My new "Life of a Scrappy Player" Series
15 years ago I was a miserable son of a b.... I joined the Bobby Riggs Tennis Club in San Diego North County and didn't want to invest in tennis lessons. My game was just awful, crushing my (German Virgo) ego and making my performance go into a spiral downslide. As a 2.5/3.0 player who played on a 3.5 league team and thought he was a 4.0, I was watching all those great players on TV and wanted to be like them soooo badly. I refused advice from friends who offered to go out on the court to hit with me for an hour. I didn't need to hit, I needed to play, was my line of thinking. And every lost match made me more miserable. I was thinking "WHERE ON EARTH IS THE FUN IN THIS GAME? I AM PAYING GOOD MONEY FOR THIS?"
One day I was playing a USTA mixed doubles League match with my girlfriend. The name doesn't matter, although all of my San Diego friend know who I'm talking about. Right? Well, we lost the first set because of me and halfway through the second set I lost it. I got burned by the opposing net player and started blaming my partner. Oh, boy, I should have known better. She looked at me with disgust and then she walked out. Left me standing there and went home. We defaulted the match, of course, and never again played league tennis together.
The next day my buddy Dave called me and said he wanted to buy me a drink at our local watering hole and talk with me. We went and he explained a few things. He said "Rich, I am very sad to give you some bad news first. NO ONE in the club wants to play with you anymore. The good news is, I can tell you how to change that if you want me to." We got very drunk that night and I promised to listen to his advice. Dave put me on a 3-step plan which I didn't embrace at first, but became enthusiastic about very soon. Here is Dave's 3-Step Plan for turning my tennis life around:
1. Practice hitting ground strokes with my buddy twice a week
From the next day on we were hitting ground strokes on Wednesday nights and Saturday mornings. No games, no points to win or lose. Just hitting. Dave was no high class player, but he had played for 30 years and knew what those ground strokes should look like. It helped me concentrate on the basics without the pressure of wanting to win. I focused on stroke development, footwork, posture, grip, all that good stuff. In addition, I took a private lesson once a month or so, to have a Pro check how I was doing and make sure my strokes were developing the right way.
2. Work on my attitude on the court
Under Dave's regiment I learned how to ... not let me beat up on myself after a bad shot, ... looked for things to improve when I was in a rut, ... clear my mind and focus on my game, ... compliment my partner and create an atmosphere of respect and trust bewteen us, ... have FUN playing tennis.
3. Work on my atitude off the court
Big learning curve for me. I had to start being nice to EVERYONE. Not
just my buddies. That was hard, with my German Virgo background. But,
in the end I mastered that, too. And all of a sudden the sport of
tennis and the interactions with my fellow tennis players started to
look like fun again for me.
You may ask me now how does any of that relate to the headline of this
Blog post? That headline says "How to improve your tennis game 1 whole
level". Well, I went from a 3.0 to a 4.0 player, which is actually a
jump of two levels. And here are my 3 suggestions for you to accomplish
1. Practicing your strokes regularly improves your tennis game
2. If your tennis game gets better, you'll have more fun
3. If you have more fun, your tennis game gets even better
Can it really be that simple? Yes! Try it yourself, it works... And I can assure you of one thing: EVERYBODY wants to play with me today