A few years back a legend moved to the Pacific Northwest. No, I’m not talking about me. I’m talking about Pete Carroll, head coach of the Seattle Seahawks. Coach Carroll has inspired a legion of Seahawks fans far and wide both north and south of the border with his team’s dedicated approach to the sport of football.
And big football games.
And for Coach Carroll, despite deep runs into the post season, including two Super Bowl appearances in the past four years, those games count for nothing without the proper practice habits to back them up. Because without practice, the games wouldn’t exist.
Young tennis players follow a preparation schedule that’s similar to football. Frequent practice time, relatively less game time. Football players spend a week on the field practicing before gearing up for a game, and it’s the habits developed in those practice sessions that allows them to perform when the bright lights are shining and the crowd is shrieking.
It’s the same for tennis players. They spend hour upon hour perfecting strokes, building a subconscious connection with the details of the game, and getting stronger and faster. All to prepare for games that are few and far between.
In this sense, practice is everything in the linear sense - it takes up so much bloody time when you want to be really good.
Eternal football glory can is achieved an inch at a time. Or so I’ve been told by one too many Al Pacino Every Given Sunday speeches.
While the writers of certain Hollywood films might not have any clue what they’re doing, the basic premise is valid. If you’re an inch short, you lose. In tennis, if you’re an inch too far and your ball goes out of bounds, you lose.
Tennis also has to take into account the minute difference a shifted angle of a racquet can have. In tennis, degrees count just as much as inches. No matter what unit you’re using to measure the difference between winning and losing, the whole thing always starts in the same place.
The Almighty Footwork.
Psyching out and thoroughly obliterating your opponent, mind and soul.
Every tactic, every technique, every strategy in tennis starts in an early morning training session long before the match begins. Tennis players work their tails off to re-create as many situations as possible so that when the time comes and they’re faced with that situation, their internal discipline and dedication will kick in automatically.
But wait, there’s more.
In addition to the skills and routines tennis players work on in practice, the dedication they learn is invaluable away from the court as well.
At school. At home. In social situations. If you can spend a hundred hours working yourself to the bone, repeating the same movements over and over again, then surely you can find the discipline to get your homework done on time.
Because how you practice might be how you play, it also reaches a level of importance much more impactful on a larger scale.
Practice like you play. Live like you practice.