You’ve heard it from your parents, your peers, and your coaches. If you’ve been paying attention, you probably heard it on ESPN and from the top players around the world too. What are we talking about? We’re talking about the one thing that can make a person a tennis champion: Practice!
Malcolm Gladwell postulated that the one underlying component of a successful career at anything—including academics, arts, engineering, and sports—is 10,000 hours of practice at your craft.
Now, this might seem like an enormous number and one that would be daunting to anyone but the reality of the sport of tennis is this: you only get better if you keep practicing. The more time you spend on the court, the more your mind and body make adjustments to accommodate what they are learning. New neural pathways are formed in the brain by repetition so each swing is another stamp on the brain to execute it better and more efficiently next time.
Muscle memory is an important component of excelling at any sport. You have to train your muscles and the brain that controls them to execute precise and controlled movements by teaching them to do it many times. That’s how we learn and improve.
Look at any professional athlete, from tennis players to marathon runners, and the one thing they will all tell you is you have to practice. You can’t get good at tennis by sitting in a chair at home watching the pros play on television. You have to log the time on the court. And, according to Gladwell’s research, the magic number across multiple disciplines is 10,000 hours.
If you put in four hours each week on the court, that’s over 200 hours a year. It may seem a long way off from the 10k but not all of us are aiming to be professional tennis players. (If you are, you better be putting in a good 20 hours per week in practice!) But that’s a substantial amount of training your body and mind are getting at the sport throughout the year.
You’ll see monumental improvements over the weeks and months if you make a commitment to get your butt in here and practice as often as possible. Practice hard and practice often and you’ll be a master tennis champ before you know it.
Four hours a week. It’s not 10,000, but it’ll get you there.