By Graham Scott
For the last 2 years I’ve been bitten by the tennis bug.
Back in the autumn of 2017, I started out playing with a few local tennis players on a Saturday morning, and about a month ago, I won my first tournament, playing in a singles league.
To be honest, I’ve absolutely loved the journey so far.
In fact, the more I’ve improved, the more I’ve enjoyed my tennis. You start playing better shots, which gives you even more encouragement to try out new techniques and take your game to a higher level.
My only issue, which some of you may well relate to, particularly if you’re a parent, is that I can’t play as often as I’d like.
I have a wonderful family, who I love spending time with.
My daughter has just turned 3 years old, and she’s reached an age where she can try out new activities.
She knows I play tennis, and I recently took her to her first session for young kids, which she seemed to really enjoy…
..until she actually had to pick up a racket, which seemed to bring out the waterworks!
Maybe we’ll try again in a few months or so 🙂
I hope as she gets older, starts school and makes friends, the demands on my time should gradually decrease, but the key question for all budding tennis players/parents is how do you balance parenthood and reaching your goal of becoming a good tennis player?
Here are a few things I’ve learnt over the past couple of years, which have helped me improve my tennis.
Some of these may seem like common sense, but I believe it’s often easier said than done when you have a family to work around.
1) Use your time effectively…and come up with a plan
Time is precious for everyone these days, especially those who work full-time and have children to look after.
My weekly schedule is chaotic to say the least, as I work in different locations, and I have to drop off and pick up my daughter from her childminder on Tuesdays and Wednesdays.
Furthermore, on those days, I get home before my wife, so I prepare the evening meal for all of us.
On Mondays and Thursdays, I get home from work around 8pm, and during the week I get up between 6-6:30am.
On Fridays, my wife is at home with our daughter, and we sometimes do our food shopping or go out altogether for a meal in the evening.
So as you can see, playing tennis during the week is almost impossible for me. I’m limited to playing at weekends only, usually just once on Saturday mornings.
However, not every week is like this, and I can occasionally play twice.
What I’ve learnt over the past couple of years is playing 2 times a week makes a BIG difference to playing just once.
You don’t feel as rusty, you warm up quicker and you can get into your groove a lot faster. Playing 3 times is better than 2, but for me the difference is not as big as from 2 to 1.
So if you can fit in a session or two before or after work during the week, go for it!
However, to really use your time effectively, I would personally take things further…
..and come up with a plan on how you can improve as a tennis player.
I didn’t do this during my first year of playing the game, but for the past 12 months, I’ve actually written down month by month, what I need to work on. I’ve even taken into account when I have more or less time to play, working around my family commitments, holidays etc.
I highly recommend it, and I think it’s a big reason why my game has improved more recently than when I just started. Just focus on little improvements and don’t try to do too much.
For example, over the past 12 months, I’ve learnt the kick serve, improved my slice and flat serve, and learnt the 2 handed backhand (I’ve struggled with the one handed top spin backhand for too long!). My volleys, forehand and net play have always been fairly secure, but I may well look at improving this in the future.
As I run the website Dad Racket, I’ve sometimes learned new techniques as I’ve been blogging about them.
Although you can work on some of these things yourself, particularly anything based on the serve, I would recommend you find a training partner.
As I usually play just once a week on Saturday mornings, I’ve been lucky in that I’ve teamed up with a guy who I can practice with before the main community session starts. Killing two birds with one stone is very desirable when time is so short!
So either put down a plan on paper, or create a spreadsheet to chart how you will get better at tennis month by month.
It will pay off, I promise.
Furthermore, I highly recommend doing some stretching, fitness and conditioning during the week.
I do resistance band work for my shoulders 3 times a week, and I always stretch my hamstrings and thigh muscles most days before I go to bed. I also try to do a light jog for 30 minutes twice a week once my daughter has gone down to sleep.
(DISCLAIMER: I’m not an expert on any of this, so seek advice from a professional if you want to improve your conditioning for playing tennis!).
I do this because if you can only play tennis once a week, you can get out of shape quite easily, especially if you have a desk job and it’s so easy to pick up injuries.
Put all of this down in your plan aswell, as well as what technical aspects you need to work on with your tennis game.
2) Negotiate like a boss
If you’re a tennis nut like me, you would probably love to play 4-5 times a week, but I’d be in the doghouse pretty quickly if I did this!
To state the obvious, you have to compromise your love for tennis with the needs of your family.
My wife is (fairly) understanding about my hobby, but I make sure if I have 2 hours to myself playing tennis at the weekend, it’s only fair if she has some time to herself as well.
And when you have children to look after, it may well mean sacrificing other aspects of your social life in order to fit things around playing tennis.
For example, if I’m playing on a Saturday morning, and my friends invite me out on a Friday evening, should my wife look after my daughter for all this time, especially as she works during the week as well?
It’s hardly fair, so you need to show a willingness to compromise to make sure you fulfill your parent duties as well as playing tennis.
There are some weeks when I just can’t play tennis at all…and I have to accept that.
3) Get some sleep and eat well
Tiredness and fatigue are a killer, especially when you have a baby screaming all hours of the night.
Fortunately, I didn’t start playing tennis until my daughter had turned 1 so it was a little easier, but if you have a newborn baby…well, good luck, you’ll need it.
Looking back, I think even if you’re the most avid tennis fan, be prepared to place your love for the game to one side for a few months if you have a baby on the scene.
Juggling work and a newborn is very demanding.
That being said, I still think it’s important for your wellbeing, and health to get on the court when you can, for the social aspect alone.
Overall, if you want to be on top of your game when you’re playing tennis, you need to start eating the right food and getting enough sleep. Easier said than done I know, and I still go to bed too late, as I have work emails to deal with and I need to help my daughter go to bed.
But with the right diet and sufficient rest your concentration and energy levels will be better when you play tennis.
I hope you found some of these points useful. I plan to keep improving at my tennis as much as I can over the next few years and enter more tournaments in both singles and doubles.
Hopefully my daughter will take up the sport which would be great, but she may well pursue other interests.
Graham Scott runs the website Dad Racquet, a blog which makes a little ‘noise’ about tennis and parenting.