Although we often take precautions to avoid injuries, life sometimes has different plans for us. An injury can bench someone anywhere from a few days to a few months. Whether your child was injured playing tennis or from any other traumatic event, it can be tough knowing that the longer your child is out the longer it will take them to get back up to speed.
Getting back into tennis can be infuriating. All of a sudden easy shots are missed and confidence is shot. Your child is breathing heavier than they used to and struggle to get to harder balls. But, the worst thing is the fact that now they’re losing to players that they used to beat routinely. I’ve taken time off from tennis many times (Sometimes for injury and sometimes because of life) and this was by far the most humiliating part of getting back into the groove. However, if you put forth the effort it won’t take long to get back into top form and continue to get better.
Cardio is one of the most important things to getting back in the game. If your kid is able to work on cardio in spite of their injury, it is the absolute best thing they can do. It will allow them to keep up with opponents both during a point and throughout a match once they start playing again. If cardio is a no go while injured, then rest until cleared by a doctor to start playing again. Keeping up on cardio can make a huge difference in how fast one can get back into tennis and continue improving. It also plays a big part in one’s ability to stay calm and focus in between points. Without cardio, your child will get tired more quickly and will be discouraged as they are unable to stay in points as long. This can lead to a TON of frustration as missed shots start to pile up. I know that adding cardio into a busy week can be a daunting task. However, adding 30 to 45 minute cardio sessions during the week will have a significant impact on their improvement. I suggest doing cardio 3 times a week if your child is injured and can’t play. Or, at least twice a week in addition to playing tennis. This can be done any way of your choosing, whether it be a machine (such as an elliptical or treadmill) or something outside (like running, biking, or swimming). It will make a HUGE difference in the pace at which they get back to their old form. After taking a year and a half off from tennis simply doing 30 to 45 minutes of cardio a day SIGNIFICANTLY increased the speed at which I was able to catch up. It allowed me to both practice longer AND be more productive while practicing which made all the difference.
Once your child is able to play again, the first thing to do is take a lesson! This ensures that no bad habits are fostered. A coach will tune up your child’s game with a well-structured lesson by going over all your child’s strokes and correcting any mistakes. You can also use this opportunity to gauge what needs to be worked on the most. I’m talking about more than just forehands and backhands, but cardio, endurance, and strength as well. A good coach will point you in the right direction and might even be able to give some tips that your child can take into the next part of getting back into tennis!
After taking a refresher lesson, hitting with a ball machine is the best way to fine tune your strokes! If you don’t have one (I know I don’t) you can normally rent one at your local tennis club. The ball machine is the best hitting partner you could ever have when trying to get back into the game. It almost always hits its spot allowing your child to really work on all points identified with your tennis lesson. With a good ball machine, you can create your own drills and increase their intensity, working at your child’s pace. This can also double as a great way to test out their cardio and endurance (while improving them). Since the machine feeds non-stop (until you stop it or it runs out of balls) you can see exactly how many shots they can hit before getting tired. This will set a good baseline as they continue to keep playing and improving.
The last thing needed to get back into playing form is to start to play! Live ball play allows you to truly test where your child is compared to where they were before the injury and is necessary in order to get back ball judgment. If they can, try to have them hit with someone a little weaker than them first. This way, they can start to get grooved but won’t feel too much pressure as they play. Once grooved, they can start playing players at the level they were before their injury. Allowing you to see what still needs to be worked on. After they are back in shape, it’s time to up their game by playing them against people who are a little better. This way they can keep improving!
If you follow these 4 steps then your child will be back in competing form in no time!
Here are a couple of extra tips if you want to make the most of their limited time playing time.
- Don’t eat anything too heavy the day of. This means nothing too cheesy or anything that has a thick sauce that could slow them down later. Keeping it light and simple will be the best bet to make sure what they eat doesn’t slow them down on the court.
- Do a 5 to 10-minute warm-up before playing. If your child does just a simple warm-up with some jogging, high knees, butt kicks, and lunges they’ll waste less court time trying to warm up their body, increasing their focus and performance from the start.
I hope this article was helpful. Please let me know how it worked for you in the comments below!