There’s always been a contingent of folks who masquerade as passionate tennis players. They have great clothing and gear, attend lots of socials, play in leagues and ladders; they even take lessons and clinics.
Somehow their game remains stuck in neutral. The Pretend Tennis Player shows little to no progress in skills, despite lots of court time and social media posts affirming their love for the sport. Why, though? From my own field research, I identified 5 traits of the ‘Perpetual 3.5er’.
- They don’t understand tennis is hard work. Perhaps they do, and choose not to put in that work, which is worse. Consistent, polished, powerful strokes take time and hard work to develop. There’s no shortcut or magic tip. To glide gracefully around the court requires repetition and sweat currency, too. But it’s all worth it. Taking ownership of improving your game’s quality will further increase your enjoyment of tennis.
- They don’t have a growth mindset. The pretend player continuously attempts to slug rocket first serves with a frying-pan grip, then tap the second serve in, claiming their serve ‘wasn’t on today, like it normally is.” The pretend player refuses to take the time out to learn about a helpful grip change that would benefit the power and consistency of the stroke, but also alleviate that tennis elbow (for which they wear a brace or sleeve). One step back to make two steps forward: trust in the process.
- They are unaware the game continues to evolve. The continued insistence on a straight takeback on groundstrokes. Closed stances for all groundstrokes. All flat strokes. These may have been effective when everyone played tennis with wood rackets, but the inability to learn power positions, varied stances, and how to generate varied spins keeps the Pretend Tennis Player on a plateau. They’ll only be as good as the amount of times per week they play. Or their doubles partner.
- They take no risks. If the pretend tennis player can’t beat you with inconsistent flat strokes and shots with no pace that may result in frustrating errors for similarly sub-enriched players, they don’t stand a chance. The Pretend Tennis Player will try to beat you one way: from the baseline, pushing the ball back, and maybe trying to force errors with a moderately consistent forehand. No volley or overhead to speak of (frying pan grip, also), they are useless as a doubles partner.
- They don’t understand techniques and tactics matter. The pretend tennis player is the pupil who eschews ‘all that technical stuff’, and says, ‘let’s get to the hitting’. The pretend tennis player leaves the pro or coach who makes any attempt to introduce technical corrections to their game. The one they stick with is typically found checking the time, and hitting super soft shots in return to give the pretend tennis player a chance to hit the same they’ve always hit.
Perhaps you display some of these traits. It needs mentioning how much there is to learn about the sport of tennis. What you don’t know yet is more important than what you already know. By putting aside your ego and taking the time to add new dimensions to your game, you will likely increase your enjoyment of the sport, improve your physical health by preventing injuries, preserve energy by either moving efficiently, or apply tactics to end points.
It’s worth the time and sacrifice. Invest in the improvement of your skills.