Tennis is not just for pros.
Tennis is for everyone.
CHANGE OF FOCUS NEEDED FOR TENNIS WRITINGS
A Message to Authors by TennisTom, 2010
I believe that a significant majority of tennis instruction books and videos are aimed, perhaps without intent, at higher level players --collegiate or better -- who mainly play singles.
It is clear to any observer who actually watches tennis on the courts across America, and perhaps throughout the world, that most players have average* abilities and aspirations, and play DOUBLES. If you disagree with this basic premise then you need not read any further; but then, if you go further, you may get an expanded perspective.
*Referring to the above mentioned “average” player abilities, the typical city court or club player does NOT have the capabilities, necessary practice time, motivation, excellent timing, physical capacities, and willingness to sacrifice the fun of immediate gratification, in order to play at the more advanced levels. A small percentage of players are exceptions, but then they do not fall into the “average” category.
Many recreational or club players play 2.5 to 4.0 USTA level doubles tennis. It makes no logical sense that the vast majority of tennis writings and instruction videos address the small percentage of higher echelon enthusiasts, instead of the average player.
A Common Example: Most how-to-serve videos show an accomplished player jumping four or more inches off the court surface -- in order to hit the tossed ball at the highest contact point possible. For higher echelon players this makes sense, because the higher your racket-to-ball impact point, the better your chances of getting your ball into the service box. However, this leap is ludicrous for most recreational or club players because it exceeds, or irrelevant to, their abilities. The serve is a challenging enough stroke without adding another physical gyration to the mix.
Another Common Example: Most writings encourage players to be more aggressive in their game as a primary model for winning more games, sets, and matches. Instructors are especially dedicated to this thrust because it is likely what they used themselves to get to the level that they have achieved. The hitch in this teaching model is that most of their students will never get to a 4.5 or 5.0 playing level. The proof of this statement can be verified through common on-court observation.
Based on “consensus reality” my question then is this:
Why don't most written and video materials address the appropriate segment of average learners? This type of instruction might be called “tennis for humans,” or “tennis for the average enthusiast.” I have been teaching tennis for more than 14 years and know for a fact that materials aimed at the lower level players are rather difficult to find.
Singles vs Doubles. A last bit of insight concerns the misplaced focus of most instruction materials on singles play rather than doubles play. Many of the websites on the Internet are glutted with strategies to win or improve their players singles game. Some of the material crosses over to doubles and is valid and helpful. Additionally. TV coverage of tennis gives us singles competitions featuring power tennis galore and pretty much ignores many great doubles matches. Most of my tennis friends who play tennis say that they had rather watch doubles than singles. I asked they why. They gave two primary reasons. One is that they felt that they learned much more from the doubles. The other is that they enjoyed watching the rapid fire battles at the net as well as the strategic placements in doubles. – far more than the power tennis shots and quick points of today’s TV singles.
A final observation concerns age appropriateness. The well written book Playing Tennis After 50, by Kathy and Ron Woods, cites the following statements in their introduction.
“In the United States, nearly 80 million people, out of a population of 300 million, are over 50. That’s the largest percentage of older adults in history…”
“Age 60 is the new 40, the age that marks the onset of middle age, according to many pundits. Just think—you are in the prime of your life and you want to enjoy it. If you are a typical person over the age of 50, you are eager to stay healthy and maintain physical strength and vigor, you want to enjoy socializing with people like yourself, and you want to look and feel good. Tennis can help you achieve every one of those goals.”
Clearly many if not most 50, 60, and 70 year old players do not have the overall ability to play like their younger counterparts. Tennis instructionals which do not reflect this reality are missing their target for a large segment of current and future enthusiasts.
On the other hand there are a few sterling website exceptions, written by “doubles specialists,” which are exactly what average players needs to improve their tennis and enjoyment of their game. Kudos to those authors.
The focus in my website is directed at average doubles players who either need useful instruction or actually play the "sport for a lifetime" on a regular basis. Any other direction, although well intended, seems in the main somewhat misguided.
A global redirection of content is needed, it seems to me.
[Change of Focus Needed for Global Tennis Writings] [Rev 5-22-10]