All tennis players have weaknesses. My biggest weakness is that I get nervous when I play matches, and hence, the performance is nowhere near the abilities I display in practice. A common problem for amateurs. My nervousness manifests itself in certain ways on court and I’ve now designed my own customized game that will counteract these different manifestations. You can do the same with your game. I’ll explain how below. You can play this game with a friend or a coach. Before we start it’s important to know that this game targets the symptoms of nervousness, not nervousness itself. You have to take some other measures for that. The Customized Improvement Game is just tennis, but with a few amendments to the rules that are targeted to counteract your particular symptoms. (These symptoms doesn’t necessarily have to stem from nervousness – it just does in my case). The idea is to remove the possibility to score points with the stupid thing you do when you are nervous. I’ll use myself as example below. The first thing you need to do is to analyze your game. You have to know what things nervousness does to you game. This isn’t always easy, not knowing what you do wrong in your game is one of the major reasons we hire coaches. But let assume you do know what nervousness does to your game for this exercise. You can always hire coach to watch you play a match and compare with your game on practice if you don’t know. For me the following things happen when I get nervous (more things might happen, but these are the things I’ve noticed about myself): 1) I start to dink my second serves. I chicken out and don’t hit properly to get the power and spin a good second serve requires. This leads to double faults and if not, serves that sits up straight for my opponent to whack at. Double faults leads to even more nervousness, which usually transcends to the First Serve, which starts acting up as well. I’m a serve- and volley player. This is of course disastrous for my game. This has to fixed. 2) I start to run around EVERY SINGLE SHOT TO MY BACKHAND. I have a pretty good backhand and don’t really need to run around it. But I do because my forehand is slightly more consistent, like with most amateurs, and I feel more comfortable with it. Now, it’s not wrong to run around your backhand, but I do it every time whether there is sufficient time or not. That’s not the way to go and needless to say I miss a lot of shots doing this. It also takes away one of my weapons, the slice approach. This has to be fixed. 3) I start to do half-volleys on net rushes. When the returns are low to my feet, I don’t dive in and take a low volley. Instead I stop, sometimes I even take a STEP BACK, and do half-volley instead. The half-volley is a MUCH HARDER shot to make than the low volley. Yes, sometimes a half-volley is inescapable, but I’m not talking about those times. I’m talking about volleys I could take from waist down to knee height. You should never deliberately take these on a half-volley. But I do, since you do stupid thing when you’re nervous. This has to be fixed. So now the trick is to amend the rules in such a way that this is not possible to do, or more specifically, to remove the possibility to score points with the shots above in the list. Take them out of the game. If I immediately loose the point for doing these things, maybe I will learn NOT TO DO THEM! So I change the rules for myself, but not necessarily for my opponent. He may play by the normal rules. That just makes it more difficult for you which will hopefully make you try harder in order to beat him. I changed the rules in the following manner: For point: 1) I only get one serve. It has to be a spun, reasonably powerful serve. If it’s a dink I lose the point by default. The opponent is responsible for the (yes, judgmental) call whether the serve is a dink or not. This will force me to hit a good second serve even though I’m nervous. I can no longer dink it and hope for a misstake on the return for an easy point. 2) I cannot run around my backhand. Ever. Even if it’s appropriate. Doing so makes me lose the point by default. I will be forced to hit my backhands, which will give the necessary practice to make me feel comfortable with it in a match situation, and I don’t loose my slice approach weapon. 3) No half-volleys. I must take the low volley. If I can’t I lose the point by default. This will hopefully make my net approaches quicker, more assertive and confident. One possible problem is that this will not feel like a “real” game, and hence you don’t get nervous in the same way. This has to be countered somehow. Make the game count. If you can’t do that with the honor and glory of winning the match, bet some money on it, loser buys the beers, or whatever. What changes will YOU make? I don’t know – it depends on your problems, your game style etc. But try it. If nothing else, trying to design your own improvement game will force you to think about your game. When you do that half the battle is already won. A thinking tennis player will make improvements. With or without the improvement game. Alright, that’s it. I hope you enjoy designing your own Improvement Game. Any tips or pointers on how to improve the improvement game, or if you simply think this is BS, let me know.