ETI034 | Creating your own Report Card


Take a few moments with the following report card – a method to either evaluate your own skills, or use this with your coach or regular practice partner.

The idea is to take a deeper look at your “Use” – the broader issues that influence all you do on court, your awareness, the elements that make you a strong player, but equally perhaps the element that is holding you back.

And if this does make sense to you, rate yourself in each area and then in 6 months check back to see if any areas have improved.

Finally, do leave a comment below about which skill you are strongest in, and in which skill you are weakest or said another way if improved would make the biggest difference in your game.

The following survey is your template for your own report card.  Answer truthfully!

Take the Survey

42 Comments

  • Rod chace

    Reply Reply February 11, 2015

    I enjoyed the survey. It forced me to think of evaluating several different areas of my game. I’m not sure how much it will really help me. I’m a senior with two hip replacements; therefore I have issues with several areas of my game. Movement/footwork being my weakest points.

    • Jim McLennan

      Reply Reply February 11, 2015

      Rod – with two hip replacements it would become all about your serve – the spin, placement, kick and more – do you have that aspect in your game?
      Jim

  • Jiri Kovar

    Reply Reply December 20, 2014

    my tennis improved after reading book winnig ugly – mentaly preparing for real opponent
    Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!
    Jiri

    • Jim McLennan

      Reply Reply December 20, 2014

      Jiri – Brad Gilbert as much as any player before or since – understood our game of tennis
      Jim

  • Mike Wiley

    Reply Reply December 18, 2014

    That was a very worthwhile exercise, although I would have liked a wider range of answers, a scale of 5 perhaps. On the other hand, having only a range of 3 answers does make it harder to kid myself, and that has to be good.
    I would have liked movement called footwork, or have both headings. Clearly my ability to move (cover the court) is my biggest strength, BUT I really believe that actual footwork is my biggest weakness.
    The survey definitely left me no place to hide and gave me some areas to work on.
    Thanks

  • Don McDonald

    Reply Reply December 18, 2014

    I took the survey but I did not know know how to answer most of the questions. For example, you assume concentration is a good thing. My concentration on court is nearly absolute. However, it is a weakness because I am usually focused on the wrong things. Similarly, I move quickly but unfortunately usually before I know where I am going. Finally, I am too aware of my body. For example, when I concentrate on balance, sometimes I develop a beautiful flow to my game, but most of the time I get so focused on exactly where my shoulders fall and keeping my knees over my toes that I end up forgetting to move at all. Yes, I did have a bad day on the court.

    • Jim McLennan

      Reply Reply December 18, 2014

      Don – then take one of the areas only and use that as your focus point for a number of days if not weeks and see if something good happens
      Jim

  • Ralph

    Reply Reply December 18, 2014

    As an older player (60) I have become aware that my footwork skills have eroded over the years. I still feel like I play “naturally” and without effort but, where once I could quickly and efficiently cover the court and get into good position, I now often find myself being jammed, taking the ball off my back foot or just being a split second delayed in initiating recovery to the center of the court. This has become my biggest weakness and I now have to consciously think about my movement instead of reacting unconsciously. As for my strength, I think I still have a natural, fluid swing and hit the ball without excessive effort.

    • Jim McLennan

      Reply Reply December 18, 2014

      Ralph – this may be the case for many of us as we age (includes me) my thought is to try and keep the ball deep (to have more time to react) and to play closer to the baseline (which takes a bit of that time away but allows you to use drop shots and angles) – but at this end with arthritis creeping in to both knees I am missing my days on clay courts
      Jim

  • Franko

    Reply Reply December 18, 2014

    Hi Jim, Great questions but with a few of them, I had multiple answers which could not be chosen but i ended up choosing the worst of the lot. I feel we must have a sound “back-up” game when our “normal” game goes off. For example, if I have a big serve as my usual serve and it is not clicking, I must be able to go to a back-up serve… a serve where i must be 99% sure it will work…. and in my mind, we must practice this back-up serve more than our normal serves….. the only way we can be confident of our game. Also knowing that we have a sound back-up game plan, it allows us to play our normal game with much more ease and less stress and as a matter of fact, this makes me play my normal game much more consistently.

    • Jim McLennan

      Reply Reply December 18, 2014

      Franko – thanks, in some ways your “backup game” has (hopefully) a lot to do with the other side of the net and the awareness of the opponent’s strengths weaknesses and so forth
      Jim

  • Ron

    Reply Reply December 18, 2014

    Jim I have been playing for a long time, and now only play doubles.
    When I am on court playing, I play with three people and I think for three, I try to anticipate what all three will do.
    All I ask of my partner is to serve the ball over the net and hit the ball deep no short balls,I then have time to cut the return ball off, I try and anticipate all three players momement and try and be in the right place to return that ball.
    I find when i’m down 15/40 I start to play better most times from that situation I will win about 65% of the time, I play better under preassure, mabe I get lazy? What I will do is watch watch watch that ball and try to work out were the ball will come back to on the court.
    Note at the age of sixty I won an open round robin doubles tournament, yes I was a very happy
    Tennis player. One thing that is applicable to all young and old, you never stop learning..

  • michael

    Reply Reply December 17, 2014

    good stuff, sometimes my answer might be different if question clarified singles, doubles or practice. i look forward to seeing more and other’s answers.

    • Jim McLennan

      Reply Reply December 18, 2014

      Michael – I will do more of this survey type of thing, but for this one it was more about how you feel “inside” when on court without reference to singles, doubles, or even practice or actual matches – just what your experience is without regard to grips or playing style
      Jim

  • Robert

    Reply Reply December 17, 2014

    This response is really to a different topic, but certainly on the same theme. Over the last three years I have rebuilt my game in most aspects from the ground up (which of course remains a work in progress) on modern principles and old fundamentals. Perhaps the most important single factor in the process was regularly performing an honest written self examination, which I learned how to do in one of your course products. Doing this gave me the ability to look objectively at what I was doing well, regardless of the outcome of the point, and what was not working yet. My general recollection of a long afternoon of play was a smear of frustrating errors with a couple winners in the foreground. But by sitting with a notebook and going through it stroke by stroke and situation by situation , I could focus on the fundamentals I had or had not internalized and come up with a practice and game plan for next time. By avoiding the temptation to answer quickly to finish the survey and taking a detailed look at our play in response to a questionnaire like this, we can gain the objective insight and focus that usually requires a professional coach who is familiar with our game.

    • Jim McLennan

      Reply Reply December 18, 2014

      Robert – thanks for this, I liked your reference to a combination of “modern principles and old fundamentals” – well said
      Jim

  • Bernard Mckey

    Reply Reply December 17, 2014

    jim there was 1 question you were only allowed to answer i of following -you could of answered any of them

  • Bernard Mckey

    Reply Reply December 17, 2014

    I am playing 45 years Jim -I learnt the technical of the Game -Serves -Forehand -Single Backhand -Slice -I practice my drills-I played doubles twice a week and I practice my Net Play -Positioning at net varies from opponents dictate that-eg they might be a moon player therefore you stand back a bit-I have got very soft hands at the net-good Footwork-in 1983 I knocked up with Mcenroe-Fleming for 20 minutes before there Davis Cup Match-Ireland-USA-Mcenroe taught me forehand and mental Fleming soft hands and footwork-Footwork is 80% of game-I also am very focussed on opponents strengths and weaknesses-I doubles when I am net I am glued to opponents racket when they make contact with ball I move.Mentally I am very good.

    Weaknesses where I need to Improve=1 I am learning Double Backhand I need to get and develop my double backhand because it put the opponent under pressure-use use forehand slice as it get me into net

    I am learning the Sampras serve throwing the ball finger tip up above my head to left-need to develop this and using side spin serve-needs developing-Overheads-needs work on-and Serve -volley split step .

    this is very good jim -i do analysis every time i come off court-i always have a doubles xmas morning.

    • Jim McLennan

      Reply Reply December 18, 2014

      Bernard – what an experience with Mac and Peter Fleming – one of the best teams in that era
      Jim

  • Martin Hassner

    Reply Reply December 17, 2014

    I think some of the questions are incomplete…and the chosen answers don’t give a complete picture. So I am aware of footwork and movement but that doesn’t mean that my footwork doesn’t come and go despite my awareness. Yes I do focus intently on the ball but indoor court conditions can sometimes force mistakes. Yes I try to play with awareness of the other side of the court but that doesn’t help my footwork or my desire to make the shot to win the point.
    I think the purpose of the survey is to help you map new ways to help us play better and I hope I does…
    Best for the holidays and the New Year
    Martin

    • Jim McLennan

      Reply Reply December 18, 2014

      Martin – yes this was a way for me to explore “use” – and though a vague term, at our club when I am observing (which I do all the time – sort of like an ethnographer) it feels like it is less about the nuts and bolts of the game and much much more about awareness, presence and so forth – hopefully something will come from this
      Jim

  • Fred

    Reply Reply December 17, 2014

    I had not paid enough attention to “the elements of attention.’ I have been far too dependent on my strengths and paid too little attention to my opponent and my own processes. The result is that when I’m “on” – a pretty big serve, and deep groundstrokes – I win a fair share of matches. When I’m “off, I lose.

    I printed out the score card and plan to pay attention to the elements until my awareness is broader and deeper. I suspect that as a result, that I will win some matches I am now losing when I am not fully “on.”

    • Jim McLennan

      Reply Reply December 18, 2014

      Fred – thanks, in an interview some months ago (which I posted on the site) Jim Courier was asked about coaching advice and he said that one of the best was from Jose Higueras who told Jim to “pay more attention to the other side of the net”
      Jim

  • michael schuman

    Reply Reply December 17, 2014

    Hi Jim
    This is a great idea and great question for the report card.
    My only comment is that, in my opinion, it should be a 5 point answer choice, not 3 point.
    The areas are too broad. As of now, the divisions are 331/3% for each category. So if you believe you are in the middle 1/3 and you see some progress but still remain in the middle 1/3, the report card will remain the same.
    I will, however, complete the card.
    As always, your lessons inspire me to do better. Less muscle and more grace.
    Best,

    Michael

    • Jim McLennan

      Reply Reply December 18, 2014

      Michael – thanks for the note, I do agree about the answers could have been tighter (on a 5 point scale as you suggested) but hopefully this may lead to some new stuff for me to work on either at the club or here on the internet
      Jim

  • rob gallo

    Reply Reply December 17, 2014

    You’ve spoken about McEnroe in the past referring to him for different aspects of the game. He is one of my favorite players to watch. Specifically the way he hits groundstrokes. Even when a ball is coming to him with a lot of pace, he short swings the racquet to meet the ball (almost like in slow motion) to direct the ball wherever he likes. Recently saw that when he played against Jim Courrier. Is that just super anticipation and reading the ball/opponent really well?

    • Jim McLennan

      Reply Reply December 18, 2014

      Rob – I saw Mac play Courier last spring in Sacramento – and yes about how he appears in slow motion, how he deflects and so much more – I am not sure I can fully explain how he does it but it must be a combination of anticipation, knowing and playing to the percentages, and having excellent ball control and disguise – wow he was and is my favorite to watch as well
      Jim

  • Fabian

    Reply Reply December 16, 2014

    Hello Jim,

    Again thanks a lot for the report card. It gives food for thought and in my view the questions are very useful. I would like to make a remark about your comment on Process vs outcome.

    From your comments I get the idea that if you focus on the outcome like you said the ball is in the learning of skills is not happening or is not as effective as it would be like focusing on the process the hand and the hip.

    I hereby going to send you a link with a pdf doc. If you are a bit of a sadist you can read it all but the last page gives an idea of the outcome of this study which is not completely in line with your remarks

    http://www.castonline.ilstu.edu/smith/257/pdf/ws11a%20paper.pdf

    Furthermore there is a book written by Richard A Schmidt and Craig A Wrisberg called Motor learning and performance. On page 224 there is a piece about Learning advantages of external focus of attention(this would be the ball is in).

    This piece says in short that if focus is on the environmental effects of their actions(the result of the ball trajectory). And not in the movement itself(hand and hips) this would be internal focus, that skills are performed and retained(learned) more effectively.

    Because I am crazy about tennis I look into other areas like motor learning that I find very interesting. From other references I understand that both types of feedback Process=KP and Outcome or KR are valuable in skill learning. In my view If find more information that goes to Outcome as this does not interfere with conscious thought during the performance of a skill like hitting a forehand.

    Ok I will stop know but If you have other references or point of view I would love to know about it. Just to finish keep up the good work.

    Kind regards,

    Fabian

    • Jim McLennan

      Reply Reply December 18, 2014

      Fabian – I studied motor learning in graduate school – specifically feedback in the acquisition of tennis motor skills – in many ways that work and all that has followed for me has raised more questions than answers – but it feels as a teacher and observer at our club – ofttimes continued progress and learning are blocked ever so slightly by players working more on “hitting it in” than on the process of the strokes. Yes to play the game one must hit it in (outcome) but for me I am trying to create opportunities for growth and that gets me back to process. A long and continuing dialogue.
      Jim

  • Bob (in Sydney)

    Reply Reply December 13, 2014

    Excellent content for a report card. Many of these have hit the nail squarely on the head. I have been learning the game for the past 5 years (age 67 next month) after playing casually (with no formal training) when I was in my late teens and early 20s. You have certainly stuck a chord with me. I’m finding focus to be one of the greatest benefits for me on the court, followed very closely by watching the ball. My mechanics have had a good drilling over the past few years, but those ‘soft’ skills of the game, that you so perfectly captured in your report card, are the areas that can most quickly take a player up the club ladder.

    Considering all of the ‘coaching’ content on line, I find this report card to be amongst the best ever offered.
    Thanks,

    • Jim McLennan

      Reply Reply December 15, 2014

      Bob – thanks for the note and your phrase (which I will probably use) “soft skills”
      Jim

  • Santi Munoz

    Reply Reply December 13, 2014

    A very nice reminder to all tennis player Thanks Jim

  • karimgul

    Reply Reply December 12, 2014

    it is helpful,never thought about it before.
    will focuss with attention,
    tks n rgds

  • Vera Jones

    Reply Reply December 11, 2014

    Excellent suggestions–and as I go on court tomorrow morning I will review them all before playing. Thanks so much!

  • Skip Shephard

    Reply Reply December 10, 2014

    I found this report card to be quite helpful. I plan on using it with my high school girls tennis team.

  • Jeff S

    Reply Reply December 10, 2014

    Hey Jim –

    I find this to be one of the most thought provoking videos I’ve seen from you or any other on line resource in the past few years! It’s one thing to discuss the mechanics ad tangibles of the game, it’s a whole different thing to focus on all the things that happen inside one’s head

    Thanks for showing me just how clueless the mental part of my game has been!!

    Jeff S

  • DEGSY

    Reply Reply December 10, 2014

    Being a club coach of many years my lessons with students of all ages concentrate on aspects of all eleven questions with particular emphasis on self awareness and performance.

    I can now add this questionnaire to my lessons so that my pupils achieve greater awareness of what should be happening on court.

  • Sam

    Reply Reply December 9, 2014

    Great stuff, Jim. I’ve been a reader of your Podcast materials since about day one, and I do find them most helpful. I am 81 going on 82, and always want to get better at this game. I assume I’m a 3.5 and only play doubles. Two things really jump out at me on the report card. The first is footwork. It’s been called the loss of the first step: the ball is over there and I’m still here. I first recognized this playing short on a semifast softball team in my 40’s. It can be tough on my partner, and embarrassing for me. I’m OK with ball right at me – don’t have to step. I’m working on my split step but have a way to go. The other issue is seeing the ball. Somewhere just before or after the incoming bounce I loose sight of the ball as I swing up to hit it. To track the incoming ball in front of you, it takes a very swift turn of the head and eyes to the hitting point. Federer is obviously the perfect model here. There are some days, however, when I do see the ball well, but they are few and far between. If you have any exercises or drills on any of the above, that would be great.

  • Bill Cummings

    Reply Reply December 9, 2014

    I am 77 in excellent shape
    If I have a good partner we win
    If I don,t we lose
    Bill Cummings

  • Ron Atkinson

    Reply Reply December 9, 2014

    A very good idea! I have seen some others but mostly concentrated on mechanics and you know that can be more of a negative than a positive. Yours hits at things we can control on the court rather than things that are beyond our power.
    I have a friend that’s a golf pro and he is fond of telling his students that they are playing golf not golf stroke, the same is true of our game.We are playing tennis not tennis stroke.
    Thank you for all you do for our game.

    Ron Atkinson USPTA

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