Not So Happy Feet

May starts is less than two hours, so let me sneak in April’s blog post…

Thursday was my first spring league match, and I can tell you it felt nothing like spring. Such is New England weather, but I don’t think I’ve ever played in less hospitable conditions. The temperature was maybe 40 with a gusting wind. This is how one of my opponents dressed for our match:


The smarter members of the two teams deemed the conditions unplayable and rescheduled their matches. My foursome, on the other hand, decided to soldier through for reasons that seem patently unpersuasive to me in hindsight: The wind affects everyone equally. It might be tough to reschedule. Besides, we were already there.

We played one set. Let me share the two lessons I learned.

Lesson One: You have to keep your feet moving in the wind. I kept setting up for what looked to be a simple volley, only to hit it into the net. I realized, eventually, that there was so much wind drag on the ball that it wasn’t arriving at my racquet when I thought it would. I ended up making contact with the ball too far in front of my body. In the wind, you can never really be “set.” You always have to be making quick adjustments.

Lesson Two: You may need to make quick adjustments, but if you haven’t developed that level of agility, your feet will not cooperate. You can’t simply force your feet to move faster than they want to go. I learned this particular lesson when I rolled my ankle trying to make a last-minute adjustment to a wind-tossed ball.

Which just goes to show that when it comes to sports, a lesson learned by the brain isn’t worth half as much as a lesson learned by the body.

Thinking about footwork won’t do much for you if you haven’t put in the practice time. Which means drills.

Which means…a monthly challenge!

For the month of May, we’ll do a footwork challenge. By “we,” I mean “you.” With my recent Achilles tendinitis flare-up, footwork drills are probably a bad idea. So I’m recruiting volunteers to do the challenge for me and report back on their results. With any luck, we’ll end up with lots of crunchy data for tennis math. Maybe we’ll even get to play with some pie charts and graphs…

Tune in next week for all the details!

My 2022 Resolutions AND a January Challenge

Happy 2022, everyone!

Have you made your resolutions for the new year yet? I have, and as usual, my list is too long. After all these years, it’s hard to believe I still have that much left to improve.

My resolutions always include something to do with writing, and this year is no different. Along with specific projects I’d like to finish, I aim to write a blog post a month. That’s a pretty low bar, especially with the Grand Slam fashion face-offs accounting for a full third of the total. Really, we’re looking at eight non-face-off posts a year. If I can’t manage that, I should just fold up shop.

Here, then, is post #1: My tennis resolution! (Yes, I’m satisfying my blog resolution by writing about my tennis resolution. And maybe my tennis resolution could be to improve my court fitness by losing weight. And I could lose the weight by cooking at home more, for which I could resolve to sign up for a Blue Apron membership, which I can do right now from my computer… There! Three resolutions knocked off in five minutes. I am killing it in 2022.)

Okay, here’s my real tennis resolution: Get closer to the net. Continue reading “My 2022 Resolutions AND a January Challenge”

December Challenge: The Racquet Toss

You know what we haven’t done in a while? A monthly challenge. We are long overdue.

Only it’s been a rough year, and I don’t want to burden myself with lofty and time-consuming goals. I want something quick, easy and fun. Like throwing my racquet.

Supposedly, serving is like throwing. Which makes sense because I can’t throw a ball at all and my serve sucks, too. (I mean, I really can’t throw a ball. When I try to throw a ball for my dog, it goes either straight into the ground or off in a startling direction. My husband always watches in disbelief. “What the hell are you doing?” he’ll ask. He finds it hard to believe someone so dangerously uncoordinated actually plays tennis.) Continue reading “December Challenge: The Racquet Toss”

September Challenge: Standing Tall

Did your mother tell you to stand up straight when you were a kid? Mine did. A lot. Height-challenged, she nursed a lifelong grudge about having been denied tallness genes. She always stretched her spine as long as possible, trying to get the physical stature to match her outsized personality.

As a teen, I found my mother’s preoccupation strange. Who cared about being tall? I had mousy hair, acne and braces. Posture was the least of my worries.

When my mother caught me slouching, she’d step up behind me and latch onto my shoulders with her long bony fingers, digging them hard into my flesh and pulling them backwards. “Straighten up!” she’d command. God, she was annoying. I’d shrug her off and twist away—but I did head into early adulthood with decent posture.

In later adulthood, not so much. Thanks to loss of muscle strength, an uncomfortable couch and endless hours spent hunched over a computer, I’ve become a round-shouldered schlump. The acne and braces are long gone, but my interest in posture remains limited—or at least it did until yesterday afternoon. Continue reading “September Challenge: Standing Tall”

April’s Challenge: Batman Yoga

A while back, I took some time off from tennis. Three years, actually. Hard to believe I didn’t play for so long when nowadays even a week without tennis makes me cranky.

For exercise during the hiatus, I ran and did some weights, as I had already been doing. And I added something new–yoga.

When I returned to tennis, I was surprised that not only did my game come back pretty quickly, but in some ways I was playing better than I had before. My strokes felt longer and more fluid, and I more easily handled balls outside my ideal strike zone. Continue reading “April’s Challenge: Batman Yoga”

March Challenge: A Focus on Strokes

I planned to write a glib monthly tennis challenge, but I can’t muster my usual enthusiasm for glibness. Luke Perry died this morning from a massive stroke. He was 52.

It’s always a bit unnerving to hear someone exactly your age has passed away. After five decades of living, I’m still secretly convinced of my own immortality. Like a child, I can’t conceive of a world without me in it.

But Luke Perry’s relative youth aside, stroke has a unique way of grabbing my attention. My father suffered a massive stroke in 2011. It happened right in front of me, over lunch at California Pizza. Continue reading “March Challenge: A Focus on Strokes”

February Challenge: Planks

In tennis, your shots are only as strong as your core.

Okay, I just made that up. But it sounds true, doesn’t it? Your core is key for stability and transferring energy from the legs up through the torso. More importantly, without a solid core, we’re not going to look as good in our tennis outfits. Continue reading “February Challenge: Planks”

January Challenge: Meditation

It’s a new year here at LittleYellowBall (and everywhere else, too), and I can’t think of a better way to kick it off than with some David Foster Wallace. Here’s a snippet of brilliance from his essay “How Tracy Austin Broke My Heart”: Continue reading “January Challenge: Meditation”

December Challenge: Shadow Swings

Here’s an actual transcript from every tennis lesson I’ve ever had:

Me: [hits the ball in the net]

Coach: Watch the ball.

Me: I did watch the ball.

Coach: No, you didn’t.

Me: Yes, I did.

Coach: Did you see the ball hit the net?

Me: [Thinking to myself, “Yup.”] I’m not sure. Maybe.

Coach: Then you weren’t watching the ball. Continue reading “December Challenge: Shadow Swings”

November’s Challenge: The Split Step

I can always spot a tennis pro on the court before she even hits the ball. How? She split steps. More than power and spin and aces, it’s that little hop that distinguishes the serious player from, well, me. (The power, spin, and aces just confirm it.)

I have no trouble chasing down lobs or sprinting to cover a drop volley. And I can usually master the little adjustment steps needed to set up for a groundstroke, at least on a good day.

But the split step, the smallest of the tennis footwork repertoire, always trips me up. For the life of me, I can’t remember to do it. Even if a coach prompts me to split step, I feel clumsy and stupid. I’m sure I look ridiculous as well. Continue reading “November’s Challenge: The Split Step”

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