You've been seeing a lot of tennis at home content on social media lately from a lot of sources. Everyone from the USTA to indepedent coaches to up-and-coming juniors has been posting their tennis at home tips, including yours truly. A lot of the content is great for staying involved in the game, having fun, and getting a little exercise. But something that's been on my mind and I'm sure on a lot of people's mind as they look at this content is: does it actually help improve your game? Is it even possible to improve your tennis without stepping foot on a court?
Tennis is comprised of many aspects, the main being: technique, physical readiness, strategy, and perhaps the most often overlooked part, the mental game. So which of these can you improve from home?
Is it possible to improve your stroke technique at home? Well, you can study and understand the concepts that make up a technically sound shot. You can shadow swing to get the timing and feel for that concept. You can then practice it against the wall (that’s the one big caveat - but luckily, walls are still much easier to find than courts these days). Even shots like the serve, which normally requires baskets upon baskets of practice, can be practiced against the wall with one or two balls. The trick here is that most people don’t know what their technique is lacking. That’s why tennis teaching pros exist. But for the recreational player who would like general improvement in his or her game, there are a ton - and I mean a TON - of resources available online (a lot of them free of charge) on how to hit a correct shot, as well as fix the most common mistakes. The majority of players should have no trouble finding several things to work on in each shot from these online videos. The more advanced or competitive players will have to consult their coach who will then no doubt be able to give them at least a few things that they specifically can work on at home to improve their technique. Would working on court with a seasoned coach be better and improve your game quicker? Yes. But will practicing at home still improve your game? In my experience, definitely.
This brings me to my second point - physical readiness. Can you get physically fit and #tennisstrong at home? No doubt. Besides the obvious pushups, sit-ups, and other commonly done at home exercises, there are tons of tailored tennis-specific workouts available (check out our Instagram page for some of them!). There are paid and free versions, but even just any regular at home workout routine will go a long way. Yes, there are certain muscle groups that are especially important for tennis, certain stretches that need to be done to prevent imbalances, and certain footwork that aids in proper adjustment. But just doing simple exercises you learned in PE class when you were a kid, I can guarantee will improve your game if you weren’t doing anything before. And if you’re more advanced, again there are a ton of off-court resources for tennis-specific fitness that don’t require a gym, a personal trainer, and only very minimal equipment.
Ah but now we come to strategy. How can strategy be learned at home, you ask? Well, I would argue that strategy can actually be taught better off-court than on the court. You’ll still need someone to explain it to you, but most strategy is explained via drawings and statistics. Sure those concepts are then reinforced on the court, but in my opinion, it’s actually easier to understand the concepts from studying the drawings and analyzing videos of professional players off-court. It’s great if you can then practice them on court to solidify the strategies in your mind, but in times like these, we do the best we can with what we have, and tennis courts we do not. So can you still learn strategy off-court? One hundred percent yes.
And finally, that brings us to the mental game. Some would argue that strategy and mental game are one and the same. I personally disagree. They’re like cousins. Kissing cousins, sure, but still cousins. Strategy is purely numbers. It’s statistics. The mental game of tennis has a little bit to do with statistics, but its main focus is how to handle adversity on the court. Tennis, many will say, is a mental game. In my opinion, most sports are a mental game, tennis being no exception. Frustration, shutting down, anger, resentment, lack of self-confidence, overthinking, physical or mental exhaustion, and a myriad of other causes can wreak havoc on performance. The mental game is practiced on court, but it is learned off court.
So there you have it. Can you actually improve your tennis game at home? Yes. A big, resounding YES. So stop moping around that you can’t get on a court and get to improving your game! Try to use this time to work on aspects of your game that are normally overlooked. If you play a lot of matches, take this time to reflect and evaluate what it is that you need to work on to get better match results. If you lose because you get tired and start making mistakes, use this time to build up your stamina. If you keep missing your second serve, film it and take a look at what you’re doing wrong. If you’re so burned out or nursing an injury, use this time to rest. Just use this time to your advantage. We can’t change the situation we’re all in right now, but we can adapt, learn, and come out stronger. Stay healthy and see you all on the courts soon!