The latest episode of the Tennis Quick Tips podcast is now available! In TQT 012 I tell you the items I think you absolutely must carry in your tennis bag every single time you play to ensure your on-court success. I also throw in a few funny, weird and completely true experiences I've had in my matches to let you know why I think these items are so important.
Below is an edited version of the transcript for this episode that you can read through for notes and more information.
One of the things I do as part of my tennis adventures is work as a USTA tennis official. Now, just to be clear, I am a very low-level official. I work as a roving official at tournaments which means I walk around in my official shirt and make sure players see me and know I’m available to assist them if they have problems. I’m not supposed to interact with people or socialize much with other officials because it’s really important to avoid any appearance of impropriety and inattention.
And while I love getting to put the tennis rules to work in a real-life situation and while I enjoy the faux feeling of power being a low-level tennis official gives me, what I really love is watching a whole bunch of people play tennis all at the same time. Seeing their stroke technique, their shot choices, even what kind of pre-match warm-ups they go through, how they interact with other players and, believe it or not, what kind of stuff they carry out on court to get through their match.
So, this past weekend, I worked at a ZAT tournament where I had sole responsibility for most of the day for the 16 year old boys draw. If you know anything about junior tennis, you know that the ZAT level is where kids really get started playing tennis. They move up from their to Champs and Super Champs. So 16 year old boys playing ZATs are not necessarily going to play college-level tennis. But these kids are still awesome tennis players. You can just see from their stroke technique and shot selection that they've been at it for awhile.
But what gets me about these kids is some of the mistakes they make. And I’m not talking technique or strategy here. I’m talking about the kid who walked up to me in the middle of his match, which was about three courts away, and asked me if I “sold” water. He forgot to bring water out to the court and he wanted to know if I had any. Not only was I surprised that he didn’t bring any water on court, I was shocked that he left his court for this in the middle of a set and didn’t realize I could penalize him for a time violation. I told him that I didn't sell water, that he needed to get back to his court right away, that I was giving him a warning for delaying his match, that he would be subject to a point penalty for further time violations, and that he could get water during the 2 minute set break. And, before you jump all over me for being a heartless rules-Nazi who doesn’t care about the health or safety of children, in my defense, let me add that he did have Gatorade in his hand as he talked to me so I wasn't too worried about him passing out from dehydration.
While this story could turn into a lesson about how everyone playing tennis needs to know the rules of tennis, especially everyone playing tennis in a tennis tournament, that's not what this podcast is about.
Instead, I want to go over what I think you need to have with you, in your tennis bag and on court, every single time you play a match to ensure your on-court success.
So let's talk about what I have in my tennis bag because I'm pretty sure I have more than everything you need to take out on court with you to be prepared to play. We'll start with the five things I think you absolutely must have every time you play a tennis match.
1. Two Tennis Racquets – I play a lot of ladies who come out to the court with one racquet and that's pretty much it. I, however, always carry two and I think even the lowest level beginner should do the same. Now, I don’t carry two because I think it makes me look intimidating. I’m pretty sure no one has ever been intimidated by me and my two rackets. I carry two because I have actually broken strings on my racquet during a match. I don't hit very hard so the first time this happened I was pretty surprised. But it's happened to me a few times now and thank goodness I had a back-up racquet that I could quickly pull out of my bag to finish the match with. I have also switched racquets during a match because one of them felt “funny” for some reason. Maybe it was just a psychological thing but my 2nd racquet was the placebo I needed to get through my match. And here's an interesting reason to have at least 2 racquets with you – on 2 occasions, not 1, but 2, I have had a doubles partner show up who actually forgot her racquet. Weird I know but it's happened to me twice. But no big deal because I had 2 racquets and I lent one to my partner. So I always have two racquets with me when I play tennis.
2. Water – I know I talk about hydration a lot. I did in Tennis Quick Tips Episode 8, Hot Weather Tennis Essentials and I'll be sure and link to that episode in the show notes for this episode. I've also talked about the importance of hydration several times on my TennisFixation.com blog, and I'll link to those posts in the show notes too. The thing is, I live in Houston, Texas and it is incredibly hot and humid here most of the year. So when I play tennis, making sure I have a reliable supply of water is super important to me. Now, perhaps you play in a league where the other team is supposed to provide you with water so you're not worried about that. But I've played in that same kind of league and guess what? One time, the lady who was assigned to bring water bottles that day forgot to bring them. She just forgot. Another time I played a match where the hosting team's practice was to put big gallon jugs of water out on the court with small paper cups. So you had to continuously fill your little paper cup every time you needed a drink. And if you were playing a late match and the water ran out, well, sorry. No water for you. Or how about the club I played at where you fill your cup from a dispenser that I actually saw a kid take the top off of and stick his hands in to get some ice. I wish I was making that last one up. But I'm not. Sadly, all of those scenarios have happened to me. So I always, always bring my own water to matches. I never rely on what's provided on court or by the other team. And I think you should do the same.
3. A Can of New Tennis Balls – This seems obvious but I myself have shown up for matches where no one, not even me, remembered to bring a can of balls. And if you continuously rely on your doubles partner to have the balls, well, you may not have that doubles partner for much longer. So always have at least one new can of balls for match play. A can of used balls to warm up with is worth bonus points.
4. The Rules of Tennis and The Code – I know that most people think it's geeky and completely unnecessary to carry around a copy of the ITF Rules of Tennis and the Code. I know this because 9 times out of 10 I am the only person pulling her rule book out when there's a rules question. Or maybe I'm just the only one uncool enough to pull out my rules book. Anyway, I always carry around a copy of the Rules of Tennis, the Code, and whatever written rules are available for the various leagues I play in. And while I think you should pack these things in your tennis bag, if you don’t want to, I strongly suggest that you learn the Rules and the Code because you are eventually going to get into some kind of rules conflict during a match and, I promise you, the person who knows the rule, or at least seems to know the rule, is the one who wins the point.
5. Towel – This seems really obvious, right? A towel is obvious. It's great for wiping off sweat. It's great for wiping down your racquet. You can pour some water on it and use it to cool off. You can hide under it if you need some alone time to contemplate your strategy. But I've been in plenty of matches where at least one person forgets to bring their towel. And, just to throw in another tennis officiating story, I once officiated a match of 18 year old Champ girls where one of the girl's got a nose bleed in the middle of a point. And no one on that court, not the player, not her opponent, and not any of the spectators, had a towel or even a Kleenex. We were able to get one brought out to the court by another official but it took a few minutes of nose bleeding before we got it. So, please, carry a towel in your bag.
So, those are my five absolutely must have items for your tennis bag. Now I'll tell you my seven nice-to-have items. These are the things that I don't think you absolutely need to play a match, but they sure make playing tennis a lot easier.
1. Grip Overwrap Or Whatever You Use – I use a grip overwrap on my racquet. This is the wrap that you put over the grip of your racquet to keep your hand dry and keep the racquet from slipping when you hit a ball. Right now I use a grip overwrap that comes in pretty neon colors. I have also used that blue wrap that I think has John Isner's picture on it or maybe it's the Bryan brothers. If you don’t like that one, don’t worry – there are tons of different wraps in tons of different colors and textures. Or maybe you use rosin or that sticky stuff in a tube. Whatever it is you use, keep it in your bag. You never know when you’re going to need to replace your wrap during a match and you want to be sure that your racquet always feels comfortable and doesn’t slip when you’re playing.
2. Cap or Visor – This is pretty much a necessity for me to not only keep my hair back, but also to keep the sun out of my eyes on sunny days. It's especially useful when you’re playing a lobber.
3. Sunglasses – Just like having a cap or visor, you may need sunglasses when you’re playing a lobber. But you may also need them when its just a bright day outside. Unless it is night or it is on the verge of raining, I always wear sunglasses. And once they're on, they stay on because I don't like to keep trying to adjust my eyes to the light.
4. Sunscreen – Here in Houston, we wear sunscreen year round. Even in winter, it is still sunny enough to be outside playing tennis and therefore to be wearing sunscreen. I have a lotion for my face, at about SPF 70, and a spray for the rest of my body, at about SPF 45. I apply these before I start playing even if I don’t think I need them because, Number 1, I know I am wrong about that, and Number 2, I don’t want to be in the middle of a point thinking I wish I had put sunscreen on.
5. Band-Aids, Tylenol, Advil, Safety Pins – I suggest you carry this typical first aid, emergency type stuff in your bag. You can be sure that every few matches, you will need one of these items or someone on your court will.
6. Phone Numbers – I carry cell phone numbers of almost everyone I have ever played tennis with in my bag. Sometimes you need to call your partner to say “Where are you? The match is about to start!” Sometimes you need to call a team mate to say “My partner didn’t show up! Can you be here in 10 minutes to sub?” Sometimes you need to call a friend to say “We have an indoor court but only 3 to play. Do you want to come play tennis with us and then go out for lunch?” In all of these situations, you will be very happy if you have a list of your tennis teammates and buddies' cell phone numbers in your tennis bag.
7. Pen & Paper – These are great for keeping score, writing yourself notes, and jotting down lessons or tips you pick up during tennis play. I have a little notebook in my tennis bag and I try to write at least one little thing I picked up on or learned after every match I play.
So that's what I carry in my tennis bag – my five absolutely must have items and my seven really nice to have items. I'm not saying that these items take my tennis to a whole new level. But I am saying that, because I carry all of this stuff with me, I have had at least two tennis matches that I didn't have to forfeit just because my partner showed up without a racquet.
Here are links to the resources mentioned in this episode:
- TQT 008 – Hot Weather Tennis Essentials
- Drink! Drink! Drink!
- Quick Tennis Fix: Hydrate!
- Eat Your Water!
Have I left anything off the list of tennis bag essentials? Be sure to let me know in the comments below. And I hope you’ll subscribe to Tennis Quick Tips!
Thanks for listening and, as always, Happy Tennis!
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