Taking the leap from learning the game to playing the game competitively can be one of the biggest decisions and challenges for players to make – both junior or adult. There are a number of unanswered (and potentially scary) questions children and parents will want to be answered prior to making the jump into competitive play.
From a developmental and progression perspective I will always encourage a player to begin to challenge themselves by competiting for the following reasons:
- Competition tennis instantly adds an element of pressure to the strokes you are trying to execute as there is an end goal (to win the point).
- This pressure is an enormous positive for the player as it highlights the need to concentrate on every shot that is being executed. (Players can cruise through tennis lessons because they know even if they miss a shot or lose a
- point the lesson will continue all the way until the allotted time is over). This match pressure will help develop a more focussed approach to the players lessons result in accelerated stroke development.
- The heightened level of focus results in progress both technically and tactically.
- Competition tennis greatly helps to improve a player’s tactical knowledge of the game as they begin to learn numerous patterns of play to win points.
- Competition tennis is also a fantastic arena where a player can develop their mental approach to concepts such as winning and losing, dispute resolution, self-belief and positive/negative reinforcement.
The most common concerns I hear before a player takes the next step into competition tennis are:
- I’m not good enough – if you can rally and get 5/10 serves in play you’re right to go!
- I’m going to lose every match – not necessarily as you’ll be grouped with players your standard.
- No one my standard plays competition – Competition standards range from entry-level players through to top section suburban players.
- I’m going to let my teammates/partner down as my level of play isn’t as strong as theirs – Every tennis player setting out on their competitive journey has to begin somewhere. Your focus when starting competition is to learn the game in a competitive environment not to have an expectation to win immediately.
To summarise, playing tennis competitively helps you to develop your skills much more rapidly, it teaches you to handle pressure, it can help with goal setting and working towards achieving those goals, it’s great for building self confidence and it gets you active amongst your local community.