How Many Tennis Lessons Do You Need To Reach Your Potential?
Whether you are just starting out in the game, or have been playing for decades, you will need some help if you want to make real improvements.
Luckily, there are lots of trained professional coaches out there who will be only too happy to assist you with technical and tactical issues. They will not normally do this for free, however, so your budget might limit the number of lessons you can afford.
On top of this, it is important to practice outside of your lessons if you want to make those improvements stick. So, what do you need to learn, how often should you take tennis lessons, and for how long?
What Are The 8 Key Areas That Need To Be Covered
Before thinking about lesson frequency and duration, you need to decide what you want your coach to teach you. Some advanced players will know that there are one or two specific areas they want to work on, and will ask a pro for a small number of lessons focused on those areas. If you are a beginner or intermediate player, however, you will need to work your way through the 8 key areas. The USTA use many of these skills to categorise a player’s standard (see this link for more details: http://assets.usta.com/assets/639/15/National%20tennis%20Rating%20Program.pdf ):
1. Forehand. This is the first thing most players learn, and is the strongest shot for many players, so should never be neglected.
2. Backhand. It is equally crucial that your backhand is not allowed to become a weakness.
3. Serve. A surprisingly complex skill, which takes time to learn. Once a beginner has learned to serve, they can genuinely play tennis. For advanced players it can be a vital weapon.
4. Return of Serve. You will never win at tennis until you can return your opponent’s serve. The technique needed is somewhere between a forehand/backhand and a volley.
5. Volleys. These punchy shots will help you to win points when you move forward to the net.
6. Specialist Shots. The five areas above represent the basic skills. To become a more advanced player you will add other shots which, while not essential to playing the game, will help you to get better at it. These include:
(i) Lob. This is effective in keeping the ball away from a good volleyer.
(ii) Overhead. If your opponent lobs, learning a good overhead will combat this.
(iii) Half-Volley. When you are ready to volley but the ball is too low, a half-volley keeps you in the rally.
(iv) Approach Shots. These allow you to move forward to the net in a rally, with a view to winning the point with your volleys.
(v) Drop Shot. Where your opponent stands a long way back, you can save a lot of time and energy by using a drop shot to win points.
7. Playing Style. The more skills you learn, the more options you will have on court. Your coach can help you decide on the best playing style for you. For example, if you are light and fast, you will probably play mainly from the baseline. If you are big and less nimble, a powerful serve and good volleys will help you to take charge and protect you from being forced to move too much.
8. Mindset. As you progress, mental skills will become more important. This is partly about staying calm at important moments, but also about analysing the match and choosing the right shots.
How Many Tennis Lessons Do You Need?
In theory you can reach quite a good standard of tennis without having any lessons at all. Working through a list of key areas like the one above, watching good players in action and copying what they do, can work fairly well. A considerable amount of repetitive practice will be needed to get to a reasonable standard. This requires a lot of dedication and plenty of willing practice partners, so very few people choose this route.
In any event, unless you study a lot of videos of your game, you will probably end up with an inefficient technique this way, as you will not be able to see how your style differs from the one you are trying to imitate.
A good coach can make your life a lot easier. They can observe what you do and suggest changes, based on their knowledge and experience. After watching you hit the ball and seeing you move, they will be able to recommend the most efficient technique for you.
Most importantly, they will be able to offer feedback when things are not quite working, to help you get your shots back on track quickly. They will also be able to help you to choose a suitable playing style, and to learn how to improve your on-court mindset. The question is, how often do you need to draw on this knowledge to become as good as you can be?
The problem with individual tennis lessons is that they can be addictive. Some people, who have the money to afford it, tend to play tennis mainly in lessons. They like working on their game, enjoy the nice, consistently fed balls which they receive, and relish the individual attention. There is nothing wrong with this, but it is not the way to achieve your potential.
To really improve, you need to play against all kinds of different styles, and play your shots in a game situation. Once you can play the shots you want in this format, and, equally vitally, make good decisions about when to play them, you can actually play tennis well.
There is no universal answer to the question of how many tennis lessons you need, but, in terms of frequency, many players find that one per week is about right. This is often enough for you not to have forgotten what you are working on, but not so frequent that you don’t have time to practice and play competitively in between. Of course, this is subject to your budget permitting it, and can be varied if you want to put in a spell of intensive work.
How Long Will It Take To Learn Tennis?
This depends mainly on you. Have you played other racquet sports? Are you physically fit? How much are you prepared to practice between lessons? If we assume that you are reasonably fit, will have a weekly individual lesson, and are prepared to practice at least three times a week, then you should be able to play the game moderately well within a year.
By ‘moderately well’, I mean able to serve, rally, and enjoy a competitive game with your friends. For most people, it will take longer to be ready to compete in the higher levels of seniors tennis- perhaps five years for someone fit and dedicated. Nonetheless, anyone can do it if their body is up to the challenge.
To be on the safe side, you should consult your doctor if you are currently inactive and want to begin training hard enough to become world number one in your age-group!
Tennis lessons from a qualified and experienced coach are the best way to make lasting improvements to your game. You can learn to play your shots more efficiently and get useful tips about tactics. It’s important to find a coach with whom you can work well, so you might want to have trial lessons with a few different ones before you commit.
FAQs about Tennis Lessons
Q: Are private tennis lessons worth it?
It is possible to learn without them, but it is much easier and quicker to get help from an expert. Some coaches do charge high prices, however, and you need to consider whether the coach’s expertise is relevant to you.
For example, a coach may charge a lot because they have a great record of developing junior players into college players and professionals. If you are a 50-year-old beginner, you need a pro who understands what you are going to be able to achieve and believes in you. That coach may be cheaper than the big name, but better for you.
So, private lessons are definitely worthwhile, but make sure you pay for a coach who will work well with you and don’t assume that higher prices automatically mean better tuition.
Q: How often should you take tennis lessons?
This can vary, but once a week gives you the opportunity to practice in between lessons and try out all of the things you have been working on.
Q: How long should a tennis lesson be?
Fitness is a factor here. When you first start out, you may be exhausted after 30 minutes on court, in which case that should be the maximum time for a lesson. Once your conditioning is better, and you are more experienced, an hour is normally about right. It allows you to practice several different things, or to work very hard on one, without playing for so long that your concentration wanes.
Tell us about your experiences with tennis lessons in the comments. Have you found a really great coach?