Tennis coach tips: Self-rate your practice session

Marcin Bieniek, a professional tennis coach and founder of instructional Enjoy Tennis Blog, is dedicating his February’s column to helping us get the best out of our practice sessions by learning to self-rate our progress.

Some of us practice a few times a week, while others get on the court every day. Even though volume of our tennis activities is important, what’s even more important is the quality. That is why we should learn how to self-rate our practice sessions to make sure that we have made progress every time we leave the court.

Practice sessions are different — we work with private coaches, other players or just play practice matches. We can focus more on forehand and backhand or try to incorporate new skills into our game e.g drop shot or slice serve. Intensity of the training session will also vary depending on our daily feeling or specific time during the week (days preceding and following a tournament need different approach). Of course, planning is crucial to make sure that we get better during on-court activities, so we should always know why we do something and what we can achieve by doing that.

Self-rate practice session formula

1. Did I give my best?

There are many things not controllable by players, but their own effort is not one of them. Top players give their best during every activity. If you want to make sure that you are not wasting time during a practice session, you have to give 100% into every drill and shot.

2. What did I do well?

Be aware of your improvements. Make sure you remember positive things from your last practice. By being conscious of your development, you will also build self-confidence that will lead to better results during tournaments.

3. What could I do better?

Everyone makes mistakes. Evaluate your last practice session and learn what is it that you could have done better. Mistakes and failures don’t mean that you are weak. They show you areas that you should still work on to be able to achieve your goal.

4. Was my practice complete?

Tennis development is based on four pillars: technical, tactical, mental and physical. Every time you finish a practice, think whether you worked on all of the pillars. If you missed one or more of them during a training, it means that you limited your improvement. Take care of all the details.

5. What did I learn?

As Rafa Nadal once said: “I don’t go to practice every day to practice. I go to practice to learn something.” That’s the approach you have to take. Make sure you learn something new every day. It can be by talking to your coach or just by experiencing something on your own. Leave the court with new information that you can use effectively in the future.

All players practice, but some of them experience faster and bigger improvement. Most of the time it is because the quality of their practice sessions is higher. If you want to use your on-court time effectively and get better at the fastest possible pace, make sure you self-rate your practice sessions. It will be your indicator of the past performance and important educator for the next practice session.

Moreover, when the practice is over, it is not really over. You should still do a few more activities to make sure that your time was not wasted. You should apply foam-roller, stretch statically, restore glycogen stores and rebuild muscles by eating proper recovery meal. Additionally, you should spend a few minutes on analyzing what you did during the practice session and draw conclusions for the next workout. We all learn all the time, so don’t stop learning when the practice is over.

MORE ARTICLES BY TENNIS COACH MARCIN BIENIEK:

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