Preseason Mistakes in Tennis
Same story, different year. Players posting their spartan-gladiator marathon like workouts and efforts all over social media. And this already started weeks ago (Today is Dec. 2)!
I wrote a piece two years ago on the fact that more players are injured during the Australian part of the season (January) than any other. Now, that has zero to do with Australia, but more to do with the mistakes players make in their build up to it.
In 2014, no fewer than 28 players were forced to pull out as the consequence of injury leading up to the Australian open with pretty much the same number pulling out during the 1st slam of the year!
Now you would think that after a period of 4-8 weeks ‘rest- recovery-rebuild’ would have them fresh and ready to hit the hard courts running, right? Wrong!
Tennis players, like all professional athletes are used to routine and habit. That means getting up in the morning and going to practice.
Having worked with around 100 professional tennis players over the last 15 years, I can tell you that two weeks of doing ‘nothing’ is as tortuous as it can get for them. Part of the reason why these players are so good is because they love it, so getting them to rest and stay away from the practice court is like pulling teeth.
I always say that my biggest challenge is not getting players to work, it’s getting them to respect rest and recovery better.
So what are the main reasons so many players are exhausted or injured even before they set foot on the plane down under?
It comes down to these 6 things:
1. Starting off season training program too soon. Players have not recovered from previous season. Old injuries haven’t been given proper time to heal.
2. Mentally not ready. Mental fatigue is just as big as physical fatigue.
3. The big one: Going big in the off season. And here I partly blame over zealous and enthusiastic trainers and coaches.
4. Players get injured doing things they’re not used to. Off season calls for diversity, so all of a sudden we have players doing cross fit, boxing, loads of running, etc.. Things their bodies are not used to or conditioned for.
5. The extended time on hard courts (2 months) can lead to many joint issues, stress fractures etc.. And how often do we see knee, adductor, hip and lower back issues prop up in Australia?
6. Understanding the athletes total energy system. The added loads of physical and sport specific (on court) time. Energy and muscular systems get overloaded, which can either lead to respiratory issues or injury.
Oh, and let me not even go into all the off season leagues and exhibitions either!
The off season is all about effective planning. Experience teaches you that. I’ve certainly made some mistakes over the years. It comes down keeping the reigns on the horse, not flogging it. We want the horse ready to perform for the big race.
One thing I aim for is to have the player 80% ready by the time they leave for Australia, then use the 15-20 days before the Australian open to sharpen that last 20%.
Unfortunately, some players have already peaked in the pre- season!
Looking forward to the Australian summer!