Let's face it – when you have a tennis lesson, you're being bossed around. Your tennis coach tells you to run over here, serve over there, hit this shot, aim for that target. And you do most of this, or at least you attempt to do most of this, no questions asked.
But don't forget who the boss really is out on the court. Don't forget who is paying for that lesson. Not your coach, right? It's you! And you need to make sure that you are getting your money's worth out of each and every lesson you have. You need to make sure that every tennis lesson you have is a great tennis lesson. Here's how to do that:
1. Communicate your goals to your coach. In the last post in this series (click here for that – Get A Goal And Get More From Your Tennis Lessons), we discussed the importance of having a goal for your lessons. Make sure your coach knows what your goal is and that he is designing drills to help you get to that goal. So if you want to work on your serve, some time should be spent with you hitting serves. Obviously. But those serve drills should be not only you standing at the baseline, hitting serves while your coach stands there and critiques you, but should also include some live ball drills where you serve and then play out points against your coach.
2. Ask questions during your lesson. While you want most of your lesson to consist of you hitting balls, you need to spend some time talking to your coach and asking questions. Now, I ask a lot of questions during my lessons, probably way more than is necessary. But I know my coach has played since he was a kid, I know he plays singles and doubles, and I know he's pretty smart about tennis (although I would never admit that to him). So I want to know what he thinks about some of the situations I come up against in match play. I want to know when to hit my backhand with top spin and when to slice. I want to know how much to pronate on my serve and what does that mean anyway. Talking with him and asking lots of questions is a good way to get expert advice on the specific situations that I come up against again and again.
3. Learn something in each lesson AND write it down! I try to take away at least one thing from each of my lessons. It may be something major – apply spin when hitting an overhead (that was major for me anyway). It may be something very minor – wear a better hat on sunny days. I then jot down these lesson points on a notepad I keep in my tennis bag just for this purpose. I do this because, even though I think I'm really smart and will remember everything I learn in my tennis lesson, the truth is – I won't. But if you do this – learn something AND write it down – you will soon have a great list of tips specific to your game that you can pull out and review before your matches. And maybe one day, like me, you'll type it up into your own personal cheat sheet (read this post – Keeping A Personal Cheat Sheet – for info on that great idea)!
4. Apply what you learn outside your lesson. This is really the hardest part of taking tennis lessons. When you are learning something new, it very likely will mean changing your old way of doing things. I've actually witnessed someone else taking a lesson, arguing with their pro why their way of hitting a backhand was better than the way the pro was trying to teach them. Ladies – if this is you, you're wasting your money taking lessons. Face it – want to get a better backhand? You might have to change your grip. And that new grip is going to feel awkward and uncomfortable for quite some time. But if you don't put it into play and you keep using your same old backhand grip, well, your backhand is never going to improve. So accept the awkwardness. Ignore the fact that you are going to have some trouble with that backhand for a little while (or whatever it is you're working on). Apply what you're learning in your tennis lesson to your tennis game and have faith that you will soon see the improvement.
Want to read other posts in this series? Just click on these titles and find out how to get the most from your tennis lessons:
Part 1 – Federer Hired A Tennis Coach – Should You?
Part 2 – Where, Oh Where, Can I Find A Great Tennis Coach?
Part 3 – Eenie, Meenie, Miney – Tennis Coach!
Part 4 – Get A Goal And Get More From Your Tennis Lessons