There is an old adage in advertising that says we know 50% of our advertising is working, we just don't know which 50%. This perspective justifies 100% of the budget and leads to a constant pursuit of new campaigns and strategies that will maximize the effectiveness of every dollar spent to improve on this 50% efficiency rule of thumb.
Tennis players are like this too. Time and energy are resources and players of all levels are looking for ways to improve their practice effectiveness. Progress in tennis, unlike other sports, however, is difficult to measure. We don't track objective distances, times, speeds, or scores. In tennis, points are dynamic, players are diverse and no two shots are the same. So how does a player know their practice is working and which parts of practice are most effective?
In the book Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell stated skill mastery requires 10,000 hours of practice. His book explains how many of the successful people in our society were not simply talented but had access to more practice than the norm, and so excelled in their fields. Practice, a lot of practice was the key to their mastery.
One example of this was Andre Agassi, who hit 1 million balls per year since the age of six. By 16, he was a world-class player, eventual grand slam winner, and world number one. To put that in perspective, that is about 3000 balls a day, or about 3 intense hours of hitting on a tennis court daily.
We are not all on Agassi's path, but we all enjoy improvement, becoming competent, and making the most of our time and energy. So let me assure you, every hit counts. The more you hit, the better you get. The more you practice the more you will improve. Like water on grass, your growth will be proportional to how much you fuel it. Practice is fuel.
So one way to measure your growth is to simply measure your hits. Bounce the ball on your racket, against a wall, any time of day, any chance you get. Serve into the fence. Hit more balls, more often, everywhere you can. How many balls will you hit this year? Every hit counts!