July/August Tennis Challenges

August is here, which means it’s time to review the results of my monthly challenge for July…and set a new one!

I’m not going to lie to you. July was tough. My goal was to hit 3,100 serves, or an average of 100 a day for 31 days. If you recall, my goal evolved from simply adding a knee bend to learning an entirely new service motion.

I can’t count July as a success. I tried to adjust my mindset, picked out cute outfits as incentives, and watched a Sharapova serving video as my model. But I neither reached 3,100 serves nor came anywhere near mastering my new motion. If anything, my serve is worse than it was before.

Here are my results and observations:

  • I hit only 2,565 balls, which works out to 83% of my goal. Not too shabby, actually.
  • I haven’t videotaped myself, but I’m pretty sure I look nothing like Sharapova when I’m serving. (To be fair, that probably wasn’t going to happen no matter how killer my serve became.)
  • My serve is still wildly unpredictable, and occasionally dangerous to bystanders.
  • Reframing my July challenge as an “experiment” didn’t improve my mindset.
  • Having a reward system didn’t keep me motivated, probably because I know I’ll just go buy a new outfit whenever I damn please.
  • I had a higher percentage of good serves during the first half of each serving session than during the second half.
  • Discouragement and frustration increased markedly after about twenty minutes of a serving session.
  • Taking off a few days resulted in a marginally better serving session when I returned to the court.

I could throw in the towel and go back to my old serve, but I know that’s not the way forward. My old service motion can only take me so far. When I finally get the hang of this new motion, I’ll have the foundation for building a great serve.

Here’s a sneak peak into next week’s blog: Yesterday I interviewed the 2017 winner of the USPTA’s New England High School Coach of the Year award. I asked her what the recreational league player can do to improve her game. She mentioned the importance of being willing to take three or four steps back in order to advance your game. I was happy to hear her express it that way–not one step back, but several. It makes me a little more encouraged about this long, tedious process.

So I’ll keep working on this new service motion as my August goal. But not every day. Not only don’t I want to commit to another outsized target like July’s, I question whether the very scope of the target undermined my progress. How successful can you be at learning something if you’re also battling fatigue, boredom, and frustration?

For the month of August, I’ll aim to serve three times a week, for fifty balls each session.

But honestly, I’m a little depressed about having to repeat serving as my challenge–it feels like I’ve been held back a grade. To keep things fresh, I’ll add a second challenge: Drink two glasses of water a day, in addition to what I have on the court.

I hate water, so I’m always dehydrated and cranky. Wouldn’t I have more energy and play better if my body wasn’t parched? Without doing any research on this topic, I’m going to go out on a limb and say yes, I would.

Like last month, I’m starting this challenge already behind–no water yesterday or today! Pathetic, isn’t it? Time to go fill up my bottle….

Is it possible to work too hard on a goal? Did I sabotage myself by setting my goal so high, or am I just looking for excuses?

And who wants to take up a personal tennis challenge for August???

4 thoughts on “July/August Tennis Challenges

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  1. I think your list of results showed some important feedback. The biggest piece: You served better for the first half. And then you were bored and tired.

    A wise man I know says, “Practice doesn’t make perfect, perfect practice makes perfect.” He was talking about music, but it’s the same in sports.

    So that means your new goal to serve 50 balls makes a lot of sense given your results. And definitely take some days off for recovery. The goal is muscle memory of better serves. So if you start serving poorly, stop! Take a break and come back to it another time.

    Maybe think of August as your test month to learn what you needed. And now you can really start training and improving.

    1. Yes, I like that. July was the time for figuring out what my process needs to be. And August will be the month for implementing this process. That makes me feel a lot better about July! (Didn’t Edison say something like, “I didn’t fail. I succeeded in discovering 200 ways that don’t work”? Maybe Edison should be my model instead of Sharapova.)

  2. Here is another positive result of your August commitment, Deb: You have inspired ME to be more focused when I go out on the court with my bucket of balls. But I take a different approach: instead of serving out the whole bucket, like I used to, I set a goal of X number of GOOD serves ( not just serves that go in, but serves that meet my personal standard s.) And when I reach X, I switch to the Other half of the court and serve until I reach X. Then I feel victorious! And I have the option of serving more balls, but I don’t have to. I have already seen an improvement, now, when I serve in games.

    1. Awesome! I’m so glad someone is getting results! I like your approach, too. I just came back from serving, and I hit maybe 2 serves that met my standards…out of a bucket of 50. So if I had set my X to 10, I’d have been out there all day!

      But I’m going to blame today’s poor results on the noisy men discussing politics on the court next to me. No politics during tennis! Shouldn’t that be a rule?

      Congratulations on your progress!!!

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