4 Stages of Learning Tennis Skills

Even if your name is Roger Federer, Maria Sharapova, Serena Williams or Rafa Nadal and you are used to playing at Wimbledon or the U.S. Open, getting more tennis skills under your belt or just improving what you already have is high on every tennis players agenda.

The question is, how do you go about it?

Sometimes it's not about your forehand or backhand and what practice methods you choose that counts. Sometimes it's just about understanding the process of learning and improving that will prove most successful.

Not sure what I mean?

Well here is a story that should I am sure will help you.

I was talking to a group of tennis players a couple of weeks ago when I mentioned something I thought would help them through the individual trials they were experiencing.

All I did was to explain the four stages of learning tennis skills and motor skill acquisition:

Stage 1. Unskilled & Unconscious

Stage 2. Unskilled & Conscious

Stage 3. Skilled &, Conscious

Stage 4. Skilled & Unconscious

How does this work?

As a beginner you find you struggle with skill execution as well as with understanding why your mistakes exist - Stage 1.

After a while, you understand/learn the proper execution, but cannot consistently repeat it - Stage 2.

Eventually, you can execute the skill with correct technique and with reasonable consistency, however it is consciously controlled which means a sacrifice in flow and fluidity - Stage 3.

Stage 4 is when you forget and don't think, i.e. you master the skill and forget/don't use any technical instructions - you Just Do It (thanks to NIKE!)

I think it's really important to identify just where you are in the scheme of things, so you will have real expectations about how you should be expecting to play on a day-by-day basis.

The problem I find is that generally most players don't understand the four-stage progression and therefore have unrealistic expectations about their level of play and that only leads to frustration and in many cases anger.

The reason I was quick to talk to the group about it was purely down to the fact that someone sat me down to tell me about it many years ago.

For now, sit down and try to work out where your tennis skills level is and see if your newly found understanding helps you in the way you approach your tennis game.

P.S. One last thing to remember: You will have different parts of your game at different stages so you will need to adjust each of them accordingly.

About the Author

Paul Gold

Paul Gold has been involved in enhancing the performance of tennis players of all levels from beginners to touring professionals for more than 20 years.. For Paul's free mini-course footwork video, visit footwork4tennis.com.

Discuss This Article