Why less coaching can be better
Having a coach is great, they help motivate you, provide structured practice plus a regular commitment to being on court. But there are also plus sides to having some alone time on court. The top players in the world have got there with 1000s of hours of independent practice. This time on your own helps you get to know yourself. It allows deeper analysis of your overall game and personality as a player.
How to be your own coach
It’s all too easy to be reliant on someone else to tell you what to do. Why do it if someone else is going to do it for you? One of the most frustrating things to hear as a coach when you ask your player how their game is going is, “I’m not sure”. Your tennis game is your game and you should be the ultimate expert on it, not the coach. Taking some time away from your coach allows you to learn more about yourself and take ownership. That way you can feed back more quality information to your coach and get the very best out of the partnership.
Learn to analyze
Taking ownership is not so easy if you are struggling to analyze your game. Start with simple things like knowing what type of practice you like best. What style of player are you? Do you have some favorite drills? Most tennis players struggle to answer something as simple as what their strengths and weaknesses are. Knowing these things really helps you narrow your focus for improving in both the short and long term. Self analysis also helps you improve faster. Is your coach having to repeat the same things to you week in week out? Sometimes when you have regular training with a coach you just get into a habit of not truly taking on board what the coach is telling you. By having time alone you have nobody else to assist so you have to figure it out by yourself. This trial by error way of learning is a much faster way of improving. This video from tenniswarehouse.com is a great way to get started. Once you know what your style of play is you can go forward from there:
Taking the information you have gleaned from self analysis will help you know the best ways to motivate yourself. If there are some things you hate practicing then those may be the things you set up to train with your coach. Do the things you love on your own because you know it will be easier to get yourself on court. You also want to take this time to learn to self motivate. The hardest sessions are always the most rewarding but the more you put yourself out of your comfort zone, the more rewarding it will become.
It's obviously even harder to get motivated when you don't have a practice partner. But you can still have a great training session. Here’s some easy ways from top tennis training to practice on your own:
Add structure and set goals
It's also easier to motivate yourself if you have some kind of structure and goals to work with. For example, if you have a regular competitive commitment then it gives you extra reason to step on the court and practice. Having some kind of routine such as days in your calendar that are for “tennis” can also help. Setting both short and long term goals can be very useful. It might be that you want to enter your city’s yearly tennis tournament and have a set amount of time to work towards it with scheduled in practice matches and other local tournaments. Whatever your goals, you can use all of it as a positive way to structure your practice and get the most out of your valuable time.
Tennis is a tough sport, both mentally and physically. It can demoralizing if you hit a couple of bad matches or practice sessions in a row. Positive results don’t always mean positive gains. We learn more about ourselves from bad days. We also gain more from tough practice sessions. If you have found the mental fortitude to keep trying and pushing yourself through then reward yourself. The natural reward for winning or having a great practice session is the happy feeling that comes with it But we all forget to give ourselves a pat on the back when we really need it. We can be our own worst critics. Try being your own biggest fan. Treat yourself to something that makes you happy. It could be as simple as going for a coffee or a nice walk. Do something that makes you feel rewarded for all of your hard work.
How much coaching?
The question is “How much coaching should I have if I am having alone time too?”. In my experience balance is the key: you want an equal distribution of lessons, practice and matchplay. For most adults with busy lives it is hard to fit in 3 regular tennis sessions per week, but the ultimate goal would be to have one of each per week. If you struggle to make 3 per week then split it over a two week cycle. If you have time for more than 3 sessions then that’s a bonus. If you are a non competitive player then try to get an equal split of coaching and practice.
It may be that you love your time with your coach. You may be mostly heading to the court to get exercise and have no plans to compete. But if you have goals in mind and want to keep developing as a competitive player then try adding in some time as your own coach. The easiest way to get started is to add in an extra practice session with a friend or a ball machine. You can then start applying some of the tips above. Keep us updated with your progress, we love feedback.