Written by Koby Jansen of LYMBR Darien. Koby is a former D1 college tennis player at The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley. Former #1 in the state of Queensland and #7 in Australia for his age group.
During these unprecedented times, we were all forced to limit our contact with others. For us tennis players, chances are that meant taking a break from being on the court (since it’s difficult to play tennis with yourself!). After taking an extended break from tennis, it is important to get your mind right before stepping back onto the court. Your body will likely be ready for the challenge as, hopefully, one of the silver linings from the break, was any ailments or injuries were given time to heal. However, it will take time before tennis comes naturally again, no matter how many years you have been playing.
My experience with extended breaks came with many challenges. On four different occasions, I suffered injuries that forced me off the court for more than six months. The main lesson I learned was managing personal expectations. This is one of the biggest hurdles to get over after an extended break. When playing Division I college tennis, we only had one day per week where a tennis racquet was not touched, so it was easy to get into a great rhythm. Even the smallest break like an additional day off can break that rhythm. When I had shoulder surgery in college and couldn’t touch a tennis racquet for six months, you could say that my rhythm was broken. When I was able to come back, I really tried to focus on the enjoyment of tennis at first, rather than the quality of my play. As competitive as I am, it was hard not to focus on trying to win every single point I played. This mindset really aided me in the long run.
Another great lesson from having multiple extended breaks was to keep the first few sessions short and sweet, keeping the mood light. Don’t concern yourself with how many matches you can play, or the level you play compared to before the break. Take is slow and have fun being back out there. Find the joy that made you want to play in the first place. If you play for hours on end the first day or week back, you risk injuring your body as it takes time for your joints and muscles to readjust to the rigors of a tennis court. If you come off the court feeling banged up, it can detract you from getting back out there.
The first time you go back onto the court, make sure to understand within yourself that it is a process. Give yourself long-term goals, take it one session at a time and take the first week or so to get the connection with your mind and your body to become one. Your body will hopefully feel refreshed, and your mind will be itching to get back out there but take it slow.
First day back? Go and hit a few balls, get that feeling again of having the racquet in your hand. Slowly remind your body what it feels like to move laterally again, and most importantly, have fun.
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