35 Day Return to Tennis Roadmap

Standing on one leg while putting on my socks has been part of my early morning routine for longer than I can remember. This Tuesday morning is no different apart from the fact that we now have a roadmap back to tennis, which is occupying my mind. 

It is the morning after the Government announced the roadmap out of lockdown. I am thinking about the 35 days until we can step back onto a tennis court. How best to use this time is still circulating in my mind, long after I am dressed and waiting for my porridge to ping in the microwave. The TV news is full of the roadmap and the way back to normality. 

How best to design my own roadmap back to tennis? The answer is not coming easily to me. There are many options. Which option will be the most effective? It’s a question that will only truly be answered in retrospect, a bit like the Government’s roadmap in reality. Unlike the Government’s roadmap,  following the science of many specialists and also unlike the schedules of elite athletes, the roadmap for wannabee tennis players is a more personal uncertain undertaking. 

I have previously identified four parts to becoming a more complete tennis player. These next 35 days is the time to bring these parts into sharper focus. The parts I identified are technical, tactical, physical and mental. How I fit these parts together will be key to progress over the coming months and more immediately over the next 35 days. 

Technical development relies heavily on the input of the coach and the relationship with the coach. I have limited experience of being coached, though its influence on my game is always positive. Even if I have  frustration that my ability to convert is slower and not as consistent as  I would like it to be. Regular technical coaching input is therefore going to be  a core part of my development once lockdown ends. 

I do wonder what coaches really think about coaching us older guys. I also wonder how much age limits the ability to convert instruction into reality. Logic would say that there will be some drop off due to age. The brain possibly less sponge like and physical abilities obviously reducing, no matter how hard we fight it. 

Having spent most of my years playing this game without any coaching I can see that for me it needs to be a real cornerstone of my development. 

To maximise the coach input then needs practice on what you have been learning in between each lesson. This requires some effort and the seeking out practice partners will be important once we are back on court. Note to self to make some early enquiries, see who is game for regular practice. 

The thought process about the importance of coach input, lacks just one important bit of detail. I am going to be nowhere near a tennis court over the next 35 days. That is just too long not to have racket in hand. 

Need to think about this differently. I decide to try  hitting  against the wall in the garden on a more  regular basis building up feel for the ball on the racket.  Possibly focussing on something specific like forehand then backhand, or getting the ball to land in the exact square I want it to. I am unsure about the benefits of using the garden wall as efforts to date feel unsatisfactory. Maybe a good sweep of the area and the removal of all the small gravel would be beneficial. The removal of the washing line is a must to prevent strangling myself. Must remember to replace to maintain good household relations. 

I see online numerous tennis training aids, with convincing reviews of their effectiveness. I eventually plump after much umming and ahhhing,  for a tethered tennis ball trainer, with rather  more hope than expectation. Basically it’s a tennis ball on a piece of elastic tied to a weighted base. Now I describe it like that I am even less sure it was a good purchase. Worth the risk for the small outlay of £20 I decide. Arrives next week. 

I have previously mentioned a phrase from Olympic Rower Annie Vernon’s book ‘Mind Games’ where she says that at the elite level, it is the ability to do many things just that little bit better that can make a huge difference. Logic says this should be able to apply from the bottom up, and so gives me some hope that I am on the right track. 

The physical side of the game is an obvious part to work on while we are in lockdown. I am pleased with progress, even if it has possibly been a bit too running orientated to date. The running has been coupled with some excellent stretching sessions and more lately weights have been reintroduced into the routine, now that my ribs are recovered from overdoing the weights previously! 

The physical training  I enjoy and would do even without my tennis goal as it gives a lot of confidence to feel physically fit.  The base level I am aiming for is to be able to play two singles matches in a day as required by most tournaments. Improvement in this area should now include using the next few weeks’ to introduce more tennis specific parts to my routine. 

I remain cautious to not overdo things that might affect my back, given last week’s twinge while pulling a bush out of the garden. It appears that I even need to warm up now to pull bushes out of the garden! 

The mental and tactical sides to the game need to come into my 35 day roadmap preparations. How to include mental and tactical parts takes  a little more thinking about. These are areas in need of work to strengthen them. The tactical parts of the game I think can be developed in part through youtube, as I see many places offering tactical advice. Something to take a look at for sure.  

Mental – I think there is more to this aspect of the sport than I have previously acknowledged or really tried to fathom out. I generally feel that if I am in a tight situation like a tie break, that I have  a decent chance of coming through and winning it. There is no science or method as to why I should believe this, as I mostly rely on trying to stay calm not panic and keep hitting the ball. Just in writing this down I  clearly recognise that my approach is just a bit hopeful. This could do with a bit of further work, though I am unsure as yet how best to approach it until I get back on court. More thought required here.

Friday – hitting against the garden wall is turning out to be an unexpected success. At first it felt awkward. After several sessions I am starting to be able to judge the pace and flight required much better. Today I had  a really enjoyable session getting the ball to bounce repeatedly in specific paving squares, with  a good level of success. Moving further away from the wall on completion of each 10 stroke rally made without error. Small steps. 

Earlier this morning standing on one leg while putting on my socks.  

I am struck by the total irrelevance and absurdity of a 60 year old man practicing to hit a small green ball over a net a bit better than he could do before, during a national pandemic. 

On the other hand it may just be the thing that has kept me going with purpose these past weeks and months. A purpose to each day and something to look forward to when there was no obvious end in sight.  

Now, my one person team has a roadmap sketched out and is making progress toward a return to tennis. 30 days and counting. The days are going to go quickly.  

Time to go and book a court for the morning of the 29th March! 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *