I’m on day eight of my July Tennis Challenge. For those who aren’t following this blog as closely as they should, my plan is to improve my serve by serving 100 balls a day.
All I initially planned to do was add a knee bend to my current service motion. That by itself would present a challenge as I’d have to get used to an altered rhythm and timing. But the change was small, and I felt confident of eventual success.
But then my club pro got involved. He was unimpressed with my simple knee bend idea. (Really, he’s been unimpressed with my serve from the day I met him, particularly my serving grip. Every year, he’s after me to change. Every year, I tell him it’s not happening.)
He may be resigned to my unorthodox grip, but he insisted on changing everything else. Now I’m trying to master a radically new service motion, incorporating a weight transfer during the toss in addition to the knee bend. Unsurprisingly, my serve went from decent to atrocious in a matter of hours.
To date, I’ve served 948 balls–almost 1,000! That’s an impressive number.
But you know what’s even more impressive? I’ve tossed the ball approximately 47,000 times. My tosses are too low, or not far enough in front, or arcing over my head, or some pitiful combination of all three.
It’s so demoralizing. And with catching all my wild tosses, I’m at the court for much, much longer than the 30 minutes I was anticipating.
If I hadn’t made myself accountable by putting the challenge in this blog, I’d be throwing in the towel right about now. Perseverance was never my strong suit. But now my dignity’s at stake. I have to follow through. So here’s how I’m going to keep the faith and persevere this time:
—Take the pressure off. Rather than focusing on improvement, I’m going to reframe my challenge as a month of experimentation. It’s 31 days of playing around with a new service motion. I’ll focus on the doing–hitting 100 serves a day–and not on the desired results, and I’ll defer judgment on this new serve until the end of July. At that point, if I’m not happy with it, I can always revert to my old serve.
—Focus on my successes. When I transfer my weight, and bring my feet together, and bend my knees, and toss the ball in exactly the right spot, and jump up into the serve–well, goodness, that ball has some zip on it. Only about 10% of my serves right now are like that, but those are the ones I want to think about at the end of each day.
—Make my goal a little smaller. The reason 90% of my serves go bad is my ball toss. So rather than drag myself out to the hot, humid court and continue to get frustrated, I’ll take two or three days and focus only on the toss. That’s something I can work on in the air-conditioned comfort of my house, just repeating the weight transfer and toss until it becomes more consistent. Only the good tosses will count toward my monthly serving total.
—Visualize Maria Sharapova when I serve. When I watch the pros serve, they all transfer their weight just like my coach does. I know it’s the right thing to do, but at the moment, I feel clumsy and uncoordinated doing it. I’ve always admired the elegance of Sharapova’s serve so I’m going to spend some time watching it–this link offers it in slow motion and regular speed. With any luck, I’ll internalize her service rhythm and be able to channel it when I serve.
—REWARD myself! What a dope I am! I can’t believe I didn’t build a reward system into this challenge. It’s surprising because I’m all about rewarding myself for even the smallest accomplishments, like doing the laundry. (You go, girl!) So I’ve decided to buy myself a new tennis outfit when I hit 1,300 serves. Might be this one by Tail:
Or maybe this one by Lucky in Love:
Cute, right? Now even if my serve hasn’t improved come August, I still win! This is my kind of challenge!
Now for the bonus fashion face-off!
Anyone have other good ideas for how to stick to a goal? What improvements are you making to your own game this summer?