Time is free, but it's priceless
Friday, February 8, 2013 at 02:54PM
CAtennis in Hard Truths, Junior Tennis, Parenting, Planning

Time is free, but it's priceless. You can't own it, but you can use it. You can't keep it, but you can spend it. Once you've lost it you can never get it back. ― Harvey MacKay

We recently ran across this quote from Harvey MacKay and couldn't help but think about the application of this wisdom to tennis as well as life. One obstacle that is faced by tennis players in their path to success is poor time management skills. Simply put, most players are terrible about using the time they have available and, invariably, are forced to "cram for the exam" be it before the tournament, before the dual match or before college signing date. 

Failure is insidious. It marches on whether you see it or feel it. The only way to reverse course is, unfortunately, by also engaging in small positive actions which, on their own, are also unperceivable but, compounded, have the tendency to assist you on your path to success. For example, let's say that you're having problems getting your first serve in and that you have a big tournament coming up. You can either: (1) spend more time practicing the things that you would like to practice (e.g., forehands, drop-shots, overheads, between the legs, etc.) and only focusing on a handful of serves here and there; or (2) wait until the day before the tournament and then wear out your shoulder smacking a couple hundred servers. Which path would you choose?

What if there's a third option?! For example, let's say that a week before the event you hit 50 serves in practice. Is this enough? Will you see a major difference in your first serve percentage during the match? Next day? Doubtful. How about if you hit 50 serves today, then 60 tomorrow, then 70 the next day, and so on until the day prior to the event?! You would have ingrained the motion - that is, developing confidence - in a gradual fashion while at the same time (a) managing your body and keeping it injury free and (b) developing strength and stamina. Yet, players are often prone to want to "cram for the exam" - like eating a salad before they see the doctor while having devoured cheeseburgers every day the month before. 

It would be so much easier to learn from our mistakes if they were either painful or obvious... like a lab rat getting an instant shock whenever he touches the wrong lever. However, the mistakes that we make in the course of learning to play tennis are not always obvious. One less serve or sprint today is not going to ruin you as an athlete. So it's easy to not do it. But do it you must. Use the time that you have avaiable to do an extra push-up today, run an extra sprint (one more than the day before), hit 5 more serves today than yesterday, etc. Gradually, you will lay the foundation for success and develop life-long skills that will assist you beyond the tennis court. 

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