Tennis is a beautiful, inspiring game. A game of devastating drop shots, powerful forehands, and furious topspin. A game that allows you to sprint and cut and pivot and strike, all in the span of a few seconds. A game of friendship and cutthroat competition.
And with world class athletes like Serena Williams and Roger Federer providing inspiration, it’s easy to want to join the millions who venture onto the tennis court every year.
Author David Foster Wallace wrote this about tennis:
I submit that tennis is the most beautiful sport there is and also the most demanding. It requires body control, hand-eye coordination, quickness, flat-out speed, endurance, and that weird mix of caution and abandon we call courage. It also requires smarts. Just one single shot in one exchange in one point of a high-level match is a nightmare of mechanical variables.
Indeed, the beautiful game does demand great things of the human body. In fact, it’s these demands that cause many beginners to give up on the game.
Frankly, it’s easy to be inspired to get into tennis. Watching just a few hours of Wimbledon is enough to convince even the most sedentary person to get off the couch, grab a racket, and start practicing their serve.
But after the initial inspiration wears off, it’s easy to be discouraged. Tennis is somewhat like skiing: easy to get into yet difficult to master.
It requires practice and hard work to perfect your backhand and footwork and overhand serve. This hard work often turns off those who are new to the game.
Don’t give up! Few things are more rewarding than tennis. It allows you to enjoy intense exercise, competition, and friendship, all in the space of a single game. Few other sports make this possible.
So how can you stay inspired to play tennis? How can you keep going even when you’re frustrated that you’re not mastering things as quickly as you’d like?
Here are some simple ways:
Watch The Greats
Few things are more inspiring than watching the greatest tennis players of all time dart back and forth, hitting the ball with both grace and startling power.
Seeing Roger Federer toy with his opponents, forcing back and forth across the court with a simple flick of his wrist, can inspire you to keep practicing. Watching Serena Williams strike the ball with ferocity and accuracy is a beautiful thing, and can motivate you when you’re shots are spraying all over the court. Beholding Rafael Nadal torque his body to send a ball rocketing forward at 100+ MPH is awe inspiring.
Will you ever be on the level of Federer or Agassi or Williams or McEnroe? Probably not. But that’s not the point. They were at your level early in their career. They were terrible at tennis at one point.
Even during their careers, they went through low periods when balls were sailing and serves were faulting.
They simply stuck to it, and by doing so, got better.
Don’t give up. Keep going out there. You will get better.
Get A Tennis Partner
Having a playing partner is a fantastic way to stay motivated when you want to throw in the racket. Even if you don’t want to play, they probably will. They won’t let you give up, simply because they’ll lose their playing partner.
Additionally, a tennis partner can provide consistent, real-time feedback. When you completely miss a backhand and want to smash your racket into the ground, your partner can calm you down and give you advice. She can help you keep having fun and remind you that you’re not a pro who has a contract on the line.
Playing partners are what you might call “forced accountability”. If you were on your own, you may give up the game and go back to binging on the latest Netflix show. But your partner will force you to get out there. To keep trying. To hit more balls even though your wrist aches and a blister is starting to form.
Make A Plan
Motivation is what you gets you started playing tennis, but unfortunately, it doesn’t last long. A plan is what keeps you going when you want to hang up your shoes.
Your plan doesn’t need to be complicated, but it does need to be concrete. It needs to have set objectives and dates. For example, you could plan to:
- Hit 100 balls every Monday
- Play with your partner every Wednesday
- Enter a beginner tournament in 3 months
- Learn enough to teach your kids
Productivity and motivation expert James Clear puts it this way:
If you don't plan out your behaviors, then you rely on your willpower and motivation to inspire you to act. But if you do plan out when and where you are going to perform a new behavior, your goal has a time and a space to live in the real world. This shift in perspective allows your environment to act as a cue for your new behavior.
To put it simply: planning out when and where you will perform a specific behavior turns your environment into a trigger for action. The time and place triggers your behavior, not your level of motivation.
If you rely only on your motivation, there’s a good chance you won’t keep going. Making a plan keeps you on track even when you don’t feel like it.
Hire A Certified Coach
Few things will help you improve and keep you working than hiring a certified tennis coach. There are several reasons for this.
First, when you pay someone to teach you, you’ve made an investment. There’s more at stake in sticking with the game. If you fail to keep going, not only do you miss out on loads of fun, but you also lose the money you invested.
Second, when you hire a coach you’re making an appointment that you have to keep. You can’t skip practice without having to cancel on your coach. This puts a bit of social pressure on you to keep going.
Third, hiring a coach creates accountability. Your coach will give you specific things to practice, and if you don’t practice, the coach will know. The coach will follow up, ensuring that you actually do what was asked of you.
Finally, a coach can give expert feedback. Without specific instruction, it can be difficult to know what you’re doing wrong. Are you dipping your shoulder? Flattening your wrist? Not pivoting sufficiently? Your coach can watch you and then tell you exactly what you need to chance.
One coach puts it this way:
Coaches will recognize flaws in your game that you wouldn’t have seen in a hundred years. Have you ever had a friend ask you why you did something that you had no idea you were ever doing? Good coaches are invaluable because through years of experience and training they can spot even the most minuscule technical flaws or strategic mistakes that hamper your progress.
If you’re struggling to keep going, consider hiring someone who can push you.
Watch Instructional Videos
If you can’t hire a coach, watching instructional videos is also very helpful. It allows you to break down the mechanics of what makes a good shot, as well as determine what’s keeping you from reaching your potential.
There are thousands of instructional videos and courses available online, covering everything from choosing the proper racket to improving footwork to mastering the most difficult of shots.
Watching these videos gives you a sense of how you should be approaching the game.
You can checkout my own site that is FREE for players at www.jorgecapestany.com. You’ll gain access to hundreds of free video lessons as well as seeing footage of professional players including slow motion and stroke analysis.
In addition to watching others, consider videoing yourself and comparing how you play to the instructional videos. Simply ask a friend to use their phone to record you hitting balls and then watch the video both in real time and slow motion.
Remember Why You Started In The First Place
Most likely, you began playing tennis for some simple reasons. You wanted to exercise more. To spend time with friends, To try a new hobby. To just have fun. You never intended to become a tennis pro, competing on the world circuit for millions of dollars.
When you feel frustrated, take time to remember why you starting playing the beautiful game. Ask yourself, “Am I achieving my original goal? Am I getting exercise? Am I learning new things? Am I getting to spend time with friends?”
The answer is probably yes.
It’s easy to lose sight of the forest for all the trees. When you’re feeling frustrated and want to give up, remember why you first started.
Tennis is a game easy enough for beginners to learn and challenging enough for even the best to master. It gives back far more than it demands and provide a lifetime of joy.
It’s understandable why so many people feel tempted to throw in the towel when they first get started. The game does present unique challenges that can tough to overcome.
Don’t give up. Don’t stop. If you do, you’re giving up years of fun, exercise, and friendship.