Breaking Bad Habits

Rotator Cuff Exercise

Habits are good things … if we can build positive patterns into our lives, we become healthier and happier.  But too many people fall into the patterns of continuing BAD habits.  Here are five bad habits you should break …

Stretch and exercise only when you a rehabbing from an injury or operation.

  • Most senior players are good about doing rehab following injury or surgery
  • But they STOP as soon as they are “better”
  • In my opinion, you should do stretching/yoga every day
  • And exercise of some kind (weights, machines, or I am now using rubber bands hooked to a door)

Guard the alley and stay deeper to cover the lob.

  • In ‘the old days’, we were told to “guard the alley”
  • Too many players still have that fear of being beaten with a shot down their alley
  • But the majority of good players focus on hitting their shot in doubles down the middle
  • So that is where the net man should focus
  • I actually play a “hybrid I” formation, where I stand closer to the center line than to the sideline
  • Sure I sometimes get a winner hit by me down the alley – once or twice – but not until they do that regularly will I move over

Take anti-inflammatory pain killers before every match.

  • Like everyone else, I used to take some form of anti-inflammatory/ pain killer before playing a match
  • Some call it “the breakfast of champions” or “Vitamin I” (for Ibuprofen)
  • But about ten years ago, I just STOPPED
  • And you know what, nothing hurt (any more than normal)

Continue playing “your game” regardless of the score of the match.

  • The old adage is “never change a winning game”
  • But the corollary of that should be “always change a losing game”
  • We all have a style of play that usually works for us; but if you are on the losing end of a score DURING A MATCH, you should change tactics
  • Hank Irvine, former ATP pro and one of my favorite mentors, asked me, after I “complained” about my opponent’s game vs. mine, “And, what did you do about it?”
  • When you find yourself losing, ask yourself … what is my opponent doing that is making me lose and how can I change that?

Accept the fact that you are older and your ability has reached its peak.

  • Sure, we are all aging and slowing down
  • But the more you buy into that concept, the worse your decline will be
  • We need to work harder on our fitness, strokes and health just to stay where we are and SLOW DOWN the decline that aging brings
  • And, regardless of the physical, you can still get smarter
  • Study your opponents and know what they are likely to do in a game situation and react accordingly

So, habits can be bad … but good habits can be great!

What about these or other habits would YOU would like to break?

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9 thoughts on “Breaking Bad Habits

  1. Everybody must be out playing today or have no bad habits so I’ll go first. My bad habit is not concentrating on my first serve and therefore having way too many faults. I then concentrate on my second serve and double fault infrequently. It is frustrating to not hold serve as consistently as I would like, but the result is usually better if I just get that damn first serve in with decent pace and placement!

    John, I wondered also where all the guys with bad habits were! Thanks. George

  2. A further point on use of anti inflammatory meds. I bike 100 miles a week and play tennis 3 times a week and found I felt better if I took a nsaid before I went out each day. This year during my routine physical my doctor determined I had kidney damage. He asked about my use of nsaids. I stopped even over the counter pills and after 6 weeks got my blood work back to high normal range. I am a little more uncomfortable while biking or after a 3 set morning but not so broken I cannot function.

    Peter, great advice! thanks, george

  3. Ok George, a little constructive criticism:
    “Breaking Bad Habits” vs something like ” Starting new Good Habits” might have gotten more traction.
    Positive thinking!

    Winder, agree … but you have to break the bad habit in order to start the new, good one. thanks, george

  4. Yeh, where are all those “bad habits” guys?!!!….or is it just me?! I love that advice about “not guarding the alley”. At SEI Camp last year, both Mark Vines and Phil Landauer told us “don’t worry about getting passed down the alley the first 3-4 times”…always play towards the center of the court….that’s where the action is.

    Scoot, you and i have some mutual tennis friends who still on insist on telling me, “watch your alley!” thanks, george

  5. George, staying healthy and fit should never be neglected in our lifestyles. For me, taking time to stretch, strengthening exercises and warming down after playing is important. Simply walking for five to ten minutes is usually enough to warm down after playing tennis or any strenuous exercise. Sometimes, we don’t realize the overload put on our hearts. I’ve adapted the adage to always listen to your body when you feel pain. A lot of people tend to ignore pain. Muscle soreness after a hard practice session is different than persistent pain, which is a signal of an underlying problem that needs evaluation. Taking anti-inflammatory medications before play does not always help. Sometimes you create a symptom such as an upset stomach or becoming jittery. Again, just a short warm-up will tune your muscles than taking a pill. We all must face the fact that we are aging and our bodies are slowing down. When it comes to taking care of ourselves and our bodies, don’t leave anything to chance. Just continue to cultivate your eagerness, play smart and have an open mind to learn new things. After all, aren’t we all “students of the game?”

    Glenn, good advice. When i was a runner, there was a section in a book that said, “Listen to your body.” It meant, if something hurts, don’t go out running; but if you “just don’t feel like it,” go out and do it. thanks, george

  6. George, When my partners serve or return goes at a wide angle cross court, I have been moving diagonal forward to follow the ball and cover the shot down the alley. This has worked most of the time forcing the return shot back to my partner. This gives me another option.
    Thanks, Bud

    Bud, i do the same thing. And critical words in your comment are “diagonal forward” … which means you are not just sliding toward the alley and staying parallel to the net; but you are moving forward and putting more pressure on your opponent. thanks, george

  7. George, Have too many bad habits to enumerate…Would really benefit from a discussion about pros and cons of playing indoors at this point. For those of us in the “north”, indoors is the only option for playing. Specifically, 1. If now is not the time to go indoors, what has to change? 2. Are social distancing, masks and regular cleaning enough? 3. Does it vary from state to state? 4. Does it vary depending on age of the player? 5. Does weather make a difference in terms of killing germs?
    In your last discussion of Covid, you had great input from the medical community including an immunologist or two who were also players which helped a lot. …Obviously, this discussion wouldn’t be pertinent to your warm weather players, but this is a big deal for those of us who have only one option between November and April. You provide a valuable service for us seniors. Thanks. Hope you deem this a relevant blog topic.

    John, let’s try to revisit when the weather gets colder and you all are forced inside! thanks, george

  8. I have a seemingly endless list of bad habits, and not many if any good ones. On the bright side there are infinite areas for improvement.

    Bad habits include but are not limited to:

    Guarding the line.
    Not closing into the net when the opportunity presents itself.
    Over hitting especially when both opponents are at the net.
    Letting my head drop when serving and on some overheads.
    Not getting on my toes and taking the extra step to ideally position myself before hitting.
    Hit too many short touch shots off of half volleys.
    Watching the damn ball.
    Apparently sticking tennis balls in my wet pockets.
    Not adjusting strategies as quickly as I should.
    Allow myself to get distracted too much by active net player.
    Not enough knee bend.
    Loose concentration.
    Eat too much crap.
    Belgian triple ales.

    Good habits:


    Lawrence, CONGRATULATIONS…. the first step to improvement is recognizing your problem(s)! 🙂 george

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