The 90% Curse in Tennis - Understanding the Development Process

One of the most challenging aspects of tennis is our inability to objectively evaluate our improvement. Nothing is more frustrating than practicing for hours and hours and feeling stuck.

The problem is that our evaluation system is very straightforward: shots are either good or bad and we either win or lose. However the execution aspect is not quite so black and white. 90 % right can still lead to 100% wrong. That is, one can do almost everything correctly and still miss or lose the point, the game, the set or the match. So even after improving several things we can still end up in the same place – missing or losing.

That can be very discouraging and zap our motivation! Therefore, a very important role for us coaches is to help players understand this concept and teach them how to find those hidden improvements that are definitely occurring but are still not significant enough to impact their game.

I like to use the analogy of the Chinese Bamboo, which starts as a nut that lays dormant for 5 years. In the 5th year, suddenly it grows 90 feet tall in six week. So the question is: Did the bamboo grow 90 feet in 6 weeks or in 5 years?

Taking your game to the next level occurs exactly the same way!

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