When I decided to take my Youngster out to buy him something as a reward for a really good school report, I didn’t expect him to choose a tennis racquet. But he did.
And then I didn’t expect his enthusiasm for it to last beyond a couple of days. But it did.
So a trip to a charity shop later, we have two racquets, and have been out to our local park every day to hit a tennis ball around. Every day. For at least an hour.
I was terrible at tennis at school – couldn’t even get the ball and racquet to connect – so was a bit apprehensive about playing, especially when the Youngster demonstrated that he was able to hit the ball very effectively from the off. But the outcome of nearly two weeks of going to the park has led me to a couple of surprising discoveries.
Firstly, tennis is good fun.
Second, I have learned some really good stuff about learning skills. Learning this new skill has reminded me that the principles that I believe to be true about learning in music are true for other areas too. Here are some of the ones that jump out most strongly.
- In the beginning, you will almost certainly stink. You will play badly. Accept it. Enjoy it. There really is fun to be had in being joyfully bad at something.
- If you enjoy doing something, you will want to do it more. That’s why the Youngster and I have been out playing every day. We’re poor players, but we’re having fun, and that’s what counts.
- If you do something a lot, you will get better. At first, I was pleased if I could connect the racquet and ball. Then I started to do that reliably on the forehand, but with no directionality. Then I got directionality on the forehand, but couldn’t hit a backhand. Then I started connecting the backhand, but with no control. Then I started developing the beginnings of control on my backhand. Over two weeks, I have seen improvement.
- There will come a point where you will need to think about technique. The Youngster and I have enquired about tennis lessons. We’ve both improved a lot, but we realise that our rate of improvement will start to tail off, because we don’t really know what we are doing. We need to learn about how to hold the racquet properly, how to properly play a forehand and backhand shot, how to gain accuracy in our hitting.
- When you gain some technical knowledge, your ability, your enjoyment, and your fun will increase. A friend of mine recently had a piano lesson with a very accomplished teacher, and came away enthused with all the new ideas and technical things she had to experiment with.
Moral of the story?
Have fun. Practise. Play around. Then get some technical help, and play some more. It’s as true for recorder as it is for tennis. If you’re at the ‘get some technical help’ stage, find a local teacher, or contact me for a lesson via Skype. Get enthused, and get back out there to play some more!
Image by Suat Eman, freedigitalphotos.net