Since on most racquet sports you hit a ball back and forth with a racquet, it seems intuitive that being good at one racquet sport will help you in other racquet sports. And although that might be true in some cases, when it comes down to tennis, playing other racquet sports can potentially hurt your game more than help it. Surprise?! Let me explain…
So, can playing other racquet sports hurt your tennis game? Practicing other racquet sports can potentially hurt your tennis game because the mechanics, technique, grip, and form when hitting the ball in tennis are very different from many other racquet sports.
Also, the speed that you play other racquets sports varies, as well as the type of footwork used; this makes the timing of the ball in other racquet sport different than tennis. As a result, this can potentially negatively interfere with the muscle memory you have already developed as a tennis player. However, in some cases, it’s possible for players to achieve harmony while playing tennis and other different racquets sports.
There is indeed some racquet sports and some aspect of all racquet sports that can be beneficial to your tennis game, however, there are some that can have an overall detrimental effect on your tennis game. Since racquet sports involves a lot of muscle memory, many tennis players can develop bad habits when switching back and forth with other racquets sports.
Worried? Don’t… well, maybe a little. Keep reading to find out how those Saturday morning squash games with your friends might be hurting your tennis game; and what can you do about it.
Mechanics, Technique, and Muscle memory
Correct mechanics and technique
As a tennis player, you’re probably familiar with how much effort and long hours of practice you have to put to learn the game of tennis correctly, especially the technical aspect. For a person, who doesn’t know too much about tennis and haven’t played the sport, tennis can look fairly easy; how hard can it be to hit a ball back and forth, right?… But, we know that is not easy at all, and that it requires a lot of patient and time to develop good form and hit the ball properly
So, it can be said that tennis players develop muscle memory on how to play tennis through practice.
So, what’s muscle memory? For those who don’t know, let me try to explain in a simple way. Muscle memory refers to the form of unconscious and long-term memory to develop certain types of task. It’s built through task repetition and doing something over and over again. For example, driving can be described as a form a muscle memory that is developed through years and year of practice.
Ok, so what? How can muscle memory has anything to do with playing other racquet sports? Well, keep reading…
Interfering with your muscle memory
As a tennis coach, I’ve seen tennis players trying to pick up sports like badminton or squash, to decide later to stop because they thought it was making them lose their touch and topspin when hitting the ball. And although I’m not an expert and I don’t have hard data to prove it, I believe that often playing other racquet sports can interfere with the muscle memory and mechanics you have built through years of tennis practice.
If a tennis player, who has played tennis for many years, decides to play other racquet sports that use similar muscles in similar ways but with crucial differences, it can potentially create confusion in the habits already developed.
For example, squash and tennis are similar, in terms of hitting the ball with a forehand motion, but there are small fundamental differences like the grip, wrist action, and power used between each sport. As a result, this can confuse players at the time of playing similar racquet sports that have small, but yet essential differences.
Nevertheless, I think that if you just play a different racquet sport, like squash and badminton, every once in a while, it will probably have little to no negative impact on your tennis game. On the other hand, if you play squash and tennis multiples times a week, it can adversely affect your skills and performance in both sports.
Racquet sports that can be…
There are many racquet sports around the world that I probably don’t know them all, but I’m indeed familiar with some racquet sports. I made two lists of racquet sports that could be helping or hurting your tennis game:
Beneficial to your tennis game
- Touch Tennis
- Pop (Paddle) tennis
- Platform tennis
Detrimental to your tennis game
(from a mechanic and technical standpoint)
*If you have ideas on other sports that we should add or remove from these lists, please let us know on the comment section.
The good of playing other racquet sports as a tennis player
As mention before, certain aspects of all racquet sports can be helpful to the game of tennis. Most racquet sports share specific skills needed to be good at each sport; they are:
- Coordination: Eye-hand coordination is an important skill required for most racquet sports. So, playing sports like squash, table tennis, badminton, to name a few, can definitely help you on the tennis court.
- Fitness: Playing other racquet sports can help improve your stamina, physical, and endurance to perform better at tennis.
- Footwork: As tennis players, we know that how you move on the court can have a significant impact on your game, so any sport that helps you with that, is always welcome.
- Reflexes & reaction: Being able to time the speed of the ball and adjust appropriately to hit the ball is an important skill that you need for all racquet sports.
- Mindfulness: Playing racquet sports generally requires you to be present on the moment and focus on the ball, as well as, on your opponent; otherwise, it’ll be difficult to be successful at these sports. For example, when I was a kid, my doctor recommended me to play tennis so I could improve my concentration skills.
Want to keep playing other racquet sports? Practice mindfulness
A short and straightforward answer will be to stop playing the racquet sports that can potentially hurt your game; however, I’m going to try to give you an answer that you might like and find helpful on the long run. In overall, playing sports has a lot of health benefits, physical and mentally. So, I think that suggesting you to stop playing a sport that you enjoy with your friends might not be in your best interest.
Instead, try to practice mindfulness; make sure to focus on the sports you’re playing, and that your body and mind are able to make a distinction between both sports. You can try to concentrate on the small things that make each sport different and try to remind yourself about them. Work on treating all racquets sports that you played as different sports that have different technique and mechanics.
I understand that it can be difficult to be thinking about how you’re supposed to hit the ball, while you are trying to win the point, however, being more aware of the moment, and what is that you’re doing can be helpful.
Like learning a language
In the beginning, it can be challenging to play both sports, but with time and practice your mind we’ll start getting used to playing both sports and making the correct distinctions. The same way it takes time to learn another language, your mind will eventually learn how to play both sports without getting confused.
Take, for example, the sport of Racketlon…
Racketlon, wait… what?
If you have no clue what Racketlon is, don’t worry, I also found about it not too long ago. Racketlon is a sport that combines four popular racquet sports: table tennis, badminton, squash, and tennis; its name is derived from sports like triathlon. The game is played up to 4 sets; each set is played in a different racquet sport, in the following order: table tennis, badminton, squash, and tennis.
So, if these players are able to play all these racquet sports combined, it’s possible for a tennis player to be successful at playing other racquet sports. However, it’ll require a lot of patience and many hours of practice.
Check the following video to find out more about this sport.
If you are a high-performance tennis player that is currently playing tennis tournaments, I’ll suggest keeping certain racquet sports to a minimum. However, if you’re a recreational tennis player that is looking to have fun and stay active, I’ll encourage to play as many sports as you can, including other racquet sports; just make sure to practice mindfulness and enjoy yourself. Please share your opinion and experience in playing other racquet sports as a tennis player on the comment section. New ideas are always welcome!