Gene’s Tip of the Month: Keep Attacking!!!

I know it sometimes seems that coming to the net doesn’t work well.  You charge in, then they lob you, you run into the ball, they hit it at your feet, they pass you down the alley, or you and your partner can’t decide quickly enough who should take a shot down the middle.
These are all valid excuses for not coming to the net.  You go to a clinic or a lesson and work on your volleys and positioning.  You and your partner swear to the God of Tennis Coaching that you will communicate better so that nothing gets through the middle.  Despite all your diligent work, the next match has the same result:  you come in twice, get lobbed, and decide that it isn’t working.
Playing the net is not for the faint of heart.  Like dating, it is a percentages game.  If you can come in and win 52% of the time, then you will win the match, however, that also means you will get passed, lobbed, and hit in the belly button 48% of the time.  No matter how much you prepare, matches will be different and you must accept that what you did in practice will not always happen in a match.  Nerves freeze your feet and that shoulder high volley that was easy when your coach fed balls to you, becomes much more difficult to execute when it’s set point.
In the end, the only way to get strong as a net player is to, as Nike so famously once said, “Just Do It.”  Every time you play, decide that you are going to the net behind particular shots, then DO IT.  Keep doing it whether you win or lose the point.  As you do it more and more, you will get comfortable hitting volleys in pressure situations, you will learn to move and communicate.  The key is, there is very little time at the net, so these responses must be quick-some would say instinctive.  The only way to create instinct is to fail over and over until you start to turn the ship around.  At first your percentage of winning net rushes might be a measly 20%.  Then it will slowly rise until one day you realize that you like being the player who controls the points.  The player who is proactive rather than reactive.  You realize, you like the risk of being up there and losing as the aggressor is better than losing as a passive player.  If you lose, at least you lost on your own terms, rather than having the match dictated by your opponents.
Keep charging, eventually, you’ll find that your net game gets more natural and instinctive, but remember, you have to be willing to lose for a while before the ship turns your way.

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