You have your opponent way off to one side and you are hitting to the open court. How in the world can you miss? But you do. According to veteran teaching pro Spike Gonzales, if you practiced with targets, you would have had a better chance of making that shot.
You practice hitting to targets in order to get safe and efficient targets in your mind, and to develop the habit of hitting to these areas.
Safe groundstroke target areas for recreational players are halfway between the baseline and service line, four feet from the singles sideline. Above 4.5 players might put the targets 25% closer to the lines. (I used to play Targets with Gene Mayer, who wanted his targets to be within 4 feet of the baseline and 1-2 feet from the sideline.)
The physical targets can be a plastic clothes basket or one (or more) orange cones; and they are placed on all four corners of the court for two players – or just on the hitting side, if you are using a ball machine.
When playing, you put the targets into your conscious mind in order to blot out unsafe (lines) or ineffective (opponent) targets. It is far more productive to aim to a target than to think about hitting “away from an opponent” or to a line.
Practicing to targets is training your unconscious mind. Your unconscious mind needs an image in order to perform well. Your unconscious mind does not recognize negatives. Saying, “don’t hit to the lines” or “hit away from your opponent” is inefficient. Your unconscious mind simply grabs onto the image (the lines or the opponent).
From Practice to Play
Your unconscious mind cannot recognize the difference between a real target and an imagined one. So, practicing with real targets helps you use your imagination create targets when playing a match.
Practicing with – and then visualizing – targets can be done not only with groundstrokes but also with volleys and serves.
And when playing practice games with targets (contact Spike for more on this), you can actually handicap the game by giving a smaller target to the superior player.
Have you ever used targets?
A former leader and contributor to the tennis industry, Spike Gonzales now lives in Naples, Florida, where he actively plays and competes, and oversees a staff of professionals providing lessons and programs for parks and country clubs. He was the key person in founding the National Tennis Rating Program in the late 1970’s, bringing together the USTA, USPTA and IRSA to adopt it as a universal program. He has 35-year history of teaching concentration and other mental skills to juniors and adults alike.
Know someone who should read this? Send them a link and if you are not on my “new posting alert email list” and want to be (I promise, no other uses of your email address!), just drop me a note at GeorgeWachtel@gmail.com
My Book: if you’d like to get a copy of “Senior Tennis”, just click on the link on the upper right of this web page to go to Amazon.com, look at the list of places under “My Book” on the bar above, or ask me what clubs are carrying it!