Sunday, January 6, 2019


It's really important to have a sharp competitive mindset if you want to be successful in matches. In my practice sessions I encourage players to compete in everything they do. 

In my sessions most drills have a "Finish", meaning the players are required to play the point out at the end of every drill. By practicing this way I am attempting to change the mindset of players who are having trouble competing successfully in tournaments.

By practicing under this highly competitive atmosphere everyday the players become comfortable competing. It becomes natural for them.

But there is always another ingredient I must insist on during these practice sessions, and it's just as important.

I need to tell players to be PLAYERS FIRST, UMPIRES SECOND!

You see it often... players who are returning serve more concerned with calling the serve in or out. It's their first priority! They are literally putting their return of serve "On Hold" until they know if the ball has gone in or out.

Obviously if your first priority is to call the ball in or out you're not preparing to return the ball with 100% focus. There will be a delay in the preparation of the return.

Sometimes in juniors you can get away with being in an "umpires mode", but in seniors you will need to be 100% in "players mode",  or you won't get the ball back!

You also see the "umpire mode" in effect when there is a deep ball close to the baseline during a rally. Instead of positioning and preparing the themselves for the shot, the player is in frozen "umpire mode", and their focus firmly in calling the ball in or out! 

You can hear me shouting to players during the first few days of camps and clinics I conduct "STOP UMPIRING"!, "YOU'RE A PLAYER, NOT AN UMPIRE"! and "FOCUS ON BEING A PLAYER, YOU CAN BECOME AN UMPIRE ONCE YOU RETIRE"!

I'm trying to establish the "Player first" mentality and thus encouraging preparation for each and every shot, not in calling balls in or out. This small detail will improve the level of the return of serve quickly and replace a negative habit that was harming the players return game, with a positive one.