Refer a friend and Receive a bonus Super Slow-Mo video
Members, once you log-in, click on "Refer TennisOne" in upper left of TennisOne home page. Send just one referral (no conversion necessary) and a Super Slo-Mo video of Elena Dementieva will appear in your Bonus Videos area of My TennisOne. Enjoy.
Defining Fun in Tennis
David Smith, Senior Editor, TennisONE
“Learn Tennis Fast!”
This USTA catch-phrase has been used during the past year in trying to communicate something to the non-tennis-playing public. On the surface, it denotes a perception that most people can learn tennis quite quickly. And with today's ‘gotta have it now' mentality and rapidly shrinking attention span, it would seem like a logical and marketable slogan.
Tennis skills learned at an early age will
last a lifetime.
But, is it ‘truth in advertising?'
Can tennis be learned ‘fast'? Of course. We can teach people to ‘play tennis' at rudimentary levels within a few hours. Most people can go out and figure out ways to direct a tennis ball to the other side of the net and start playing the game almost immediately.
But to me, this is playing ‘AT' tennis. It isn't ‘playing tennis'. It is like strumming a guitar without knowing where to put your fingers on the fret board. Sound is coming out…but certainly not music.
Tennis is a sport that is full of challenges that include, athleticism, coordination, conditioning, rhythm, strength, speed, finesse, mental fortitude, and a host of other demanding conditions. To insinuate that tennis can be learned ‘fast' would infer that the sport does not contain such demanding elements.
I also believe that the slogan actually does a disservice to those who teach the sport. This is because if the general public sees tennis played on television and believes the sport looks easy (since the pros oftentimes make it look that way!), and then they are told they can ‘learn tennis fast', they will expect similar results! But such expectations are false and unrealistic. While we can get most players to quickly understand many of the concepts of hitting a tennis ball skillfully, it is rare that anyone can get their body to comply with this understanding! It takes time to master these skills and it can challenge even the best of us! Yet, through proper instruction and practice, we can turn ourselves into skilled players even as the skills being developed are indeed, challenging.
It is no wonder that many athletes in high school avoid tennis and go out for sports that are perceived as more challenging. It is no wonder, too, that many kids think tennis is a ‘sissy sport.' Heck, it must be, anyone can learn it ‘fast'!
Is that how we want our sport to be perceived?
Comparing Other Sports
It amazes me that many in the tennis profession keep stressing, “Make tennis FUN!” They insist on getting kids laughing; focus on games that keep them moving; use big targets of animated dogs or clowns to lure kids onto the court. Hit and giggle. Laugh and win. Sharks and Minnows, Red Light-Green Light. The list goes on. It isn't that games don't have a place in the learning environment. But, when such games and mentalities are designed to create fun, in place of skilled or ‘challenging' fundamentals, this is where we fail both the student and our sport.
In tennis, the fun and satisfaction is in learning to play well from the beginning.
Tennis is the only sport that seems to stress this type of “fun” over fundamentals. It is almost a fear that tennis pros have; if they make tennis too hard, their students won't come back to take more clinics and lessons.
I find it amusing that sports such as karate (and other martial arts disciplines), golf, soccer, football, baseball, gymnastics, dance, etc., put a premium on skills, discipline, conditioning, effort, sacrifice, etc., but not on fun—the way the general tennis profession defines it!
Ironically, these sports are all experiencing growth and participation that far exceeds tennis on a national level.
So what really is “FUN”?
To me, nothing is more discouraging than watching players who have the potential to play great tennis, play far below their abilities because they learned the game in such a way that prohibited continued progression and advancement. The vast majority of players stuck at low levels actually have the inherent skills and abilities to play tennis at much higher levels. Unfortunately, the way most of these players were introduced to the game guaranteed what I call ‘perpetual stagnation.'
The fun is in executing skilled stroke that students recognize as those close to what they see the pros executing. And it is not only exhilarating, it is enduring.
During our clinics and lessons, you can hear out students exclaiming, “See that one, Coach?” “Watch me hit this inside-out winner, guys!” “Check out this drop shot,” and so on. Seeing in a relatively short period of time, players emerging as true “tennis players” is not only rewarding, it is great fun for all. It is the kind of fun that comes when one accomplishes goals and attains skills that were once difficult. Such skill produces ‘fun rallies' and ‘fun points' instead of shots that are simple dinks and pushes issued to sustain a rally.
And, it is this kind of fun that will last a lifetime.
Copyright Notice: The contents of the TennisONE web site and contents forwarded to you by TennisONE are intended for your personal, noncommercial use. Republishing of TennisONE content in any way, including framing or posting of these materials on other Web sites, is strictly prohibited. See our full copyright statement