Jay from the Middle States wants to help his 12 year old daughter improve her
tennis. He feels her consistency in practice and matches is holding her back.
   First of all, consistency is made up of two components, physical and mental.  I
will cover each of these two components in two separate tips. The physical part of
consistency comes from repeated hitting of certain strokes until a certain level of
satisfaction takes place. Repetitive hitting at targets on the court can do this.
Pros refer to this type of physical practice as “grooving a stroke�.
Remember consistency follows repetition. Consistency for this example is
repeating the same stroke, with the same finish, the same spin, and the same ball
trajectory, landing in the same area.
   I find that smaller targets develop better concentration. For example, cones
placed in a square in an area of the court. For consistent groundstrokes, I like to
have students rally within the lines of the doubles alley. These kinds of targets
allow for different ball heights and speed or power. Targets that make noise or
light up when hit are excellent motivators.  I grew up hitting at the local Community
College’s cement racquetball courts when it rained. There was a 4 x 8 inch
window hole in the door to see into the court. I would go to the front wall and
practice hitting shots aimed at that tiny opening. Proper form or technique wasnâ
€™t my goal; my goal was to be able to find that small target over and over again.
   Air targets are even better for consistency. Air targets are placed near the net
so the ball must pass through a desired area. Usually made of PVC pipe, these
targets help the player to practice control of the ball height and power required to
be able to hit through the target. Other examples I’ve used are to place a
mini-net near the opposite service line. This helps the player see the amount of
height and depth needed to achieve the target area. Some coaches will cover the
net to make it look like a solid wall causing players to get more net clearance.
   Another area about the physical aspect of consistency is relaxation. The ability
to hit a ball consistently in the same place while under pressure is the mark of a
champion. Players should always exhale when hitting a tennis ball. Try a longer
exhale while hitting by saying the word “yessss� as contact is made.
Breath control helps maintain a relaxed state in which the body can freely do its
job. If choking is considered  tightening up, then breathing should be considered
loosening up.
   Practice doesn’t make perfect, perfect practice makes perfect! Remember,
repetition is boring but necessary, so make if fun and watch the improvement.

Doug Hofer, USPTA                                     January 9, 2006