Another episode of the Tennis Quick Tips podcast is out! In this week's episode, you'll learn how to use an on-court “cheat sheet.” Sounds illegal, I know. But, don't worry, it's not. You can listen to this episode by clicking on the gray media player above or by listening in with your favorite podcast app. You can also subscribe in iTunes by clicking on this link: tennisfixation.com/itunes.
Below is an edited version of the transcript for this episode that you can read through for notes or to get more information.
Before I get going on this week's tip, I want to let you know that I’ve been hard at work on something I think you’ll want to hear about. I’m writing an e-book called Real Tennis Tips for Real Tennis Players. It’s written for us average, recreational tennis players who won’t be joining the pro tour any time soon. And it’s packed with practical and effective tennis tips that really work. At the end of this episode, I’ll give you more information on how you can get a free chapter from my book and how you can sign up to get a significant discount on the book on launch day. But right now, let’s talk about this on-court cheat sheet thing.
So one of the things I do for fun is work as a tennis official for the USTA. I say I do it for fun because (1) I don’t do it often enough to make very much money at it, and (2) I don’t do it often enough to be more than a very low level official. But I love working as an official because it really forces me to know and keep up to date on the rules of tennis. And part of the reason this is true is because every year I go to a Certification School to get re-certified as an official and that’s what I did this past weekend. I attended a half day school with one of the USTA’s National Trainer Evaluators. It’s a great opportunity to not just get a refresher on the rules but also to get updates on what’s changed for the coming year.
Well, as you might guess, one of the things that’s beginning to change is how technology impacts what can be done on court. In fact, for 2014, there is a new Rule 31 in the ITF Rules of Tennis addressing the use of “player analysis technology” during matches. While this probably isn’t going to have much impact on us club level players right now, just prepare yourself for all kinds of new equipment and apps to be introduced and manufacturers trying to convince us how this stuff is going to make us better tennis players.
But, I digress.
My tip for this episode concerns the kind of on-court coaching that you and I can avail ourselves of during every match we play. And it doesn’t require that you have any kind of fancy piece of technology or even the services of a tennis coach. What I’m talking about is the kind of coaching provided for in the comments to Rule 30 of the tennis rules – these are written notes or, what I like to call, a “cheat sheet.”
Rule 30 addresses the issue of coaching and, in general, does not allow for it. There are exceptions to this but I’m not going to go into all of those because if you are really concerned about getting or giving on-court coaching, you need to look at the rules very carefully. Instead, what I want to point out is what Comment 30.1 states. It says, “A player may bring to the court written notes that were prepared before the start of the match and may read these notes during the match.”
So, I admit it – I keep notes in my tennis bag. I call these notes my personal “Cheat Sheet” and I admit, this is probably one of my nerdier tennis tips. Because I’ve never seen anyone else look over notes before or during a match. But I do this before a lot of my matches because it really helps me to focus on the things I need to do to play better tennis.
My cheat sheet is written out on a 3 by 5 index card that I keep in the front pocket of my tennis bag so I can always find it. I actually typed my cheat sheet up in a Word document and then cut it out and taped it to the card to make it a little sturdier.
So, one side of this card has “Tennis Tips” on it. These are tips just for me. For example, Tip No. 1, in all caps, bold and with an exclamation mark, is “CALM DOWN!” That is something I have to keep telling myself over and over throughout every match I play so that is how my Cheat Sheet starts out. I then have a list of tips broken down by Serve (5 tips, like “Keep tossing arm extended up longer”), Return (3 tips, including “Draw them off court with wide return”), Forehand (2 tips), Backhand (4 tips, including “TOPSPIN!” in all caps), Volley (2 tips), Overhead (2 tips), One-handed Backhand Slice (2 tips), and When To Move In (4 tips, like “Lob over their heads”).
The other side of the card is titled “Doubles Cheat Sheet” and has important tips and strategies for doubles. The sections on this side are Evaluate Opponents, reminding me what to look for during warm-up and throughout the match; Serve & Return, with some tips like “Serve up the middle, set partner up for poach”; and Strategies, with reminders like “Team that controls the net controls the match.”
None of these tips, strategies or reminders is a stunning insight. And sure, they’re all written in 8 point font so they’ll fit on a 3 by 5 card. But I can still read this card without reading glasses and doing so helps me calm down, which is Tip No. 1, and focus on my match. While I could easily reveal all of the intimate tennis secrets I keep on my cheat sheet, I’ll bet you know what you need help with and what you need to be reminded of and your cheat sheet would therefore be different from mine. So I highly recommend that you put together your own personal Cheat Sheet. And if you can get it all on a small card in something larger than 8 point font, you’re a better person than me!
To be clear, what Rule 30 allows you to have an court are written notes. Not notes that you might keep on an electronic device, like your phone. If you’re playing matches in some kind of fun league, your opponents might not mind if you look at your phone every once in a while. But if you’re playing in a more competitive league or in a tournament, you absolutely cannot have your notes on your phone. So keep them on a sheet of paper or, even better, on a 3 by 5 index card. Or even better than that, on a fluorescent colored 3 by 5 index card. Then you can be sure to find it in your tennis bag when you need it.
Now, I want to give you a bonus tip and this is especially for parents of tennis-playing kids. If you really want to focus on something during a match, or you want your child to, a handy way to keep those notes easily accessible is to laminate them and tape them to the water bottle that will be used during the match. I’m not sure where I heard that tip but it is certainly a good one. I know when my own son played in tournaments, he would get flustered pretty easily and it was hard for him to focus on the most basic things. Having notes right in his face every time he took a drink of water would have been great.
Do you use on-court notes during your matches? If you do, what kind of tips are you keeping there? Let me know in the comments to the show notes for this episode as I’d love to let other Tennis Quick Tips listeners know. You can find the show notes over at TennisFixation.com/quicktips29.
At the beginning of this episode, I mentioned my upcoming e-book, “Real Tennis Tips for Real Tennis Players.” If you like listening to the Tennis Quick Tips podcast, I think you’ll love this book. You can find out more information about the e-book and sign up to get a free chapter as well as a significant discount when the book launches by visiting TennisFixation.com/realtennistips. I’ll be offering this discount only to those people who sign up before the launch date (February 18, 2014) so if you’re interested be sure and visit that page on my site. I’ll include that link in the show notes for this episode.
And I hope you’ll subscribe to Tennis Quick Tips:
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To get a free chapter from Real Tennis Tips for Real Tennis Players and a pre-launch discount, visit the launch page and sign up before February 28, 2014. Just click on this link: http://tennisfixation.com/realtennistips
Thanks for listening and, as always, Happy Tennis!
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