How can I get the most out of my tennis lessons?

Discussion in 'Tennis Tips/Instruction' started by pmata814, Oct 15, 2007.

  1. pmata814

    pmata814 Professional

    Dec 6, 2005
    I am a 3.5 player and I've started up with lessons again. The pro always asks me..."What do you want to work on today?" I feel like saying "just make me better!" But I know I should have a plan in mind.

    The thing is, if I say I want to improve my backhand he'll spend the next 1/2 hr. feeding me balls to my backhand yelling things like "move your feet; bend your knees;" I just don't feel like I'm really improving very much. I can use my ball machine to feed me balls. And I'm past the "bending your knees" thing.

    The question, again, is: How do I get the most out of my tennis lessons? If you are a 3.5+ player, what is YOUR typical lesson like?

    Thanks in advance.
  2. StealthGnome

    StealthGnome Semi-Pro

    Aug 13, 2006
    San Francisco
    I have lessons with a partner.
    We warm up our arms, mini tennis working on technique.
    Then he feeds us balls on either ground strokes, volleys, overheads or a combo.
    After, he sets up cones and drills us on groundstroke/volley footwork. Crosscourt, reverse, reverse, approach, volley, overhead smash.
    Rally a bit. Maybe work on serves.
    Essentially it.
  3. Bagumbawalla

    Bagumbawalla Hall of Fame

    Jun 24, 2006
    As a 3.5 player you are in a transitional phase of your development. You should, already, possess the full range of shot-making skills. To move to a 4, you need to do them all better and more consistantly.

    To develop a stronger backhand, 1/2 hour of repition iis just the start. Same with the other strokes.

    Tennis is a game of repetitive motions. And that is what you need to do-- grove those motions, strengthen those muscles, improve your endurance.

    The pro asks what you want to do, and then does that for you. He seems like someone who is willing to listen if you have more specific questions. Ask the questions, ask him to demonstrate, ask him to run you around the court and watch your game so he can list your weaknesses for you and set out a plan/timetable of attack- if that is what you want.
  4. pmata814

    pmata814 Professional

    Dec 6, 2005
    this is exactly what I'm talking I really need to be paying someone just so I can get repetition? I can do that, and I do, with my B-machine.

    Your right, my tennis pro does listen and he will do what I ask. The problem is I don't know what to ask. Could you elaborate a little bit more on what you said about "setting a plan/timetable of attack" please? Could you give me some examples?
  5. FedererISBetter

    FedererISBetter Rookie

    Sep 3, 2007

    I usually had that problem when working with the pro. I would get the most out of the lesson, that is not repeitive, and write all that stuff down. Instead of just the backhand, let him/her improve the other aspects of your tennis... forehand, serve, volley, gameplay... write all that done and work on it. That way, you know what you need to do for ALL your tennis spectrum. just use a hitting partner to help you reach the stuff the pros emphasize on.

    I personally use the Pros to get a different view of a certain technique, or gameplay... learn from it and then apply it to my game.
  6. Tennismastery

    Tennismastery Professional

    Jun 23, 2005
    Study tennis more before you take a lesson. In other words, read some books, study some video clips (from any of the great tennis sites out there) as well as study the hudreds of tennis "lessons" that such sites offer, watch tennis and take notes, (ie: figure out how a player won a particular point...what shot or shots set up the point, how effective are certain shots, which shots are defensive, which are offensive, etc.), and talk to players. (On boards like this is a good place too!)

    Then, when you do take lessons, you won't be so dependent on the pro to assume what you want to do. It sounds like your pro doesn't know a great deal about stroke progressions, (from the 'tips' you have mentioned he tells you), but is focusing on the common mistakes that all players make in a generalized way. But, he should be looking at your strokes in terms of technical advice, providing ways for you to create a proper stroke pattern first and foremost, proper spin and footwork patterns. "Bend your knees, move your feet," etc., are always part of the game but do not address specific components of your stroke.

    If you 'know' more about tennis before your lesson, you will be armed with the needs you percieve about your game and, hopefully, if your pro is decent, he or she will be able to address those elements specifically to meet your needs.

    Good luck!
  7. Cindysphinx

    Cindysphinx G.O.A.T.

    Aug 31, 2006
    I can only give the student perspective, as someone who has been working with and happy with one coach for about 18 months.

    I know what you mean about the "practicing" element of a lesson, though. The minutes/dollars are ticking by and you start wondering whether you're working with a pricey human ball machine. So it is important to take something concrete away from every lesson. 'Cause this ain't free!

    I think you might need to be more specific in what you want to work on. I wouldn't say I want to work on "forehand." I might say that I want to work on my crosscourt forehand groundstroke and service return. You can use lesson time for many things (grooving a stroke, changing a bad habit, learning a new stroke), and I think all are valid except perhaps grooving a stroke that is already excellent. Also, it makes sense to choose things to work on that can't easily be replicated with a ball machine, a friend or the wall.

    Still, if your pro is any good, you should be getting more instruction than "move your feet" and "bend your knees." After you hit a few, stop the lesson and go to the net and talk. After all, if you think you are doing those things and he thinks you are not, some communication needs to happen. I think the feeds/balls should get more challenging throughout the lesson, provided you're actually doing what you're supposed to be doing.

    For comparison, yesterday I did one hour, and it was a great lesson. I came warmed up (hitting with someone beforehand). We started off rallying from the baseline and tweaked some footwork stuff. Then we started working on the thing that I wanted to work on that is really costing me in matches: backhand approach volley. I just don't have that lovely little slicing motion that will keep it low yet place it deep. We did perhaps 30 minutes (on account of how I am an Exceptionally Slow Learner, apparently) of coaxing me to keep the wrist firm, chip high to low, keep racket face oriented, move to the ball rather than wave at it.

    Feeds got progressively tougher as I got the hang of it. Then we touched up forehand approach volley quickly. Then he served to me and I was to transition to net while playing out the point, trying like heck to do those approach volleys well and put away the final ball.

    Lesson over. We will rinse and repeat until I stop hacking at low defensive volleys and instead start slicing them into the corners. Lots of habits need to be broken. It could be a while . . .

    Cindy -- probably the wristiest player ever to swing a racket
  8. Mountain Ghost

    Mountain Ghost Semi-Pro

    Jan 31, 2007
    Getting the Most out of Tennis Lessons

    Get a new pro! “Move your Feet” and “Bend your Knees” is simply ridiculous. Either your pro can’t see what’s really going on, or you’re not picking up on whatever else he or she is saying. To help your ((new?)) pro get focused:

    - BETWEEN LESSONS: After each time you play, jot down a short (dated) note on what you feel your inconsistencies were, as well as what you think you did really well.

    - BEFORE LESSONS: (Warm up) Go through your notes, look for patterns of strengths and weaknesses, and give your pro an accurate update of your status/progress/needs.

    - DURING LESSONS: The pro may make you do things that aren’t familiar, or even comfortable. The good thing about an awkward feeling component is that it can be easily recognized and memorized, so don’t let wanting something to feel good distract you from finding those sometimes-uncomfortable points of reference.

    - AFTER LESSONS: Have a hitting partner scheduled so you can get right back on the court and practice grooving whatever the pro had you working on. Take notes.

    If you’re serious enough to pay real-time for tennis lessons, you should know that the best way to learn tennis is to “study” tennis. Subscribe to Tennis on the web, TV and in print and make the tennis club/center/courts your home-away-from-home.

    Basically . . . Watch – Read – Write – Talk – Do.

  9. JavierLW

    JavierLW Hall of Fame

    Apr 29, 2007
    It doesnt sound like you have a very good pro.

    If they dont have anything groundbreaking to tell you and have you work on, or in the case of some students if you are too stubborn to listen (not you but some people are like this), then you are wasting your time in that lesson.

    I consider my pro to be one of the best in our whole area. He is very intuitive and usually has something insightful to tell anyone. Usually what he has to say is very much based on your own game, and his feeling of what you will accept, and it's rarely the cookie cutter instructions that most of the other pros give that any one of us could read out a simple tennis book.

    Even that being said though, I only take these lessons as often as I need to, or as quickly as I can accept new ideas of instructions. After all it's up to me to get the repetition, and match play to get better, the pro doesnt magically make me better.

    Sometimes it can take me personally months before I pick something up, where Ive seen other people appear to gain a half a level after just a few weeks. (in 3.0 and 3.5, obviously not in 4.0+)
  10. pmata814

    pmata814 Professional

    Dec 6, 2005
    thanks to all for your replies. I should clarify that when I say 'tennis pro' I don't actually mean someone who's played professionally in the past. He's actually a 4.5 player who gives lessons. That's the norm in this area. I've taken lessons with just about every pro here and he is the 2nd best.

    I did take lessons from a former professional and he is the best I've taken lessons with but his price has gone way to high and I can't afford him anymore.

    I do study the game of tennis a lot, in fact probably too much, from books and internet websites such as But I still need the lessons to improve.
  11. Solat

    Solat Professional

    Nov 19, 2006
    in defence of the pro it might be the lack of knee bend or footwork that is the fundamental underlying problem which need addressing. Until you get it right there is no point moving onward.

    in attack of the pro, if this is the case he should have methodology to break down the errors (footwork patterns, body positions) to simplified motions or tasks which can isolate the issue.
    "move your feet" should be the summation for him having taught you to "lead with your outside leg, power step push off into crossover steps and outside leg loading" or "you need to take 3 steps with each foot before you hit a stoke" or "freeze after you hit the stroke and look at your foot position" etc

    I sometimes worry about Pro's who ask "what do u want to do?", it is the pro's job to assess the clients game and find the way to improve them the fastest. Only if it was someone who knew what they wanted specifically would I be asking that.

    all the best
  12. Cindysphinx

    Cindysphinx G.O.A.T.

    Aug 31, 2006
    My opinion is that it would be better to work with the better pro at the higher price and take fewer lessons than to stay with the 4.5 player.

    As they say, the cheap comes out expensive.

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