Practicing With Purpose

Practice doesn’t actually make perfect.

Practice makes remembered.

If you learn how to do something incorrectly, that mistake will be engrained.

In tennis, it’s imperative to learn the right way.

The best way to do this is to practice with purpose. Sure, just swinging away at some balls for hours on end will have some benefit. But that’s what you’re practicing. Not tennis. Swinging.

Practicing with purpose isn’t as natural as you may think. So let’s look at a few ways we can practice with more purpose.

        Set Goals

Starting off, you should have some goals for yourself when you practice.

This doesn’t have to be goals, like making the team or winning a specific tournament.

It should be much more focused.

Say you’re weak on your backhand. Set the goal to practice your backhand specifically for 30 minutes every practice.

Now the goal is something right in front of you that you can interact with, and it’ll grow with you. Even after you make the team or win the tournament, you still might want to practice your backhand for 30 minutes each practice.

        Learn Your Weaknesses

Setting goals is much easier when we have a good idea of what we want to work on and how.

Other players and coaches can be a valuable resource for gauging your strengths and weaknesses, but also listen to yourself.

Odds are you’re aware of your weaknesses more than anyone else. If you ever catch yourself hoping and hoping a certain shot or play doesn’t come your way, that’s a sign of some kind of uncomfortableness.

        Push Yourself

If practice is too comfortable, it’s hard to do with purpose. We need to be on the edge of our comfort zone, just into unfamiliar territory, to really engage with the practice.

Of course, you don’t want to go too far out of your comfort zone.

Adding more depth and details to drills is a great way to push yourself the right amount. For example, using colored targets like these (HYPERLINK to targets), can add enough complexity, so we’re focused on it while still being familiar.

 You want to be unsure of yourself enough, so you’re naturally focused and engaged on the task.

        Practice The Mind

When you’re practicing with purpose, you will use your mind often.

Whenever you train, your body makes small micro-adjustments that they eventually learn and can be recalled.

Your mind is learning, too. So being able to recall those small details mentally is just as important physically.

One of the best ways to do this is by watching yourself on video, getting an outside visual of your movements.

This helps us visualize the precise movements we’re learning, which is excellent for recall.

Replicate real game scenarios

Don’t just do drills that are nothing more than just hitting a ball repeatedly.

Drills should replicate real game scenarios, and the player should treat it as such.

For example, instead of just working on your return of serve, create a more complex sequence. After the player hits their first shot, they have to rush the net to stop a drop shot. You can create just about every tennis situation you’ll likely see in a real match.

The drills will become harder to do, but the payoff is well worth it.