I’ve watched a LOT of tennis recently, as I have began learning to play.
As I watched the professionals warm-up on TV you just see them hit from the baseline for a few minutes and then go through most of the shots to quickly “warm-up”. But if you watch them at practice prior to a match you’ll be able to see them warm-up with mini-tennis for a few minutes – just like most us!
But just like any other warm-up or exercise, mini tennis can be done well or not so well. (in case you missed it here are some warm-up "cheats" that may help you out as well!)
I’m going to make an argument that being an active participant in your warmup can make a world of difference in your overall performance and health of your body.
Here are 5 reasons to focus and be an active participant in mini tennis:
Raise the body temperature and prepare you to play. Your body will be exposed to much more demanding situations in a tennis match compared to your normal state when sitting or walking. If your muscles are not warmed up, they are not very flexible. Your body needs to be able to move faster and further than in daily life, and you need to be able to “wake” your body up in order to perform at higher levels of difficulty than usual.
You are able to get the feel for hitting the ball with the whole body and mimic motions and movements that will happen during a match. If you warm-up on mini court with just your arm and are lazy with your footwork and lower body, then this feeling can transfer back to the baseline and you’ll have troubles finding the rhythm and finding the feel of hitting the ball with your body and leg drive. That’s why its critical that you immediately start to engage your full body. Starting from quick and swift footwork for getting to the ball and then pushing from the ground and into body rotation and the strokes. Everything is done in a controlled manner while the whole body moves in coordination.
Raise the focus and alertness of the brain - improving hand-eye coordination. Your brain does not have to coordinate the whole body in demanding situations for most of your day. It needs to get warmed up for tennis just like the rest of your body. If it doesn’t warm-up well, it will make errors in calculating ball trajectory and moving the body into the correct position and you’ll make mistakes.
Establish good timing and contact point. This takes us right back to the brain! Your brain didn’t need to time your movements with small moving objects coming towards you at high speeds before you stepped on the tennis court. Your eyes also didn’t need to track very accurately small moving objects. Now they both have to do just that! Mini tennis is the perfect warm-up to help this happen before you go back to the baseline and into real situations. Warm-up your tracking system and work your way into finding ideal contact points by being aware of how close to the sweet spot you hit the ball.
Get the feel for the ball, strings and the court. Even if you play every day, you know that you might start your tennis lesson or a match with old or new balls and with old or new strings. Even these small changes can give you a different feel and you have to adjust to those conditions very quickly. Again, mini tennis warm-up helps you do just that!
If you warm-up properly on mini court, you’ll warm-up all the “systems” needed for the real game and you’ll make a much smoother transition from not so demanding situations off the court, to much more demanding situations that happen in the real game of tennis.
A good warm-up lowers the chance of hurting yourself, enables you to immediately start hitting the ball well from the baseline and therefore increases your satisfaction and enjoyment of the game.
Remember that by warming up better than your opponent you may get a quicker head start and a competitive advantage - and who doesn’t want an edge in winning!