Warming up for a tournament is an incredibly important part of getting ready for a match. While the 10 minutes in a pre-match warm up is good for checking out the opponent, it’s the hitting warm-up before the match where a player can evaluate themselves and analyze how they are playing. With this information, they can start to formulate initial strategies that will put their best foot forward. If your child is just going out there and hitting balls to warm-up for a match, they are putting themselves at a disadvantage from the start. By focusing on the right things during a warm-up, your child can start to come up with a successful strategy to use during the match.
There are three things your child should think about while warming up for a match. These things are how well are they hitting their shots, how do they feel physically, and how are they feeling mentally.
How are they hitting that day
While going through a hitting warm-up (you can check out our article about that here) they need to figure out what shots they are hitting well. With this info, they can start to figure out an initial strategy. For instance, if your child is hitting their forehand well then they can take more chances and go for more on opportunity balls (A ball that your child can attack with a relatively high margin of error. You can read a better definition of Opportunity balls here under When To Go For Big Shots). If they are hitting their volleys well, then they can try to get up to net more during their match and play more aggressively. Or if they are serving well they can go for more on their serve during a match, look to serve and volley, or just look to be more aggressive on their first ball after the serve.
It is also important for them to take note of what they are not hitting well that day and think of ways to defend those shots and compensate. For instance, if they are not volleying well then maybe they want to go for more on short balls, so they don’t have to play the volley or at least have an easier volley to play. If they are not hitting one of their groundstrokes well, then they want to consider running around that shot or going down the line with it so they can avoid a longer rally to a shot they aren’t hitting their best. If they are not serving well then maybe they want to take a little bit off the first serve and just make it in to take some pressure off of their service game.
How are they feeling physically
This is the perfect time for your child to see how their body is feeling. If they’re feeling fresh and ready to go then, depending on how they are hitting, they can think about grinding out a match and wearing down an opponent. If your child is feeling a little tired, then they are going to want to shorten points by either coming up to the net or going for opportunity balls. What they decide to do will again depend on what they are hitting well that day. Lastly, your child should make a note of how they are moving that day and how sore they are. It is possible not to be able to move well but still feel fresh. If this is the case, then they are going to want to shorten points by either trying to get to the net or by trying to end points when they have a good opportunity. However, they can afford to grind a little bit more in this state.
How are they doing mentally
Once your kid has a good idea of how they are hitting and what their body feels like they can start to make a mental check. Are they feeling confident? If so they are going to want to make sure they don’t go for TOO much on their shots and still play smart. If your child isn’t feeling confident, they are going to want to force themselves to go for some shots because if they become too passive during a match, their opponent will easily be able to take advantage of them. Lastly, your child needs to figure out how easily they can focus. If they are having a little bit of trouble focusing, then they are going to make more unforced errors. With this in mind, they are going to have to either shorten points or just understand that they will have to work harder to stay focused.
You should introduce these concepts to your child slowly starting with how are they hitting, then with how are they feeling physically, and finally how are they doing mentally. Each one builds off the others so that your child can start to create a great initial strategy. That being said each one can be hard to correctly gauge and just like anything takes practice. First, your child should learn how to gauge their shots since this will be the easiest to implement a strategy off of. Then once they have that down, you can start to add the other blocks in order. If your child tries to learn all of this at one time, it will be harder to learn and it won’t be as effective. Eventually, these things will become second nature to your child and they will be able to assess themselves very quickly and even change this assessment and adjust during a match. Like anything this takes practice and the sooner they start to work on these things the earlier they will be able to utilize them.
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