Practice makes.....permanent, so be careful what you practice!

One of my favourite sayings in coaching!

As a general rule, we know that practice makes 'permanent' or certainly re-enforces and deepens an action through electrical signals travelling through a chain of neurons (a circuit of nerve fibres) that is then insulated by myelin which wraps around these nerve fibres and increases signal strength, speed, and accuracy.  The more we fire a circuit, the more myelin optimises that circuit and the more 'permanent' that action becomes (see The Talent Code, Chapter 2, 'The deep practice cell').

It's therefore important to pay close attention to what we practice.  Practice the wrong action (one that won't improve the efficiency or effectiveness of a shot for example), and there may be more work to 'un-do' what's been done and build new, more powerful circuits.

So, only perfect practice makes perfect, but I prefer simply to use the phrase, 'practice makes permanent so be careful what you practice!'

And speaking of practice, here's the last in a little mini-series this week on shot feelings or in fancier terms, a kinaesthetic approach to developing skill. 

Have a good day.

Wishing you a very happy Easter!

It was great to be in on a 'zoom' get-together last night with the Everyball coaching team and see some faces that I've missed now for a few weeks.  We are all in different situations, some back at home with parents for a while, some with young families, some on their own entirely and some, like me, with slightly older teenagers.  As a result the 'experience' we are all going through is varied, but gratefully so far everyone is well and safe and of course we are united by our desire to get back to work when it's safe to do so and have been already planning behind the scenes for this.

Meanwhile, there is this time to use as constructively as possible and dare I say it, enjoy.  The weekly 'clap' for all NHS workers and those in the front line is quite incredible and also represents a significant coming together of local streets and communities.  Let's hope some encouraging noises from the government yesterday really do come to mean a significant turning of the tide with this horrible virus over this long Easter weekend and of course we'll be doing our bit by sticking to advice and staying home.

Here's another short video to perhaps give you a little 'tennis' focus on this Good Friday.

What are your strengths? Not just on the court but beyond it....and a little work on the 'power attack' with a 'hit' feeling

I came across a recent definition of 'strengths' as the 'presence of performance and energy'.  I really like this in so much as when we are at our best in given situations there is a potent combination of competency (my performance as shown through a skill, action, behaviour) and energy which perhaps comes from delighting in the humble knowledge of doing something well and 'I'm meant to be doing this/I've worked hard to master this/I enjoy this' type feelings.

Could be a topic at the dinner table today with family or on zoom with a friend or a team you are involved in.

When are you at your best?

What are your strengths? (think performance and energy)

What strengths would you like to develop over the next weeks?

What strengths do you see in those around you?

Can you lift someone up today by affirming their strengths?  'I see in you....',  'when you do this....', 'your strengths are.....'

Back to a 'power attack with a 'hit' feeling' one of your strengths?  Could it become one?  Check out today's video:

Achieving a 'stroke' feeling on your rally groundstrokes for more spin and security on these shots

I guess this new life we are experiencing through this horrendous virus is becoming a little more normalised now.  The novelty factor of 'stay at home' is all but gone as we face the real prospect of being in lock-down for a few more weeks yet and the true test of our resilience to keep going is upon us.

For the athletes out there, now is the moment to bear down and stick at it because it is also the moment that many will lose the self-discipline and motivation to keep training, to eat and sleep well, to keep positively engaged and feed the mind as well as take care of the body.   It's a time of great opportunity because if you can keep going now whilst others drop away, you'll have a great competitive advantage once you get back to the old 'normal'.

Amongst other things and for what it's worth, I'm maintaining my commitment to providing you with a little video each day and I've been given some great advice on how to keep improving on my pull-up challenge.  Can I get to 10 by Easter Sunday - I'm on 7 now!

So, yea, in a counter-intuitive way I often think that 'resilience' is actually found in the normal when the peaks are not so high and the troughs are not so low and it's all about 'keeping going'.  For so many of course the lows right now are incredibly low and in no way do I wish to devalue the horrendous time we are going through and my thoughts and prayers continue to go out to all in the front line or currently ill with the virus, particularly our Prime Minister today.

Here's the first video in a short series of shot 'feelings' and we start today with a look at our ground-'strokes' in rallying situations.

Have the best day you possibly can.

One of the first things to 'go' with an extended time away from the court is our movement...

Here's an exercise today to help keep your movement/footwork up during this extended time away from the courts.  Suitable for all levels of players, young and older!

I've also laid down a little challenge - can you beat my score of 33/minute (count each time your move around a cone) whilst maintaining the footwork pattern and good quality?

Send my a video and enjoy!

Who would have known that you can improve your tennis whilst playing darts?

Yep, the two sports (Darts is a sport - England, United States, Ireland, Scotland, Netherlands, Germany, and Belgium have recognised darts as an official sport) have more in common than you think!

Check out my latest video to see how this is so, and in the meantime a little exercise to improve the coordination and pre-throw position on the serve.

Not quite the beautiful sunny day we had yesterday, but hoping that you are keeping spirits up!

Closing down the net with the 1-2 step and playing 'one point at a time'

A simple 1-2 footwork technique today that will help you 'close down the net' on some of those easier balls!

Here are a few questions to reflect on around the ability to 'play one point at a time' and perhaps draw some parallels for our lives right now.

  1. If you knew that you are a weak competitor, and that it is not alright to make mistakes and lose points, how would you play a match?
  2. If you knew that you are a strong competitor, and it is alright to make mistakes and lose points, how would you play a match?
  3. If you knew that you are known by players, coaches, parents and others for being exceptional at being able to play one point at a time, what do you notice about the way you approach competition?
  4. If you knew that people are not judging or evaluating you, how would you play a match?

Why don't we just treat today as one point?  Completely disconnected from the past and in no way linked to tomorrow.  Just play.

If you fight for 'everyball' you can fight for everyday.!

Defensive open-racket face skills today....can you beat my score of 34?! (do you know the dimensions of a court?!)

So the width of a service box singles line to centre line is 13.5 ft.  How are you on the rest of the court dimensions?  Any of these surprise you?

Length of service box, net to service line = 21ft

Service line to baseline = 18ft

Baseline to net = 39ft

Doubles tramline to doubles tramline = 36ft

Singles line to singles line = 27ft

Length of full court = 78ft

Height of net at middle = 3ft

Anyway, today's exercise works on open-racket face defensive skills side to side across the width of a service box

  1. Mark out width of a service box - 13.5ft
  2. Have a timer ready
  3. Starting at the middle point move out to and shadow a defensive backhand over the marker and then recover and repeat on the forehand side
  4. Repeat this continuously for 1 minute, counting each time you play a shot
  5. Maintain good posture - bend at knees not at waist.  Open stance on the FH and closed stance (stepping across with right foot for a right hander) on the BH
  6. Can you improve on my score of 34 in a minute?!  I hope so - I'm getting back out there today to improve!

Here's a demonstration of the exercise with my practice partner Smithy:

So, get your legs out and enjoy the sun today and challenge your heart and legs with this practice!

Let me know your scores ;-)

Using the concept of the 'waiting position' to improve your volley

Happy Friday everyone.  It is Friday isn't it?  Days are rolling into one! 

Anyway, I'm continuing my commitment to provide a little exercise/drill each day of the lockdown to help you stay engaged with your tennis and even make some improvements.  How amazing would that be - coming out of lockdown more skill-full than you were going in!!

I'm seeing video evidence of so many players out there finding great ways of improving whilst not able to get onto a court and there's no reason this should not continue once we get out of lockdown - taking more personal responsibility away from the 'formal' training environment to get better.  This really is what P.R.I.D.E is all about - Personal Responsibility In Developing Excellence!

The very simple practice of basic shadow strokes for example - before lockdown it was a challenge to get players to shadow even on court for fear of looking silly,  but now it's 'accepted' and there's a more obvious reason to do it, let's keep it going!  It's one way of genuinely feeling every nuance of the body/stroke - especially when done slowly at first and then building in more speed.

Today, grab another member of the household to give you a few under-arm throws out in the garden/street, or even in the living room.  15 minutes of deliberate practice using the concept of the 'waiting position' to improve the volley.

From the 'ready position' to the 'waiting position' with the racket and ridding yourself of poisonous thinking!

A key mini tennis progression today from a 'ready' to a 'waiting' position with the racket.  Of course this principle can be adapted for older and higher level players for different game situations such as receiving a fast ball on the serve with minimal backswing, and tomorrow I'll show you how we can use it for the volley.

For the mini tennis player the principle of getting the strings of the racket behind the ball and the feeling of playing 'from contact onwards' with a nice stable wrist to control the racket face and direct the ball is a very important building block in their stroke development.

Continuing on with a little self-reflection/examination today....we can't be 'mentally tough' when we've got too much poison in our lives...

So, try rating your poison consumption:

S = sometimes, A = always, N = Never

  • How often do I need to be perfect?
  • How often do I stress over making the best choice?
  • How often do I worry about looking silly in front of others?
  • How often do I worry about my future?
  • How often do I get angry at myself?
  • How often do I worry about my appearance?
  • How often do I dislike or not get along with people in my life?
  • How often do I compare myself to others?
  • How often do I speak poorly about others?
  • How often do I complain?

(NBC Basketball Camps 2019 Booklet)

We only have so much energy, and if we invest energy into any of the above, we're robbing ourselves of the emotional energy required for more helpful and constructive thinking.  So today, let's catch and challenge any poisonous thinking.