Monday, June 12, 2006

Tennis Lessons

Tonight is the third of six group tennis lessons I'm signed up for. They happen on Mondays and Wednesdays for three weeks. The group has about 7 people in it, and we have one teacher. It was $30.

Unfortunately, even though I specifically didn't sign up for beginner lessons (the description says you should be at level 2 - 3.5 on this scale), it turned out that most people who signed up are beginners, so it's being taught as a beginners class.

What sucks is that I'm still only in the middle of the class, skill-wise. We learn shots that I can already make 9 times out of 10 and yet, when we line up and hit balls, I make them more like 2 out of 10 times. It's so unfair. I've realized that I really am never going to be good enough at tennis that I want to get worse in order to get better.

But I'm sticking with the class because, starting this Wednesday, we are supposedly going to get to play doubles. Also, I've learned something I never knew about hitting backhands (that you should rotate your grip) and it seems to have helped my backhands. I can't hit them in the class, but I was really good on Friday night when Mosch and I played for 2 hours.

Right now the class is not even exercise - just standing around hitting balls doesn't get my heart going. So I'm not counting it for the purpose of how many minutes of exercise I get each week, but I am counting it as meeting the requirement of daily exercise, because standing out in the hot sun for an hour is about all I can take.

1 comment:

sally said...

This comment really struck me as getting to a central truth about learning to do something like play tennis:

"I've realized that I really am never going to be good enough at tennis that I want to get worse in order to get better."

My dad is an ex-high school tennis coach and in his day, was a very good amateur player (Tulsa men's singles champion at age 14, that kind of thing). When my parents came to visit last summer, the four of us played some friendly doubles - the kind where you hit the ball around, observe the rules of the game, but don't keep score. And watching my dad, who hasn't played tennis for a decade or more, hit the ball, I was overcome with this knowledge that my own style was fundamentally inadequate to ever develop into someone who can actually play tennis. (For instance, though I hold the racket correctly and turn sideways to hit the ball and can return the ball okay - all of which I can only do as well as I can from my dad teaching me when I was 5 - I know that I don't "show my shoulder" or follow through the way I should to have the kind of power and control necessary to hit well. And let's not even start with my almost non-existent serve.)

The kind of group lessons I've seen around here are to teach you how to hit the ball well enough to play with your equally unskilled friends, but not to actually learn how to play well, even as a long-term goal. (They are generally pretty upfront about this, too, in the class objectives, so it's not like anybody is being misled into thinking they're going to learn to win at tennis from these courses.) Learning how to actually play takes a long time and a huge amount of (perfect) practice. It's ridiculous, when you think about it, the amount of stuff they cover in a beginners tennis course. My dad, who is pretty much a hardass about this kind of thing (which, yes, drove me crazy as an impatient kid), wouldn't have let a single one of us (in the class Robert and I took last summer) move beyond returning the ball with a forehand. But most people want to get quickly to the point where they can start playing an actual match rather than truly work to master one thing.

It's important to decide early on, I think, whether you want to learn how to really play or to play around, because the first step most of us would face in getting serious about the sport is whether we're willing to be told that everything we know is wrong and start from scratch, hitting thousands of forehands until you can actually get it right.