Trying out for a team can be nerve-wracking for anyone. You may be trying to make it onto the high school team for the first time or as a returning player.
Perhaps you’re trying out at the college level to play for your school or on an intramural team. Some clubs hold tryouts to determine seeding in their tournaments or to play against other local clubs.
Whatever the reason, if you’re suiting up to try out, it’s likely you want to do well.
Make sure that you’re in good physical shape, that you bring your mental and physical A-game, and that you show respect to your coaches, the other players, and the game.
Here are 6 key tips if you want your tennis tryout to be successful.
1. Don’t Skip Cardio
Although tennis players don’t run 7 miles on average per game as soccer players do, they can still rack up about 3 miles back and forth across the tennis court. Training your cardiovascular system is critical.
Start preparing and training weeks or even months before tryouts if possible. Some good activities are things like running, cycling, swimming, and jumping rope. Try to do at least three cardio sessions a week, for about 30 minutes per session.
A lot of people find cardio to be boring or unpleasant, so it is key to find an activity that you find at least somewhat enjoyable. Maybe you play soccer with your siblings or take the dog for a brisk walk. Since tennis is a long game, endurance is key for both the body and mind.
Since so much of tennis is mental, it’s important to ensure that you can keep your head in the game as time goes on. If you’re physically exhausted, it’s much harder to concentrate on anything but how tired or out of breath you are. That will cause you to make mistakes that could cost you the match or your spot on the team.
2. Practice Against Other Players As Much As Possible
Using a ball machine on the tennis court is a great way to get a lot of reps in, which is critical to improving your game. However, a 2014 study published in the Journal of Sports Science and Medicine showed that consistently using a ball machine instead of a human opponent can make your tennis game worse.
Obviously, using a ball machine is an artificial environment, but it can disrupt the player’s natural swing and stroke timing. Regardless of the harm, consistent use of a ball machine will do to your swing, there is a huge element of tennis that is mental.
You cannot develop the mental skills that you need to play another human being without actually playing another human being. Don’t be afraid to play with other players who you know have a higher level of skill than you, either. You can learn an immense amount by playing up, even if it’s only during practice.
One could argue that LaMelo Ball, the youngest of the Ball brothers, is as talented as he is because he has been playing with his older brothers, LiAngelo and Lonzo, for his entire life. Playing up allows players to learn technical skills more quickly and develop a more strategic mindset around their game.
3. Dress For Success (And To Avoid Sunburn)
Tennis is an outdoor sport, and it’s likely that you won’t have lots of opportunities to stand in the shade. Make sure you wear comfortable athletic clothes that are breathable and wick sweat away from your body.
Wear high-quality socks and tennis shoes to protect your feet and ankles. Bring a visor to protect your eyes and shade your face, and bring a small towel to wipe off with. Have plenty of water and a sports drink with electrolytes (depending on how hot it is and the length of the tryout).
White or light-colored clothing will keep you much cooler throughout the day than dark shirts and shorts. You’ll want clothes that are loose enough to move around in and make stretches for the ball, but you may also want to consider shorts with an elastic liner to prevent rubbing.
Make sure you wear sunscreen and stay hydrated. You won’t perform as well as you want if you’re feeling the pain of a sunburn or feeling the effects of dehydration.
4. Practice Your First and Second Serve
It’s tempting to show up to tryouts and try to smash as many aces as possible. But hitting a strong second serve is a skill that a lot of players don’t develop fully. You get a second serve if your first serve results in a fault.
It happens to the best tennis players in the world, and it’s bound to happen to you. So doing well on your second serve is a critical skill.
You have to practice both recovering quickly from a mistake and making a strategic decision about whether to attempt the same shot that you just made (which ended in a fault) or try for a different serve.
By having confidence in your second-serve ability, you can take more risks or show more aggression on your first serve. It may return in an ace, but it may not. By being consistently able to recover from a fault, you’ll build out a strong game that a coach will want to nurture.
5. Don’t Give Up on Shots or Rallies
In tennis, a lot of the greats are tennis players who go for returns when others would not. These can lead to sometimes dramatic plays, but there is a certain mental toughness that comes from never assuming that a shot or rally is over. Commit to getting the shots, and get every shot your best effort.
This also applies to the other side of the game. Never assume that your opponent won’t return a shot, no matter how well-placed or out of reach it is. Get back into position, keep your eye on the ball, and keep your body in an athletic posture.
You don’t want to have to scramble to make a return because you weren’t ready. As the adage goes, if you stay ready, you don’t have to get ready.
Your coach will appreciate your hustle and drive, and they may value that mindset. It could make up for technical skills which may be lacking in tryouts, which they could develop over the subsequent months in practice.
6. Know You’re Being Watched During Your Downtime
Tennis is a game with a distinct pace and cadence unlike any other. In addition, a tennis player is, for all intents and purposes, on their own.
They’re not allowed to communicate with their coach at all during the matches. When you’re at tryouts, it’s up to you to keep your composure during any breaks.
Although you may be going through tryouts with your friends, you’ll want to be calm and pay attention to what is going on.
Taking tryouts seriously will indicate to the coaches that you can be serious when the occasion calls for it and that you can be trusted to handle yourself in a high-pressure situation.
Whether or not you make the team, going up for a tennis tryout is something that you should be proud of. You should also prepare for it.
No matter your skill level, show up to the tryout ready to show off your best mental and physical game.