Imitation is the greatest form of flattery
Running drills, clinics, tournaments and traveling to events across the country, it’s easy to notice that kids are emulating the pros they like most. When I was playing in Juniors, I could probably count the number of headbands I saw for an entire year on one hand. With Federer and Nadal’s success you can’t go to a tournament without seeing at least 10 kids wearing the headband. Sharapova’s awkward, unnatural, uncomfortable fist pump and signature grunt is on display at most girl’s events.
Players need to realize that while it may be fun to play dress up and imitate our favorite players, maybe we should imitate some of the things that got them where they are today. One common attribute among all top pros that is rarely imitated is their tireless work ethic.
You can own every pair of Nike’s Nadal has, but try copying his footwork. On average, pros take 13-15 steps in between balls during a point. Most accomplished juniors take 8-10. Most juniors are somewhere in the 5-6 range, sometimes even lower. Take notice of how you move in between balls.
Roger Federer has one of the biggest, most effective forehands in tennis, but its effectiveness is derived from shot selection throughout the point. Federer sets up every point using knowledge he comes in with about his opponent as well as different patterns he picks up on during the match. A common problem with players, whether they be talented or not, is mindless hitting. Go into a match with a game-plan. Adapt as elements change. Always think.
Clothes, hair and antics on the courts don't equate to wins. Work ethic, sound technique and preparation do. It's not necessarily a bad idea to imitate the pros, just make sure we're imitating the right things.
©Tara Robbins 2015