By Peter Nicol
I have always been a proponent of focusing on areas of your game that need the most amount work. However, more recently I have started to understand that this is not always the best solution for everyone and working on areas of your game that are strong gives confidence and mentally prepares you in a positive way for the season ahead. If I am to take my own game as an example, this is the balance I would roughly focus on at the start of the season:
• Solo practice—5% of my time. Most of my technique is solid, and I can make alterations during more strenuous aspects of training
• Pairs Practice—30% of my time. Use this time to get comfortable with all basic shots and all areas of the court. I would be focusing on movement/positioning and technique in equal measure. The practice would be at . pace to allow for alterations while still pushing myself into moderate pressure.
• Conditioned Games—30% of my time. I would pick simple deep games such as “everything behind the half court line” and “alley games” to begin with. I would then move on to the areas I really need to work on and where I need biggest improvements such as “Egyptian front . court” and “try to volley every shot.” The latter two games force me to look for more attacking shot options, which is something I have always struggled to do.
• Match play—20% of my time. I would play flat out games trying to push myself both mentally and physically to the limit; these would not be about winning but more about retaining my basic technique while playing at the very edge of what I’m capable of in terms of pace and difficult shot selection.
• Movement—5% of my time. Most of my movement practice would fall into all the other on court work I do, as I feel comfortable and able to deliver on that skill.
• Physical—10% of my time. I probably should spend more time on this specific area in isolation, but I get a lot of what I need from the way I practice and play matches. I’m also reticent to workout as I have done a lot in my life and find it mentally exhausting. To maintain interest and enthusiasm, I need to keep the specific physical training to a minimum while still doing something.
I hope you look at your game leading into the new season and try to create a rough template of what you need to work on to maximize your performance in the short and long term. Good luck!