If you’re taking private lessons from a good tennis coach, you already know that tennis lessons are costly. You can spend a small fortune and an excessive amount of time on lessons. So here are the exact steps you should take to ensure you’re getting the most value out of each and every one of your lessons.
1. Set goals for your lessons.
Sounds obvious, right? But how many of us are taking lessons that are really nothing more than paying to mindlessly hit tennis balls with a pro? I’ve done this many times, and I bet you have too. So let’s put an end to that. Whether you are new to tennis or have been playing for years, you should only be paying for lessons if you know what you hope to achieve in those lessons. This means you have to evaluate your game honestly, perhaps painfully, and decide what you might achieve in lessons. Your goal may be very simple – learn to play tennis! It may be a little more complex – move up from a 3.0 to a 3.5 player. It can be a short-term goal that requires a few lessons – learn to hit a one-handed backhand slice on the run. Or it can be a long-term goal that requires regular lessons for the rest of your life (which seems to be the path I’ve chosen). It helps to think about why you’re taking lessons and what you want to achieve. Write some notes, review them after a few days and come up with your goal.
2. Discuss and evaluate your goal with your tennis coach.
If you took the time to create a goal, you’d tell your coach what it is, aren’t you? Well, even I ignore this important step. It’s so much easier to get there, hit balls, and assume that whatever you do will improve your game. But, to get to your goal, you need to talk to your coach about what you hope to achieve so that they can come up with the appropriate lesson plan to get you there.
NOTE: When you and your coach have come up with a plan, listen to your coach and do what they say. If they say that you should change your grip to get the kick serve you want – change your grip. It will feel weird at first, but over time it will become second nature, and you will have a kick-ass kick serve to show for it.
ANOTHER NOTE: If your coach thinks they know what you need to work on without considering what you want, that is a sign that you may not be working with the right coach.
3. Revisit your goal periodically.
Over time, as you work with a coach, you may forget you once had some purpose for your lessons. If you’re on the short-term goal plan, figure out if you’ve achieved what you wanted at the end of your term. If you didn’t, decide whether you try again with the same coach (maybe you didn’t give yourself enough time), reset your goal (maybe you were trying for too much), or move on (maybe this wasn’t the coach for you). If you’re on a longer-term plan, revisiting your goal periodically is very important. Again, it is easy to fall into the trap of mindlessly hitting balls with your coach just because it’s fun and easy. Review your goal and your progress towards getting there every 3 to 4 months and decide what needs to change, if anything, to get you to achieve that goal.
4. Ask questions during your lessons.
While you want most of your lesson to consist of you hitting balls, you need to spend some time talking to your coach and asking questions. Now, I ask a lot of questions during my lessons (probably way more than is necessary, lol!). But my coach played tennis for decades on the WTA tour (singles and doubles), so I am very confident in her knowledge and experience in the game. So I always want to know what she thinks about situations I come up against in league match play. I want to know the most optimal times to poach and use a drop shot. And I want to know how much to pronate on my serve to get the perfect amount of spin. Talking with your coach and asking lots of questions is an excellent way to get expert advice on the specific situations that you come up against again and again.
5. Learn something in each lesson AND write it down.
I try to take away at least one thing from each lesson. It may be a big thing – apply spin when hitting an overhead (that was big for me, anyway). It may be very minor – wear a better hat on sunny days. I then jot down these lesson points on a notepad I keep in my tennis bag just for this purpose. I do this because, even though I think I’m smart enough to remember everything I learn in my tennis lesson, the truth is – I won’t. But if you do this – learn something AND write it down – you will soon have a great list of tips that are specific to your game that you can pull out and review before your matches.
6. Apply what you learn outside your lessons.
This is really the most challenging part of taking tennis lessons. When you are learning something new, it very likely will mean changing your old way of doing things. I’ve actually witnessed someone else taking a lesson, arguing with their pro why their way of hitting a backhand was better than the way the pro was trying to teach them. If this is you, quit taking lessons. You’re just wasting your money. Because, face it – if you want a better backhand (or whatever your goal may be), you might have to change your grip. And that new grip will feel awkward and uncomfortable for quite some time. But if you don’t put it into play and just keep using your same old backhand grip, your backhand will never improve. So accept the awkwardness. Ignore the fact that you will have some trouble with that backhand for a while. Apply what you’re learning in your tennis lesson to your tennis game, and have faith that you will soon see improvement.
By following these six simple steps, you can ensure that every tennis lesson you have is value-packed, super helpful, and a great learning experience!
How do you make sure you have great tennis lessons? What kind of process do you and your coach follow? Let us know in the comments below 🙂