Getting passed the plateau

ohplease

Professional
There's alot of very specific technical threads in this section, and that's great - but how about a more general question.

What'd you do to get good? As in, at some point, you'd spent some time at a plateau in terms of playing level - as an adult, and then you did something, and you were finally free and clear of that plateau - what was that something?

Was it fitness? Lessons? Subscription to some tennis tip website? Joining a club? Finding a particular group of players? Etc. What'd you do, specifically, and how'd you know that doing it would be the key?
 

user92626

G.O.A.T.
You can only get as good as how much you put in and how much your own circle gives you.

Even if you train really hard, you can't get objectively good if there's no real competition.
 

LeeD

Bionic Poster
Everyone is different.
Some need to grow.
Some need tougher competition.
Some need more repetition.
Some need better instruction.
Some need to quit work.
All find it not easy.
 

Dreamer

Professional
There's alot of very specific technical threads in this section, and that's great - but how about a more general question.

What'd you do to get good? As in, at some point, you'd spent some time at a plateau in terms of playing level - as an adult, and then you did something, and you were finally free and clear of that plateau - what was that something?

Was it fitness? Lessons? Subscription to some tennis tip website? Joining a club? Finding a particular group of players? Etc. What'd you do, specifically, and how'd you know that doing it would be the key?
Fitness definitely helps. More athletic players will get better practice from running down more balls without compromising form because of fatigue.

Lessons and coaching from a great teacher is I think the best way to get better. The problem is, there's a difference between even a pro player and a good teacher. For those without this resource, they have to supplement their knowledge through books and the internet. Fortunately there are some great books out there and the tennis info on the internet just keeps getting better.

Finding a steady hitting partner is very important. More partners, more playtime. Someone who is at or above your level. My cell phone has at least 10 people with NTRP ratings next to their names lol.

When you're a beginner I would first get the fundamentals of your strokes down. Understanding earlier how important footwork/positioning/balance makes learning your strokes so much faster. When you are able to play a game with serves and rallies you can split your practice into half. Working on technique and matchplay.
You have to improve your technique, but also make sure that you get experience and translate your game in match play. They don't even have to be full sets at first. You can play to 3 or tie breaks.

When working on strokes, focus on one until you're comfortable into going to something else. Always be conscious of your footwork, making sure you never let a ball go because of laziness. I believe that your footwork goes hand in hand with how fast you grow.
 

CoachingMastery

Professional
There's alot of very specific technical threads in this section, and that's great - but how about a more general question.

What'd you do to get good? As in, at some point, you'd spent some time at a plateau in terms of playing level - as an adult, and then you did something, and you were finally free and clear of that plateau - what was that something?

Was it fitness? Lessons? Subscription to some tennis tip website? Joining a club? Finding a particular group of players? Etc. What'd you do, specifically, and how'd you know that doing it would be the key?
Reaching highly skilled levels of tennis is not rocket science. You must learn, understand, implement, and employ skilled tennis technique.

If you are at a level and not getting better, than it most likely is a result of learning inferior methods which you still are employing. That can be something such as using an eastern forehand grip on your serve or eastern grips on your volley or simply pushing the ball over the net.

If you want to play at say the 5.0 level, then you need to hit (consistently), 5.0 level shots. That includes developing a 5.0 level second serve, 5.0 level groundies, and the ability to use 5.0 level strategies.

I call it developing an "Advanced Foundation" (the cornerstone of my two books, Tennis Mastery and Coaching Mastery.)

You may need to take several steps back in terms of developing new patterns and familiarity in new techniques. Forget winning for a while since you will always revert back to old habits if you are specifically trying to win at all costs.

It really is simple: Learn the best methods (those that top players all use) and find ways to implement them in your game. Grips, stroke patterns, footwork and strategies are all part of this picture. Use these new elements at speeds that allow the greatest chance of success. (Too many players try a new technique and try them at speeds that they can't possibly be successful with...ending up reverting back because 'those new methods just don't work.')

There are many other elements. However, if your strokes and technique are not within these parameters, then it won't matter about your fitness or strength or anything else. You need to be able to create reliable, repeatable strokes that are both effective as well as being able to defend more effective shots hit by oponents.

Good luck.
 

sn1974

Rookie
I always go back to the 10,000 hours thing (made famous in gladwell’s tipping point but not a new idea). getting better at anything that requires skill and expertise, be it playing the cello or hurdling or drawing, takes lots of time and feedback from an expert.

if you’ve ever studied a musical instrument you’ll know what I mean. you take lessons and get feedback from your teacher and then you practice at home. it’s such a basic recipe. in cello (I’m using that example because I studied it, tho my husband plays guitar and says it’s the same thing there) you learn things in a particular order and you need to solidly know each piece to move onto the next. if you can’t do certain things well, you go back and work on them. you don’t just jump ahead into complex pieces thinking you’ll make it work somehow or think that if you change the way you hold your bow suddenly it's all going to fall into place. there’s a path you must follow to become proficient and if you follow that path, you won’t plateau until you’re a really good player.

at a certain point you’ll also acquire the tools to keep improving. you’ll understand the fundamentals and know what you’re doing right and wrong. and even though there will be many things you don’t do as well as you want to, you will see a path to get where you want to go.

find a teacher who is in it for the long term and has a big picture plan for you. find a teacher that tells you that you’re not going to be good for… years.
 

GetBetterer

Hall of Fame
sn1974:
in cello (I’m using that example because I studied it, tho my husband plays guitar and says it’s the same thing there)
Get a knowledgeable husband in the arts of the Cello. As a Cello player it hurts to see that. My response in Orchestra was:

"Let's see which instrument can destroy the other, last one out wins!"

Back on Topic:

if you can’t do certain things well, you go back and work on them. you don’t just jump ahead into complex pieces thinking you’ll make it work somehow or think that if you change the way you hold your bow suddenly it's all going to fall into place. there’s a path you must follow to become proficient and if you follow that path, you won’t plateau until you’re a really good player
Agreeing with that. It goes a lot faster if you do it that way. Think of it as, if you skip the fundamentals, you're joining the dark side in the movies, thinking you can do better when your teacher says you need to focus on X. ^^
 

larry10s

Hall of Fame
Reaching highly skilled levels of tennis is not rocket science. You must learn, understand, implement, and employ skilled tennis technique.

If you are at a level and not getting better, than it most likely is a result of learning inferior methods which you still are employing. That can be something such as using an eastern forehand grip on your serve or eastern grips on your volley or simply pushing the ball over the net.

If you want to play at say the 5.0 level, then you need to hit (consistently), 5.0 level shots. That includes developing a 5.0 level second serve, 5.0 level groundies, and the ability to use 5.0 level strategies.

I call it developing an "Advanced Foundation" (the cornerstone of my two books, Tennis Mastery and Coaching Mastery.)

You may need to take several steps back in terms of developing new patterns and familiarity in new techniques. Forget winning for a while since you will always revert back to old habits if you are specifically trying to win at all costs.

It really is simple: Learn the best methods (those that top players all use) and find ways to implement them in your game. Grips, stroke patterns, footwork and strategies are all part of this picture. Use these new elements at speeds that allow the greatest chance of success. (Too many players try a new technique and try them at speeds that they can't possibly be successful with...ending up reverting back because 'those new methods just don't work.')

There are many other elements. However, if your strokes and technique are not within these parameters, then it won't matter about your fitness or strength or anything else. You need to be able to create reliable, repeatable strokes that are both effective as well as being able to defend more effective shots hit by oponents.

Good luck.
i started with correct grips and was taught correct stroke mechanics. and ive improved (4.0 playing 9 years started age 49). however still dont have a great kick serve and my topspin backhand is not as accurate as i would like.
im playing tougher competition but dont feel like im improving like i was . take 3 lessons a week and play 2 days a week.
im at a plateau. how do i break thru.??
 

thebuffman

Professional
If you are at a level and not getting better, than it most likely is a result of learning inferior methods which you still are employing.
i couldn't disagree more with this statement. there is a very good book i would like to recommend to you "Mastery: The Keys To Success". covered in the book is a very essential concept and one that every coach & student must understand....The Learning Curve. EVERYONE who set out on a path of learning anything will experience the same cycle. Growth - Plateau - Decline - Grown. this is the cycle of learning. the plateau is a natural part of the learning cycle.

one of the best tools to use in adopting an efficient learning cycle is to acquire a mentor. the mentor must be completely vetted though because once selected then you must completely surrender to the mentor's process/system.
 

LuckyR

Legend
i started with correct grips and was taught correct stroke mechanics. and ive improved (4.0 playing 9 years started age 49). however still dont have a great kick serve and my topspin backhand is not as accurate as i would like.
im playing tougher competition but dont feel like im improving like i was . take 3 lessons a week and play 2 days a week.
im at a plateau. how do i break thru.??
First of all, I would disagree with CoachingMastery at your own peril. He is very knowledgable and experienced in turning out players at the highest echelons of tennis. However, his area of expertise is not likely your exact situation.

If you are completely accurate in your description of your strokes, then it is likely that you at the center of the collision between: practice time need, physical limitations of your body and other responsibilities affecting practice time.

As to an answer to the OPs question, I agree with thebuffman that plateaus are part of the learning process (ie it is not a slow steady climb, but rather jumps followed by areas of no improvement). What I have found that works best to lead a jump to the next level is footwork. Improvements there make stroke production execution more easy to perform and thus are a great lead-in to the next jump up.
 

skiracer55

Hall of Fame
There's a lot of different things...

...most of which are discussed in this thread, but the most important, and maybe the least obvious, is that you have to figure out what your goals are. Based on the OP, it'd be easy to say..."Well, that's obvious...to get off this plateau and get better, of course!"

Yeah, but what will that buy you? "Getting better", in a larger sense, is often just a means to an end. As in "If I get better, I can move up from 4.0 to 4.5." Or "If I get better, I can have a better shot at a Division 1 scholarship." Or, "If I get better, that'll help me win an Open tournament."

There is, of course, nothing wrong with just wanting to get better for it's own sake. As in "I don't have a topspin backhand, and I think a topspin backhand is a really cool thing, so I want to develop one."

Once you have your larger goal in mind, then, as Tennis Mastery says, it ain't rocket science. There are variations in the path, but they all share a lot of similar elements, and they all work...if you know where the path leads...
 

CoachingMastery

Professional
As I mentioned, it is "most likely" not always necessarily 100% the issue. Yes, there are certain elements that are not always attainable in making you a complete, highly skilled player. The kick serve is a great example of this statement. Because the kick serve components are uniquely different to the slice and flat serves, many skilled players fail to develop the kick serve. (Please see Jeff at Hi-TechTennis.com who covered this in a short article that he quoted me on...as well as seeing my articles on TennisOne on the kick serve for a detailed analysis of the kick relative to the other serves and what is required to master it.)

However, I've had extensive experience working adults in your same predicament, many who simply believed they couldn't get better. Yet, they all discovered that indeed, they could--and did--improve, many beyond their expectations.

And I agree that there are many plateaus and peaks along the way, (read my books discussing the "roller-coaster" principle that I describe in detail this phenomenon.)

However, if a player has hit a plateau and has been there for more than a year or so, then I reiterate my original statment: there are probably one or more key technical elements that are preventing improvement.

Yes, there are those who simply can't improve past a certain point no matter what.

Yes, there are those who don't have the skill-set to master certain technical components.

Yes, there are those who don't reach their potential because they don't condition themselves, don't practice effectively or effiecently, or within proven patterns that are based on long term improvement. (Many pros and players practice for a short-term or limited level of 'success'...of which, such methods often prohibit long-term improvement and potential acheivement.)

Yes, there are unlimited examples of failure by the potential: lack of time, lack of desire, lack of opportunities, lack of understanding, lack of discipline, lack of sacrifice, etc., etc., etc.

Obviously, it is very difficult to describe all the elements to satisfy the understanding or the comprehension of certain parameters that determine progression and skill acquirement here. (One of the main reasons I simply don't participate here much anymore.) So, while I understand that those who might disagree with me here, based on the limited level of descriptions I chose to write about, (I already write a lot here when I do write), the truth is that I've seen every possible player example (in spades!) and have seen what works and what doesn't.

One reason I've written two books on tennis (that are best sellers), because there are so many things that contribute to reaching one's potential.

All in all, I wish you and all the readers great success in finding the truth about tennis and about yourselves.
 

CoachingMastery

Professional
i started with correct grips and was taught correct stroke mechanics. and ive improved (4.0 playing 9 years started age 49). however still dont have a great kick serve and my topspin backhand is not as accurate as i would like.
im playing tougher competition but dont feel like im improving like i was . take 3 lessons a week and play 2 days a week.
im at a plateau. how do i break thru.??
Larry,

Without seeing your serve and backhand personally, it would be a shot in the dark guessing why you're not progressing on these two shots. However, that said, there are several common errors I see on these two shots that contribute to not advancing:

Kick: Most players bring their shoulder plane forward too early for any chance of hitting a kick serve. Also, the hitting elbow can't lead too far in front. (Makes a kick impossible when the elbow gets out in front...only a flat or slice serve is technically possible once the elbow gets too far in front.)

Backhand: If you are using one hand, take a close look at your wrist position and use. Inconsistency in any shot, is often caused by a slight inflection or release of the wrist, creating diversity in the plane of the racquet within the contact window. Also, if you are hitting one-handed, check your finish to see that you are staying sideways, using your off-arm to counter your upper body rotation during the stroke. Any deviation from this will cause you to make adjustments within the stroke to the point, similar to the wrist use, that will make aiming difficult and consistency equally difficult.

As far as progressing past the 4.0 levels, in addition to these more individual elements, you need to look at your practice routine. (If you have one!) Most players, when they reach a fairly proficeint level, tend to play more and practice less. This is a big mistake if you hope to move to higher levels. Developing practice drills that emphasize depth, angles, and consistency, and pushing you to improve your stamina during longer matches and rallies, (biggest breakdown for players who have developed solid mechanics is footwork), AND making sure you are working solid playing strategies, (manufacturing and finishing points when you should), all are part of the big picture of improvement.

Good luck and hope some of these tips come in handy for you.
 

larry10s

Hall of Fame
Larry,

Without seeing your serve and backhand personally, it would be a shot in the dark guessing why you're not progressing on these two shots. However, that said, there are several common errors I see on these two shots that contribute to not advancing:

Kick: Most players bring their shoulder plane forward too early for any chance of hitting a kick serve. Also, the hitting elbow can't lead too far in front. (Makes a kick impossible when the elbow gets out in front...only a flat or slice serve is technically possible once the elbow gets too far in front.)

Backhand: If you are using one hand, take a close look at your wrist position and use. Inconsistency in any shot, is often caused by a slight inflection or release of the wrist, creating diversity in the plane of the racquet within the contact window. Also, if you are hitting one-handed, check your finish to see that you are staying sideways, using your off-arm to counter your upper body rotation during the stroke. Any deviation from this will cause you to make adjustments within the stroke to the point, similar to the wrist use, that will make aiming difficult and consistency equally difficult.

As far as progressing past the 4.0 levels, in addition to these more individual elements, you need to look at your practice routine. (If you have one!) Most players, when they reach a fairly proficeint level, tend to play more and practice less. This is a big mistake if you hope to move to higher levels. Developing practice drills that emphasize depth, angles, and consistency, and pushing you to improve your stamina during longer matches and rallies, (biggest breakdown for players who have developed solid mechanics is footwork), AND making sure you are working solid playing strategies, (manufacturing and finishing points when you should), all are part of the big picture of improvement.

Good luck and hope some of these tips come in handy for you.
i do have a one handed bh. not opening up is an issue. thanks for the advice. larry
 
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