Hi, I’m a tennis newbie – I have always wanted to learn to play and recently started taking group lessons through my city’s parks and rec. dept. I am very much enjoying it and about 5 weeks into the 8 week beginner session. Lessons are once a week for an hour, and I’ve been trying to practice a couple of hours a week on whatever we’ve learned (working girl here, not endless time available to practice). The tennis instructor is focusing on having us perform the different strokes properly (and with follow through) and is always telling us when we’re rallying that it’s fine if the ball bounces more than once before we get to it, or if we miss, etc. because he’d rather have us take the time to do the stroke correctly than have us running for the ball and swinging without proper form. I completely understand the focus on learning technique. Here comes the question…Last night after our lesson I asked the instructor, “Hypothetically, if you were playing against someone, what would you do if the ball came at you and you knew you didn’t have time to prepare properly for returning the ball. Is it better to give it a try that might look ugly or is it better to not even try and have your pride in “nice looking form” no matter what? The instructor looked at me and said “Competing? It’s much too early for you to compete. When people compete too early that’s how bad habits get formed.” I kind of laughed because I didn’t envision myself signing up for a tournament anytime soon – I’m SO not there. But, the way he spoke so emphatically made me wonder how long it takes before you actually are ready to play against other people? I realize this is a very subjective question and depends on how athletic I am by nature, how much time I can invest in practicing, etc. I guess his words just made me wonder about my current goals and maybe trying to create some mental timeframe for myself. I also feel disappointed because I would think the whole point of taking lessons is to be able to eventually play other people. I didn’t think I’d just be endlessly taking lessons and never getting to play against others. He really wasn’t encouraging whatsoever. What should you be able to do before you can play against someone else? Yes, I know I’m never going to be Justine Henin, but I’m wondering what is acceptable competence to play against someone else? I have searched the forum already and couldn’t find a similar thread, but if there is one please direct me. Thanks for any words of wisdom from those of you who have risen above beginner status.