Thursday, January 27, 2022

Stuck in a Rut

Coach Wayne’s Corner

In my last column titled, “Change Is Good,” I discussed how moving in a new direction can be a challenge and quite often feels somewhat uncomfortable. I think it is human nature for us to get stuck in a routine. Some routines are good and some routines can be bad.

For instance, a daily routine of waking up in the morning after getting a sufficient number of hours of sleep, having a healthy breakfast, catching up on some emails and the morning news, followed by a couple of fun hours of pickleball with your friends, is a good routine.

However, getting stuck in the routine of playing with the same people day in and day out, while being a good social routine, can be bad for your game!

As I have now ventured off “The Rock” (aka Marco Island) and into Naples, I am experiencing, as both a coach and player, a wide variety of playing styles, strategies and personalities that are different from the players I had been associated with on a daily basis on Marco.

My change of venue has opened my eyes to the fact that for better or worse, we all seem to get unintentionally and unknowingly stuck in our own little fish bowl. Because of this, our game unintentionally and unknowingly gets stuck in a rut.

The covered structure covering the instructional courts at The Pickleball Academy Southwest Florida.

As an instructor and coach, this has made me aware of how important it is for me to stay on track with my methodology of instruction, while at the same being flexible in my approach to each and every individual player’s needs. Even more so, as a competitive player, I am finding myself being challenged, not so much from the fact that my new competitors may or may not be stronger players than I am, but from the fact that they are new players, and their playing style and the execution of their game is different.

As a lifelong competitive tennis player, I always preferred competing against someone whom I had played several times before, because I could form a strategy and structure a game plan against their challenge. However, when I had to compete against a player whom I had never seen before, it would take me several games into the match to be able to form a strategy and game plan against this mystery guest.

My initial strategy and game plan against this new opponent, was/is, to always play my game/my style of play and have an alternate Plan B to fall back on if my initial strategy is not being effective against this opponent. This alternate Plan B, sometimes, might be utilized for a certain period of time, which will then allow me to return to my regular game Plan A. Yet at other times, I may need to implement Plan B for the entire match. Either way, I need to make sure that I am aware of how these plans are affecting my opponent, and shift gears as needed, when and if the situation changes.

The great Jimmy Connors had a somewhat unique strategy of going after an opponent’s strengths, right off, from the first point of the match; kind of a surprise attack scenario. If it worked, his opponent would be shell-shocked and have no offensive answer for the attack. If this plan did not work, Connors would then begin to focus on his opponent’s weaknesses. Either way, once he got his teeth into a match, he would play high percentage points and virtually wear his opponent down both physically and mentally, not to mention that he usually always had the crowd behind him during this whole process.

So enjoy your daily routines, they are good for you. I am not saying that you have to go out and compete in tournaments, but don’t get stuck in a rut!  Venture out of your fishbowl and play with different people in different locations. It is good for your game and it is good for your social life.

Wayne Clark is a professional tennis instructor with over 25 years experience coaching players on all levels of the game. Wayne is also qualified in pickleball instruction and is an instructor with The Pickleball Academy of Southwest Florida at East Naples Community Park. Contact Coach Wayne by email at, or by phone or text at 239-450-6161.

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