One of the hardest parts about learning tennis is that often times, to learn a new skill or habit, we have to take 1 step backwards, in order to ultimately take 2 steps forward.
Even though it is very hard to accept this as a player I have always been able to do just that. From day one, whenever I was told to do something by my coaches, I did it immediately and never went back to doing it the old way (even after the 50th continental grip serve failed to make it as far as the net). This is truly the best way to learn. I often tell my students that you need to give yourself an ultimatum; Either the new way, or the highway!
When it comes to motor coordination tasks, which the skills of tennis are, it has been observed in studies that in as little as 21-30 days a new habit can be formed to where the subject does not have to consciously think about the change anymore. However, if you were to go back to doing the old habit during this time, you must completely start your 21-30 day period over.
Even though this has not been a challenge for me in tennis, it has been a huge struggle when it comes to changing the habit of biting my nails.
I have been biting my nails for as long as I can remember. When I was younger and would take grade school photos, the photographer would sometimes have to have me hold my hands a special way to hide the band-aids on my fingers…GROSS.
I have tried many different methods for stopping, but none seem to work. I simply cannot make it my 30 days without reverting. What gets me is when I am driving and I am not thinking about it. I am sure this is what gets most recreational tennis players as well. Your just playing points and not thinking about your new skills, and so you revert.
But when this happens, you start your 30 day period over. Every time I find myself biting my nails in the car I could just hit myself over the head, “DUH JASON, now you have to start all over again!”
So the next time your out there playing points, put some extra mental effort into maintaining your new skills. 30 days is not that long in the grand scheme of things, so it truly is worth it.
Tomorrow I start my 30 days over and I am going to put more effort into it. It certainly will be hard, but I still think that not biting my nails is AS GOOD AS AN ACE!