How to be Your Own Best Tennis Pro
Table of Contents
What Some Famous Pros Say About the Book
About The Author
had what seems like a million tennis lessons, but you get
out on the court and it all goes away. You revert back to
old habits and what made sense in the clean green and white
world of the tennis pro is lost out there on the gritty high
school courts where you are losing again to Hacker Charlie.
You get steamed, throw your racket and go home frustrated.
My book, "How To Be Your Own (Best) Tennis Pro"
addresses the problem of getting what you learn in lessons
out onto the court where you are hitting the ball with an
Don't get me wrong: this book won't replace actual instruction.
But it will help make that instruction stick as a permanent
feature of your game. That's because this book empowers you
to take charge of your own growth as a tennis player with
a system of "point projects" that will enable you
to systematically gather tennis knowledge and effectively
incorporate it into actual play situations.
This system is applicable to tennis practice, practice matches,
match warm-ups, and during competitive match play. The book
includes a number of sample point projects for you to try
for every major tennis stroke, plus a goal-setting chapter
to give you the beginnings of an overall plan for self-improvement
built around your own list of point projects.
You can buy it here
(for less than the cost of one tennis lesson):
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- How to use this book
- Becoming Your Own Tennis Pro
- Introduction to Point Projects: takin'
it to the streets
- Point Projects in Practice: Doing What
the Man said
- Point Projects and Competitive Matches
(Or, how to use everybody else to get better)
- Point Projects in the Gap Between the
- Point Projects for the Forehand
- Point Projects for the Backhand
- Point Projects for the Serve
- Point Projects for the Serve Return
- Point Projects for the Overhead
- Point Projects for the Volley
- Now What?
- Appendix A
- Appendix B
- About the Author
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Sample Tennis Chapter:
Chapter 2: Introduction to Point Projects: takin'
it to the streets
The concept is simple. You take some aspect of the game,
some instruction that you have received, and focus on that
particular item while engaged in practice or match play. For
example, your tennis pro may have taught you to get your feet
set before hitting the ball.
Of course, he may also have told you to get your racket back
quickly, keep your eyes on the ball, make a shoulder turn,
bring your non-dominant hand back with your other hand, change
grips properly, do a skip step as the opponent hits, hit the
ball out in front, hit from low to high, bend your knees and
then straighten them on the hit, follow through high, and
a number of other things. But instead of trying to remember
all of that, you are simply going to play a tennis point,
or rally with someone, with the emphasis on one of those projects,
i.e. -getting your feet set before hitting the ball.
With this single "point project" in mind, you simply
make sure that, regardless of whatever else happens, you WILL
get your feet set before hitting the ball, if at all possible.
You may miss the ball completely, you may hit it over the
fence, you may do any number of other things wrong, but at
least for this one point you promise yourself that you are
going to have your feet set when you hit the ball.
There are several good effects of this practice technique.
First of all, you feel successful no matter what happened
to your tennis shots. Sure you want to get the ball over the
net, sure you want to send it scorching past your opponent,
but, regardless of the fact that you muffed the ball into
the net, if you accomplished your point project, you have
achieved some level of success. You may have lost the point,
you may have forgotten for the moment every other point of
instruction that you have ever received, but you did (to some
degree) achieve your project of getting your feet set.
Having stabilized that, you can move on to the next variable.
It's like building a house from scratch. First you have to
make one good brick. Then you have to make another good brick,
and then another. And then you have to put in one electrical
wire that works, and then hook up a light bulb. Just keep
doing one good thing at a time, building on the foundation
of the other good things and eventually you have a house (hopefully
with a tennis court out back).
What a point project does is give you a handle on the complicated
behavior of taking a stick in your hand, running, stopping,
turning your body and hitting a little round fuzzy thing back
over a net to a planned destination on the other side of the
net to a person who hopes you won't be able to do it. You
just stabilize one of those behaviors at a time and eventually
it all becomes smooth.
The other good thing about point projects is they are generally
things that help get your shot over into your opponent's court.
In other words, it's not just that you feel good that you
achieved your point project of getting your feet set, it's
that the by-product of achieving that point-project is the
effect that achievement has on your stroke, i.e. - you are
far more likely to hit a good forehand with your feet set
than if you are hitting it on the dead run.
So, we break the complicated behavior of tennis down into
little pieces, get good at the pieces, and then reassemble
it all as a total tennis game.
The other big effect of point projects, and the key to becoming
your own (best) tennis pro, is the power that this method
gives to get things that you learn in lessons out of the abstract
and into your real game day play. It's one thing to learn
some new skill or principle in a tennis lesson, but it's another
thing entirely to remember that point when you are playing
or even competing with another person. But that is the best
place for applying what you have learned.
Don't get me wrong, I don't think that you should spend every
competitive tennis match focusing on whether your feet are
set. As a matter of fact, it's much better if it has become
an automatic habit, and you don't have to think about it at
all. It's just "on the way to automatic" that we
want you to use the technique. When you're competing it's
probably better that you just enjoy yourself, let your skills
express themselves, and analyze later.
You might ask how this is different from what we are already
doing. Its a subtle difference, but subtle things can
be powerful. To understand this, we need to look at how lessons
are taught, since, in a way, lessons are both good and bad
for you. In order to teach the absolute beginner we normally
simplify the tasks. Maybe we dont even try to have you
hit over that net. We show you how to hold the racket. We
introduce you to some strokes. We drop the ball nicely into
your hitting zone so that you can practice that stroke. Then
we move twenty feet away and carefully toss the ball toward
your hitting zone. Then we have you start moving to the ball,
getting your feet set and hitting the ball that you have to
run for. And we progress from there.
Throughout this instruction you will hear any number of comments
from your pro, such as shoulder turn, racket back, low to
high hit, eyes on the ball, etc.
Whats unusual about all this is the spoon-fed quality
that it all has. The pro hits the ball right to you at a perfect
pace (or tries to, anyway). That spoon-feds training is good
for a beginner, but unless your pro moves you systematically
into hitting balls on the run, you are in for a wake-up call
when you try to hit with a real human being. Real human beings
come in three forms:
- Superhuman: Your pro who can feed you nice balls all
- Inhuman: An experienced player, who unless he is married
to you, hits the ball too hard and is TRYING to make you
- Subhuman, another beginner like you, who cant hit
the ball back in the same place twice
What this means is that we train one way but play another.
The idea of this book is to take the training comments that
your pro gives you and apply them in playing situations. So,
you will take notes on what she says, and when you are playing,
you will stabilize those skills in actual game-play situations.
With the point project method, you use warm-ups and practice
matches to stabilize aspects of your evolving tennis game.
When you analyze your tennis activities, how many of your
matches are intense rivalries that demand perfect concentration
and performance? A lot, maybe, if you are on a competitive
high school or college team, or play in a league of some sort.
But probably a reasonable amount of your tennis time is spent
playing matches or hitting with people where the outcome isn't
crucial to your survival.
In practice matches, and while warming up or rallying with
a friend, you can take the opportunity of using that game-like
situation to stabilize your new backswing, or incorporate
that new shoulder turn, etc.
This tool, while maybe a distraction during match playanything
can be overusedcan be effectively applied in a number
of tennis situations. For example, when you are drilling with
a friend, hitting with a ball machine, hitting against a wall,
warming up for a match, when you are in a match and feel like
you are losing concentration or not playing up to your usual
level, or when you are playing someone on a far higher or
lower skill level than you. I will discuss these situations
in more detail in later chapters.
There's a story about simple point projects like this, true
or not, and it involves Arthur Ashe. The story is that he's
playing in the Davis Cup where on-court coaching is allowed,
and as he switches sides, he consults with the coach. Then
he goes out and wins the match. So after the match, the media
guy goes up to the coach and asks what significant tactical
insight he offered to Arthur to turn the match around. "What?"
says the coach, "Oh, that. No big deal. I just told him
he needed to hit the ball more out in front." It's not
that Arthur Ashe didn't know the value of that. It's just
that in the heat of battle, or against this particular opponent,
he was slipping a bit in executing that particular variable
until the coach pointed it out.
The point is that the changes needed when your game is developed
are not sophisticated changes. When your serve is well established
and grooved, the tiniest change has an enormous effect. This
type of thing, the little change for enormous effect, is the
goal of every tennis lesson and every growing tennis player.
When your pro can tell you one thing that all of a sudden
makes your serve go in, I can assure you it's a great moment
for everybody. You're happy because you are all of a sudden
experiencing success, the pro is happy because his teaching
is working and the sun comes out on the court and smiles down
Maybe you have heard the pro say "turn your shoulder"
a hundred times, but when he says "show your back to
your opponent before you hit," you finally get it. This
is what the pro searches for, the perfect phrase to make the
way to greatness clearer to you, the perfect clue that will
finally unlock the tennis animal lurking within your game,
and set you free to play your best. As players we can sift
through these points of instruction, try them out as point
projects, until they become automatic behaviors as we pursue
the goal of tennis excellence.
If you are struggling on court, the application of one or
two of these things will almost always bring your game back
to its senses. For me it's keeping my eyes on the ball all
the way to contact, turning my shoulder way back, and hitting
the ball out in front. Especially on the backhand, I find
that early contact on the ball almost always works wonders.
You can sift through your point projects as well, and find
the ones that are the most valuable, and use them in warm-ups
and matches to bring your game to life.
To make this book as useful as possible, I have indicated
potential point projects in bold face type throughout the
book. Anything in this book in bold face type is something
that you can apply to your own game, using the point projects
method. But the projects that I have emphasized are just a
start. Your pro may have many more (and better) points to
make about your game. You may have ideas and insights of your
own. You may have seen something in a tennis magazine that
you want to try out. But regardless of the source or the level
of sophistication of the information, the point project scenario
is one method of incorporating the new, desired skill into
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What Some Famous Pros Say About The
Paul Stokstad's book puts the attention
of the player where it belongs: on self-development. Only
by taking a serious look at your own game, by pulling apart
and examining the details of every stroke, can you put it
all together again as a bigger and better game. The book
has an interesting, systematic method of analysis that should
take any player to a new level of understanding of their
own game and of tennis in general.
Paul Stokstad's book places responsibility
on the player, not the coach, for wins and losses. He also
understands that no coach, as great as he/she might be, produces
champions. A great coach is one who helps students help themselves
to maximize performance and enjoyment of tennis in the shortest
period of time. Anyone in the game can get dozens of meaningful
tips from this book.
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About the Author
Stokstad is a creative and friendly type, with an extensive
background in professional writing, teaching, and web marketing.
He is also a certified USPTA tennis pro (P-1 rating).
He has been playing and teaching tennis for over 40 years
(no kidding, he was helping teach tennis clinics at age 12).
His father was a successful teaching pro, and both brothers
were state and regional tennis champions.
He served as the Head Tennis Pro for the Burlington, Iowa
Country Club for four years, and has also been active in the
junior tennis clinic program in Fairfield, Iowa for many years.
He trained as a clinic pro at the Vic Braden Tennis College
in Coto De Caza, California. He has taken USPTA continuing
education courses in doubles tactics and System 5 and worked
closely with the author of System 5 on clinic support documentation.
He has served as an instructor in USPTA advanced junior development
player camps, emphasizing the theme of this book.
He also writes poetry, essays, ad copy, movie reviews, stand-up
comedy, fiction, literary journalism, a humor column, a web
marketing/design columns, etc. He has many interests other
than tennis, including improvisational theatre, Transcendental
Meditation, poetry writing, and performance-oriented partner
He also consults in web marketing, sitedesign/usability,
and search engine optimization/pay per click advertising.
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You can also buy it here
(for less than the cost of one tennis lesson):