I need your input!

by gbsmith4

Regular readers will know that Nancy and I have recently taken up tennis.  However, if you know anything about our family, we never quite take up something just for the enjoyment!  No, we have some gene-driven quest that we have to be THE BEST!  (Actually, I am just speaking for myself.  Nancy does seem to enjoy tennis at a recreational level…..for now.)

In any event, where I need your input is on the topic of taking lessons.  The conventional wisdom, of course, is that when you embark on anything new, the first thing you should do is “see your local professional.”  So, I did.  For one half hour.  An “evaluation lesson” if you will, where the pro approximated my “level.”  (Tennis aficionados will know this at the NTRP rating.  More on that in a bit.)

So far, I’m coming down more and more on the side of “no lessons.”  But, let me give you my background and thinking.  Perhaps you can steer me in a different direction.

1.  I achieved a very high level in racquetball…and never took a lesson. (I’m not certain there WERE lessons back in my day.)  By very high level, I’m not bragging. (well, I am bragging to an extent..)  I was able to play even with top women pros, but I was a cut below the top men.  Maybe 2 cuts.  So, in tennis terms, I would have been about a 6.0.

But, the main point is that I learned “on the job” if you will.  I’d play better players and get the crap beaten out of me.  But, I’d go back, figure out where I was weak and work on those areas.  Then I’d improve until the next time I’d get beaten up.

However, no one ever told me how to hold a racquet or what position to take, or how to put spin on the ball, or anything really.  (One time, a player did tell me I looked horrible in all-white, and I thank him to this day for that advice!)

No, I just did what came naturally and let my body figure out the right way to go.  It worked for racquetball.  Squash too.  And golf pretty much.  Can tennis be that different?

2.  I have taken lessons in things like golf and skiing.  But, I found 99% of instructors have a set formula where you either conformed to their algorithm or you didn’t.  And if you didn’t, the entire lesson consisted of having them fit you into their box.  A true waste of everyone’s time.

3.  For certain, I don’t know tennis tactics.  But, now that I know what to watch for, can anything be better than watching things like The French Open, Youtube videos, and local tournaments.  And then playing in local tournaments?  No, I think even just by the latter, you’ll quickly learn what to do and not do.

4.  Getting back to that rating thing, the Pro put me at 3.5 after 2 months of playing.  My serves are shoddy, but that’s just practice since in squash and racquetball you don’t serve overhead.  On the other hand, I have a bunch of squash/racquetball skills (drop shots, lobs, half-volleys) that are pretty much at the 4.5/5.0 level.  And objectively, I’m probably in better shape than 99% of the seniors I’d play.

5.  This may offend tennis fans, but I can’t help thinking it’s a lot easier sport to learn than golf.  Why?  I constantly run into folks who are pretty darn good.  A few of my financial buddies played in college and/or were teaching pros.  Another friend is a ranked 45+ player.  So, just in that small sample set (and I don’t have a lot of friends!),  there’s a ton of good tennis players.

But when it comes to golf, I almost never ran across low-handicappers.  (By low, I mean lower than say a 5 handicap.)  In fact, most folks I know couldn’t break 80.

So, assuming the tennis/golf population is the same, golf has to be harder, right?

Anyway, that’s my “no lessons” stance.  Now, if I was talking piano, or pottery, or something else I had zero knowledge of, sure: I’d be the first to see a pro.  But, tennis?  Tell me I’m wrong.