Baseball to Tennis Mentality

Dear TennisDr:

Though I came from baseball, and hoped to be big league player, I’m glad to be into competitive tennis now that I’m in my 40’s. After 5 straight wins in 3.5 level USTA tournaments, I got my first loss in the semis of my first 4.0 event. I’m proud to have a win/loss of 5-1.

To be honest, I often went off in baseball when things didn’t go my way but I’m proud to have handled my first tennis tournament loss in a mature way like a gentleman. I can tell this will make it easier to learn from the defeat with a clear mind. That’s new to me. I only wish I had had this skill set in baseball. Please comment on the differences in mental approach and pressure in the two sports. Thanks.

Martin G.

Hey Martin:

Your accomplishment of learning how to take tennis loses gracefully, let them motivate you to improve, and come back stronger is huge. It is an enormous personal accomplishment you should be very proud of no doubt.

The differences in the psychological pressure on the athlete between the two sports is giant. Let’s explore the mindset of tennis and baseball players and what they are up against in terms of performance stress. Putting each sport in its place in terms of its demands on the human psyche is particularly useful for you because you had hopes of being an MLB player.

Let’s start with the demands of professional baseball, which aside from pitching skills, is mostly ruled by “at bat” percentage. In baseball, every “at bat” is a chance to get to, or maintain, a place on a big league roster instead of being “sent down” or remaining in lower leagues. That makes the mental stress enormous on every swing. The cruel and inhumanly difficult differences between being successful a fifth of the time (.200), a fourth of the time (.250), and a third of the time (.333) means a seat at the “big show”, or not.

These stats form a pretty hard barrier, a practical WALL to this pro sport. The mental skill set you’ve described in tennis, is WAY more difficult to achieve in baseball. It also explains the temptation to enhance performance artificially. That temptation is no where near as great in tennis for many reasons, but still obviously exists.

We are very lucky in tennis in that our swings are WAY more often successful than baseball, right? It’s why tennis is so amazingly fun. We are successful VERY often in terms of individual execution of skills. Whether that translates into winning a tournament or not is a TOTALLY different subject.

First Martin, I suggest you drop the notion from baseball of the win/lose record. There is no greater difference in tennis skill than 3.5 and 4.0 levels, so its time to reboot how you measure success for this totally new marketplace.

In tennis from elite to recreational player, you lose a match and there is another tourney next week to try again. The season does not suddenly end for unsatisfactory performance.  The fluctuations of all the athletes having good weeks, days, sets and bad weeks, days, sets is expected.

It’s a bit of a stormy sea but tennis players learn to paddle over the waves and get through the white cap chop from time to time. There are long intervals of glassy water too. Both are human and make the sport fun and unique.   Treating the ups and downs with a business like approach will bring the most success.

You would like the article about Stan Wawrinka in this months Tennis Magazine. Of course, it is a story of a player that had to accommodate the long shadow of his friend Roger Federer.   Patience in response to adversity is the theme here.

Keep in mind that for every tourney with a 64 player draw, 63 will lose. Those who lose MIGHT be tempted to think about there win/loss record, but my advice is to treat that thought like a dark, underwater cave that tennis players learn not to explore. The great coaches and players learn to always judge their success by incremental improvements in strategy and execution in every outing.  This effort is independent of that record.

The great sports coaches would agree that if you continue to work on your game, the wins and loses will take care of themselves.  Good luck with your tennis Martin!


If You Must Tween–Lob Tween!

The most physically dangerous variation, may be the best bet. Still, the TennisDr says, “Don’t try this at home!”

Saw It All In Ojai Today!

Probably the oldest tennis tournament in the country, if you haven’t been to “The Ojai”, you haven’t seen tennis!

No. 13 Stanford Fights Back To Beat No. 19 USC Women In Pac-12 Title Match -Trojans take a 4-2 loss to the Cardinal in Ojai.  April 20, 2016

OJAI, CALIF. — The No. 19 USC women’s tennis team carried a nine-match win streak into today’s showdown in Ojai. The Pac-12 Championship was on the line, with the No. 19 Women of Troy squaring off against No. 13 Stanford in a battle for the conference crown at the Ojai Valley Athletic Club. USC would craft an early lead, but the Cardinal would work its way into control of this one, finally topping the Trojans 4-2 in a comeback push to claim the 2016 Pac-12 crown. The USC women now hold a 12-5 overall record and will wait to resume team competition once the NCAA Team Championship bracket announcement is made on May 3. Tomorrow marks the start of the Pac-12 Championships, running April 21-24 in Ojai with conference singles and doubles titles up for grabs.

Choosing A Tennis Coach: For Competitive Students

The TennisDr encourages everyone to play this lifetime sport for fun and exercise.  I work with many who want an introduction so they can hit more and pick up balls less.  Great!
On the other hand, for those bitten by the “Tennis Bug”, who want to be the best they can be–this note is for you!  The “Academy Style” is the most successful way to coach all levels of players because after the main strokes are created, players are matched by level of proficiency, individual skills, and sequences of skills are isolated for repetition and improvement.
After that, all the skill sets are tested under competitive conditions to assess execution under pressure.   A 10 or 15 point format rather than standard tennis scoring (e.g. love, 15, 30…) is most conducive to tweaking decision making and shot selection during competition.  Longer competition formats also give servers and receivers plenty of time to tinker with execution and strategy against particular peers and their shots.

Coaching “under fire” provides strategic and/or executional feedback between points like college tennis.  You will quickly notice that tennis practice and tennis competition, pose very different challenges.  Proper practice, like academic homework, deserves at least twice the minutes of competition.The “Academy Style” is used at all the major universities.  College tennis is the only daily competition in which coaching is allowed during a match.  That is why the best tennis coaches in the world are American college tennis coaches.  They must learn to interject strategy and encouragement during natural breaks (30 or 90 seconds!) in play while watching 2 or 3 matches at a time!

Players looking to raise their level need that next level of “stream of consciousness”, the train of business like thoughts and evaluations, which reduces large swings in emotion, that elite players and professionals posses.  After weapons and moves are standardized, the sport becomes more like chess than checkers.  The beauty of the sport is that age and experience can overcome youth, strength, and speed.  What if you had both?!!!

Metal Halide Tennis Light Bulb Replacement

Metal Halide outdoor tennis lighting fixtures should be cleaned at least every two years. The bulbs should be replaced at that time because labor is the same. Special Note: these bulbs decrease quickly toward half their new performance in almost FIVE YEARS!


Can You Name?

Can you name this player?

Classes With The TennisDr In Marina Del Rey.


Judy Z. practices here “Evil eye to the Y” in Marina Del Rey.

Tennis Shangi-La LA Style

DSC00695Schwartz SchwartzCenter SchwartzLeft
Red clay in LA?  Yes, it does exist!  This is one of the most beautiful courts in Los Angeles.

This red clay was imported from the makers of the clay at the Italian Open.  As easy on the knees as it is on the eyes, right?

Standing Backflip for TennisDr

May your new year be filled with put aways!  One of my students, a former gymnast, approaches tennis with unique skills.  All I ask is no more diving and shoulder rolls to cut off a passing shot!  Needless to say, a standing back flip takes great training and coordination, so don’t try this at home!