically, but it also sharpens your mental focus for the challenges ahead.
It’s important to make your warm-up routine suited to you – you have to like what you’re doing if it’s going to stick.
As you start developing this habit, be flexible and try out different things you’ve seen by other players. The goal is to DEVELOP a routine and then stick with it. Before you get the routine, feel free to try different things and see what works for you.
2. Set Clear Goals for Each Session
Approach every practice session, every hour at open play, and each match with a clear purpose.
Define specific, achievable goals for your time on the court, such as improving your serve accuracy, refining your backhand technique, or improving your footwork.
Setting goals directs your practice and allows you to track your progress over time.
This intentional approach to training fosters a sense of accomplishment and motivates you to strive for improvement consistently.
Don’t set unrealistic goals, as this will demotivate you and could cause you to push yourself too hard.
Early on, set goals for yourself that, while challenging, are within your reach. This will get you some early wins and help you build on early successes.
3. Master the Fundamentals
While focusing on flashy shots and advanced techniques is tempting, mastering the fundamentals is crucial for long-term success in tennis or pickleball.
Regularly revisit the basics through targeted drills to reinforce muscle memory and maintain a solid foundation for more complex skills.
Training aids and private lessons are great options for keeping your fundamentals sharp, but just putting time aside each month can do wonders.
Making progress in tennis is a roller coaster; it’s never just a straight line up and up.
Dips in your progress can be a great reminder to go back and revisit the basics before continuing your normal routine.
A strong mastery of fundamentals improves your overall game and makes it easier to adapt and incorporate new strategies.
4. Prioritize Footwork and Positioning
In tennis and pickleball, being in the proper position at the right time is often more critical than having a powerful shot.
Footwork and positioning are the tools available to navigate the court quickly and efficiently.
When you feel like you’re struggling against certain opponents and can’t readily identify the precise reason, it’s likely footwork and positioning letting you down.
You can practice both footwork and positioning on and off the court, and you should do both.
Footwork drills are a great form of conditioning. And positioning can be studied by watching better players than you, either live or online.
As you improve, you’ll realize you can reach certain shots you couldn’t before and are reaching easier shots even faster, giving you more time and room to hit better and better shots.
5. Embrace Consistent Practice
Consistency is vital when it comes to skill development.
Rather than sporadic, intensive training sessions, prioritize regular, consistent practice.
Dedicating a shorter amount of time to practice and playing each week can yield better results than doing sporadic, lengthy sessions.
Consistent practice helps reinforce muscle memory and prevents you from overdoing it.
Even if you can and are used to lengthy practice sessions, you’re putting yourself at risk.
It can take just a single second of pushing yourself too hard, and you could get an injury that takes weeks or months to recover from.
6. Foster a Positive Mindset
Tennis and pickleball are mentally demanding sports that require focus, resilience, and adaptability.
A positive mindset does wonders. It can help you see your mistakes as opportunities to improve. It can help you stay present during matches and enjoy yourself more.
Like the serve or backhand, a positive mindset is something you need to practice.
Meditation can be a fantastic off-court habit to help you create and maintain a positive mindset.
A positive mindset isn’t just for matches; it’s a vital ingredient for getting the most out of your practices and off-court workouts, too.
7. Cross-Train for Physical Fitness
Beyond the court, invest in your overall physical fitness. Engage in cross-training activities that improve strength, flexibility, and cardiovascular health.
A well-rounded fitness routine can enhance your endurance, reduce the risk of injuries, and contribute to your longevity in the sport.
What you do off the court directly impacts you on the court.
Yoga is a fan-favorite workout and hobby for tennis players. Add some running and weight training, and you’ll have an incredibly robust off-court routine for improving physical fitness.
8. Analyze and Learn from Matches
Every match, whether a victory or a defeat, provides valuable insights into your gameplay.
Record your matches whenever possible and take the time to analyze them.
Identify patterns in your performance, recognize areas for improvement, and celebrate your strengths.
Regardless of the outcome, learning from each match contributes to your overall growth as a player.
But you don’t need to stop there. You can also analyze other matches, either of players around your level or professional play.
Practice provides moments that are worthy of your reflection, too!
As you embark on your tennis or pickleball journey this year, remember that success is built on a foundation of good habits.
You don’t need to use the new year as a reason for developing new and better tennis habits, but it’s a nice excuse to get us started!
No matter your reason or the time of year, intentionally focusing on developing good tennis habits is a great way to rekindle your love for the game and enjoy yourself in the process.
Kalindi Dinoffer is trained in multiple aspects of mindfulness in life and in sports, sharing on her blog MindfulKalindi.com. She is also certified to teach yoga, fitness, reiki, and MFR. Kalindi also serves as VP marketing at OnCourtOffCourt.com, a leading supplier of tennis, pickleball, fitness and yoga training aids and equipment and has been published in Tennis industry Magazine and Pickleball Magazine, and has conducted workshops at conferences around the world. In her spare time, Kalindi plays tennis, pickleball and table tennis and enjoys outdoor activities such as hiking and biking and cross country skiing in the winter.