Don't be a hyper-specialist, rather use a 'range' of sports to help you become a better tennis athlete

You may have read David Epstein's Range - How Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World?  A fascinating read if you get the chance.

Early on in discussing the two different routes Tiger and Roger took to the top of their respective sports, he writes: 

'Eventual elites typically devote less time early on to deliberate practice in the activity in which they will eventually become experts.  Instead, they undergo what researchers call a 'sampling period'.  They play a variety of sports, usually in an unstructured or lightly structured environment; they gain a range of physical proficiencies from which they can draw; they learn about their own abilities and proclivities; and only later do they focus in and ramp up technical practice on one area.'

We of course are drawn to research and ideas that support our own view and experience, and it is very much my view and experience that multi-sport athletes in childhood and early teens go on to becoming better 'tennis athletes' and players later on.  As a multi-sport athlete until late into my 'teens' I have always felt the benefit of this 'range' of physical experience on the tennis court - even if I never reached the elite level.

I'm not saying head off and join your nearest netball/basketball/football team (though bravo if you already play in such) but continue to spend time playing other sports, even if it's just a muck-around in the garden like today's video which continues to explore the 'R' and 'E' of R.E.S.P.E.C.T.  Enjoy!

Being brilliant at the basics rather than having flashes of brilliance....

As much as 'respect' is a fundamental life principle, I believe it's also a fundamental ingredient and skill to being a great competitor in the sporting arena and in this case on the tennis court.  Here are just a few examples why:

  • Respect the game and it's scoring system - for example, understanding that I can still win a match by winning less points than my opponent (I think I'm correct in saying that Roger Federer has only won something like 54% of all points in his professional career but 20 grand-slam titles!)
  • Respect the 'real deal of competition' by being prepared for what 'could happen' on the day - no match ever goes 'good, very good, great, shake hands!' My opponent has a 'right' to play well themselves!
  • Respect my opponent and the qualities he/she might bring to the court by bringing 100% effort myself whatever the situation
  • Respect 'time' and 'space' by being smart with my shot selection, movement and re-positioning
  • Respect that my work on the practice court will be revealed on the match court

We can also use the R.E.S.P.E.C.T acronym to develop great 'fundamentals' to our game and today's video further explores the 'R' and the 'E' with a couple of exercises easily done at home.

Ready to read and react

Energy in the feet






R.E.S.P.E.C.T is the cornerstone that holds everything up

We're big on the 4R's at Everyball.  Respect, Responsibility, Reflection and Resilience....our core values within the programme as well as life skills that we can develop through the demands of our sport.

It all begins with respect for oneself, the game, the opponent, and our differences.  Respect is the cornerstone that holds everything else up, a fundamental 'life' principle if you like.  Pretty apt for Easter Sunday as in biblical times, a cornerstone was used as the foundation and standard upon which a building was constructed and often as a reference to Jesus himself.

To help us develop some strong fundamental 'game' principles, a while back we developed the acronym R.E.S.P.E.C.T.

I begin to unpack this today in this video:

Have a happy Easter everyone - 'The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone' (Psalm 118 v 22)

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.!