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Sun, Aug. 18

Howard: Tennis in a new lane
My Point

There are an awful lot of people playing tennis who have learned much of their game through trial and error. Nothing wrong with that, in fact it’s one of the main learning methods.

They might of had a physical education class in high school or college but never really spent too much time refining their tennis skills and now have more time or are retired and having a good time hitting the ball around, getting some good exercise and creating a new social circle.

Hey, fun is fun — but I know most people playing enjoy being the best they can for the time they have to give. If you’ve been playing month after month, maybe even years pretty much at the same level with the same thoughts, a bit of change might help you get a bit better, and just maybe a lot.

Learning to play tennis without any real instruction leaves a big possibility of running into a couple problems. One is injury and the other is the “Peter Principle,” which is rising to your level of incompetence.

Injury can happen in some of the following ways: Not meeting the ball out in front, hitting too hard, using the wrong grip, poor stroke mechanics, so-so footwork, not adjusting for your time frame; not retreating when your life is in danger, going back for lobs improperly and more.

Injuries include tennis elbow, hurt shoulders and knees, twisted ankles, getting cracked by an overhead or bad falls. No one wants or needs any of that when most of those situations can be avoided with a few new thoughts and the right practice.

Or maybe your game has reached a point where it doesn’t seem to be getting any better. It’s become stale, predictable, limited and about as exciting as watching grass grow. This is the “Peter Principle” at its best.

Yes, you’re still getting good exercise, enjoying the people you play with, but your game remains the same.

All of that is good as long as you’re OK with it, but if you see your tennis buddies moving to higher skill-leveled groups and you are left behind, there are some things you might want to consider.

Jump into a college tennis class for a semester, join a clinic, create a weekly drill group, maybe take a private or semi-private lesson to get some new insight ... get out and perfect a stroke that’s been a major weakness.

I had little to no real instruction learning the game of tennis from the age of 12 until I started working as an assistant pro. Didn’t even realize how much tennis knowledge I was without. That’s probably where the term “ignorance is bliss” came from.

My goal after getting the ball in play was to run down every shot and get it back and hope my opponent would make a mistake.

I didn’t really know much about topspin, had a defensive slice backhand, inconsistent first serve and weak second; but, I was quick, had good hands and could retrieve a lot of shots. My whole junior and early adult game was based on that type of play.

Let me tell you, a little good information and instruction can be a real eye-opener and will go a long way in jump starting a new you on the courts. That is, if you’d like more points and better strategy to lean in your favor.

It’s all fun and enjoying it that much more is certainly your choice.

Chris Howard is a local USPTA Tennis Professional with over 40 years in the racquet and fitness industry. He can be reached at 928-642-6775 or


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