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DonDiego 02-14-2013 11:45 AM

Play (and practice) your strengths
 
Practicing your strengths is more important than working on your flaws.

I was wondering what you guys thought about that. It's taken from Essentiel Tennis http://www.essentialtennis.com/probl...trengths/2206/ The whole article is worth a read.

I practice a lot, but almost only my flaws. This article makes me rethink what I'm doing.

user92626 02-14-2013 11:52 AM

You don't have the whole say in this. Your opponent has half the equation.

That quote may sound nice and sell stuffs but don't you think it's also a matter of how good your opponent is?

It's a race, man.

Govnor 02-14-2013 12:10 PM

depends on your level. The higher you go, the more the opponent is actively looking to exploit you. Below 4.0 you can get away with an awful lot.

slowfox 02-14-2013 03:05 PM

Hmm, I guess it can be a matter of having only one/two things really good OR five/six things just average. Not sure which would be more advantageous.

TheCheese 02-14-2013 04:43 PM

The higher you go, the better it is to have a major strength rather than be well-rounded because you're better able to set up plays that play to your own strengths.

Hi I'm Ray 02-14-2013 05:21 PM

I didn't read the article yet..

It depends on a lot of things, including what kind of playing style you are going for. You can't really be a serve and volley/net rusher type if you have average everything and no strength there, and you can't be a good retriever if you can only do 1 or 2 things well but have poor consistency overall.

I used to compete and I always tried to practice getting everything solid with no particular standout stroke. A few years ago I pick up tennis again after a 9yr break and started from scratch, I praticed the same way trying to close up my weakness but had a hard time doing much damage in doubles (which was all I was playing 99% of the time), I recieved a ton of attacks on my weaker BH side as well. One day I switched my forehand and because it was so new and needed so much work, I started spending hours of practice time on it, hitting targets, footwork/positioning, and run around forehands high and low from all areas of the of the baseline. In trying to bring the FH up to speed quickly, I over compensated in practice and ended up with a much better FH than before. My backhand went ignored and down the dumps but I started consistently beating solid players I used to lose to all the time. With a strength, (usually the FH) you will be able to direct and set up points, attack your opponents weaknesses, put them on defense, force more errors, control the point, diminish their opportunity to set up or attack, and stay more consistent running around and hitting your stronger shot, especially at the rec level where you have plenty of opportunity to run around balls.
With solid strokes all around and no strength, you have less weaknesses to exploit but you will be at the mercy of your opponents ability and face more shots to your weakness, you'll have a harder time staying in control of the point and finishing it.

Recently making a switch in backhands, I had been relying almost entirely on slice on my BH side, but I was still able to win the vast majority of games I played - and they didn't have many opportunities to attack the BH.
I'm not sure why my old coaches never worked on developing a stronger side but I'm glad I went this route.

LeeD 02-14-2013 05:28 PM

While a strong shot is always a nice weapon to have, at any level above 4.0, if you have a weak side, whether it be inconsistent or slow, it will be attacked mercilessly in any real match.
Few of us have a strong serve AND a strong forehand.
A strong forehand by itself can easily be neutralized by hitting to your backhand, and then skidding low short or loopy high balls to your forehand.

TheCheese 02-14-2013 07:49 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by LeeD (Post 7214902)
While a strong shot is always a nice weapon to have, at any level above 4.0, if you have a weak side, whether it be inconsistent or slow, it will be attacked mercilessly in any real match.
Few of us have a strong serve AND a strong forehand.
A strong forehand by itself can easily be neutralized by hitting to your backhand, and then skidding low short or loopy high balls to your forehand.


Let's say you're a 4.5. I'd rather have a 5.5 forehand and a 3.5 backhand than 4.5 FH and BH.

The first option gives you way more tactical options. Also, it means you can shrink your side of the court. If you have a seriously scary forehand, you can shift over to your left and dare them to hit there. It puts a lot of pressure on them on the return as well because they're going to want to make sure they hit to the backhand. Not to mention you can play crafty with your backhand to try and force them to hit to your FH.

Mahboob Khan 02-14-2013 11:38 PM

Obviously, when you are playing a match use your strength. Do not work on your weaker shots during the match. After the match, in a practice session, work on your weaknesses, so that you use the learned shot in a match.

Ash_Smith 02-15-2013 12:16 AM

There's a theory in personal development circles that putting most energy into developing your strengths into "super-strengths" is a more effective pathway than improving your weakness' - providing none of your weakness' are "mission critical"

Where a weakness could be deemed "mission critical" (in other words it will hold you back in a major way), then it could/should be a focus for improvement. Otherwise, focus on developing your strengths.

I've not experimented much with this is a sporting context, but it is a theory gaining much ground in the corporate world and something I am experimenting with with a couple of athletes at the moment.

Cheers

fuzz nation 02-15-2013 04:51 AM

I'll offer that it's maybe a bit of a trap to argue that one is more important than the other - cue the chicken-or-the-egg paradox...

Weaknesses need to be worked on to the point that they are not liabilities , but strong points in our games need to be polished. I'm probably agreeing 100% with Ash ^^^, but just rehashing his idea with my own lingo.

Andy Roddick certainly developed his strengths to a sky-high level and they propelled him to much success through his career. Roger Federer offers some interesting contrast I think, because when he really emerged and took over for a while, some described his essential strength as actually having no weaknesses. Fed is a rare case, but offers an interesting comparison here.

So Andy pounded the rock against the Fed man, but couldn't really get the better of him... until he worked on some of his relative weaknesses, including his net game and ability to transition forward with authority. Then these two played that epic Wimbledon final ('09 I think?) that proved to be a pure clash of wills instead of one player trying to do the better job of covering his weak spots. I still believe that while Federer won that match, Roddick didn't lose it - that's a whole other rant though.

With that comparison in mind, it's impossible for me to say that improving strengths or fixing weaknesses is generally the higher priority. Every player is a slightly different case, but the Roddick model shows the importance of both. His massive serve and forehand blew many an opponent away and earned Andy lots of hardware. That career of his would have held more disappointment though, if he hadn't gone back to work in the middle of his career to further develop his entire skill set.

10isfreak 02-15-2013 05:35 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Ash_Smith (Post 7215309)
There's a theory in personal development circles that putting most energy into developing your strengths into "super-strengths" is a more effective pathway than improving your weakness' - providing none of your weakness' are "mission critical"

If you take Vygotski's theory of development, you do have a rationale for thinking that sufficiently similar skills can "improve all at once." The idea is that you have three types of skills: one set is acquired, one is to be learnt with support and one set is out of reach for the moment.

Each skill can be stimulated through certain tasks and, obviously, the task should bring the individual to use a skill that is in the learning zone (formally called the zone of proximal development). There, you can accomplish the given task, but only if you have resources: it can instructions, books, etc., but you need some help there. Improvement is seen when the first zone (of acquired skills) is enlarged and the second zone shifts.

We do have reasons to think that similar skills will follow one another. It might seem weird, but by practicing to attack junk balls that force me to bend and be really rigorous with my posture, I manage to also improve my rally ball. The skills are indeed sufficiently similar. An other way of seeing this is that I improve specific skills through adaptation and facing low balls is a good way to accommodate my skills. Of course, I can hit better shots off low balls by hitting rally strokes... however, I should, as Vygotski points out, always focus on what brings me to the limit.


Which is the point here. YOUR IMPROVEMENT IS BOUND BY YOUR HARDSHIP: the harder it is without being impossible for you, the more you improve. The real key in development is not to target your strength or your weakness, but to identify your zone of proxmial development and PICK THE HARDEST POSSIBLE TASK YOU CAN ACCOMPLISH WITH HELP. If you go too far, you won't improve; if you go too short, you won't improve. You have to nail it just right. That's the idea: YOU HAVE TO BRING YOURSELF TO THE BRINK OF FAILURE, where just a tad more is too much.

It's like weight training: you always pick the heaviest possible weight you can use for a given number of reps and the given movement you plan to accomplish. If you focus on endurance, you lower the weight and do more reps; if you focus on strength, you increase the weight and lower the reps... but you're always near to fail the last rep. Ideally, you'd need to a small finger push from a friend to finish the very last one. And, like lifting weights, when it becomes too light, you SHOULD increase the weight. In tennis, using an heavier dumbell is asking more of yourself: pick smaller targets, sharper angles, go from being stationary to moving or from slightly moving to scrambling... do what you wish to, but make it so it's hard all the time, despite your improvement.

Ash_Smith 02-15-2013 05:58 AM

^^^Does that not answer a question which hasn't been asked? That is "how should you practice for optimal development" as opposed to the original contention that "Practicing your strengths is more important than working on your flaws"?

On a side not, was Vygotski's ZPD theory based on cognitive development in children?

Cheers

wanda 02-15-2013 06:09 AM

It's personal preference really I think. You can get to a point where your backhand is a solid shot so you stop making unforced errors. It might be the time to work in the forehand so it's a major weapon. At higher levels you are going to need a strong shot but lower levels you need to not make errors or have an ability to compensate.

TennisCJC 02-15-2013 06:25 AM

I watched a D1 match last Friday and the guy at #3 singles was very adept at hiding his BH. He is ranked top 100 in NCAA and runs around almost everything and pounds lefty forehands. He also had a huge lefty serve too which he used to setup the FH. His BH is good but not dominating like the FH. He was an expert at maximizing his strengths and you could see he was really frustrating his opponent. He won 6-1, 6-1.

He had excellent court coverage to allow him to camp in the BH side of the backcourt and leave more court open on the FH side. When his opponent hit wide to his FH he was excellent at running it down and frequently hitting an offensive shot on the run.

For old guy like me, leaving that much court open wouldn't work because I don't have the speed to cover the opening. But, it works for the young whipper snappers.

My philosophy is to practice all aspects of the game but work on a game plan that let's you maximize your weapons.

I read once that after Jim Courier had won a grand slam he was often seen practicing putting away short FHs. He knew his ability to use his FH as a weapon paid the mortgage and he worked on it.

10isfreak 02-15-2013 10:29 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Ash_Smith (Post 7215569)
^^^Does that not answer a question which hasn't been asked? That is "how should you practice for optimal development" as opposed to the original contention that "Practicing your strengths is more important than working on your flaws"?

They're linked in some way. If both skills are sufficiently similar, improving your strengths, also improve your weaknesses and vice-versa... It some way, hitting any stroke makes you a better player, overall, provided that it challenges you sufficiently. However, if you're interpreting the issue differently, thinking "which yields the greatest game-payoff", my post does seem to be a bit out of context.

Thinking about gains and losses, my answer would be that the question is not very relevant because the ideal solution will vary too much depending on the context. You have to discount the costs of "consistently weak" weaknesses from the rewards of improved weapons, with each of these shots affecting the game differently depending on many variables... How many solutions do we have to compare here, how many situations to take into account and how many combinations of weapons and weaknesses can we imagine?

I doubt that you can conclusively state "weaknesses first" or "strengths first" for every player.

Quote:

Originally Posted by Ash_Smith (Post 7215569)
On a side not, was Vygotski's ZPD theory based on cognitive development in children?

The beauty of it is that it holds true all the time, for every skill set and every person. You can apply it to all four developmental spheres: physical, cognitive, emotional and social. It always works.

10isfreak 02-15-2013 10:45 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by TennisCJC (Post 7215606)
My philosophy is to practice all aspects of the game but work on a game plan that let's you maximize your weapons.

That simplifies A LOT the equation.

Ash_Smith 02-15-2013 11:09 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by 10isfreak (Post 7216150)
The beauty of it is that it holds true all the time, for every skill set and every person. You can apply it to all four developmental spheres: physical, cognitive, emotional and social. It always works.

Fact or opinion?

Example, physical, in many cases requires maturation prior to development, which goes against Vygotsky's principal (unless you take "learning" literally in this case and say that the child could "learn" the theory prior to being able to perform the skill, but in the physical realm I wouldn't call that development)

But otherwise yes, challenging oneself beyond one's current capabilities is a standard developmental practice (maybe Vygotsky was the first to recognise this, although there seems to be debate around the originality of some of his work).

Cheers

Relinquis 02-15-2013 01:59 PM

you guys should keep doing this... that way, all i have to do to beat you is hit loopy topspin to your backhand... thanks for making it easy.

also, the corporate world is very different from tennis. in tennis you are on your own and you have to face many, many opponents. you have to be able to adapt and evolve to some extent. in the corporate world you are usually part of a team or are hired and used for a specific skill and discarded when circumstances change.

anyway, back to tennis. don't neglect your strengths, but make sure you don't have weaknesses. a weak backhand is something you can't afford to have. we're not talking about having a weak side-spin drop shot or even being weak at the net, a backhand is a key part of most rallies. your "weapon" forehand isn't going to be of much use if you don't get to use it, or if you have to get so out of position that you predictably leave 2/3 of the court open for drop shots and shots down the line.

most weaknesses are pretty obvious (usually a mediocre backhand). if most people follow the mantra of focusing on strengths, they'll end up with weak backhands, i.e. at least a 1/3 of their baseline coverage is weak. even worse, if their weakness is a serve they have no where to hide, you can't run around it.

tl;dr... once you have no real weaknesses (all major strokes, movement and basic strategy covered), you can focus on developing key 'weapons'. But what do i know, i'm not an expert.

10isfreak 02-15-2013 03:38 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Ash_Smith (Post 7216344)
Fact or opinion?

Example, physical, in many cases requires maturation prior to development, which goes against Vygotsky's principal (unless you take "learning" literally in this case and say that the child could "learn" the theory prior to being able to perform the skill, but in the physical realm I wouldn't call that development)

But otherwise yes, challenging oneself beyond one's current capabilities is a standard developmental practice (maybe Vygotsky was the first to recognise this, although there seems to be debate around the originality of some of his work).

Cheers

It doesn‘t violate the theory. The ZPD is also bound by biological limitations. For instance, using a theory is not within a baby‘s ZPD because it‘s biologically impossible for them to think abstractly. It holds true until puberty: it‘s not within a child‘s reach until his frontal lobbes are sufficiently developped.

An other fact of psychology is that all developmental spheres are interdependant: your cognition is influenced by physical, emotional and social skills and the same is true for all othe three.

As for the fact or opinion, it‘s a fact. It‘s widely used in developmental psychology.


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