| By Eric Dietsche

The holiday season has come and gone, and that means that the tennis season is essentially over. It has become cold and has started to snow; outdoor play has become somewhat unlikely. Leagues and other players flood the indoor courts, which makes it hard to get regular hitting sessions. All of this leads to the conclusion that off-the-court work will play a larger role in the development of your game. This work can work all sorts of wonders for you: It can help you run faster, jump higher, fight high cholesterol and stimulate brain activity. Actually, all of this may not be true, but there are still many advantages to working hard. You will be able to reach tough shots and frustrate your opponent. You may ask what you should do in order to achieve this high level of fitness though. Keep reading and you will find those answers.


1. Squash

Not just your common garden gourd! The first thing that we, on the Williams Tennis Team, do is play squash. While squash is very different from tennis (you can hit the ball as hard as you want without much fear that it will go out of bounds, and that your technique while hitting the ball should change from tennis to squash), it will maintain your hand-eye coordination and your racquet skills. In addition, squash gives you the opportunity to continue to put yourself in competitive situations so you can maintain your mental toughness during a period of time in which matches are rare to come by. In and of itself, squash is a fun game, and it creates a perfect diversion from the mountains of homework that we typical college students are buried under.


2. Cardio workouts

Cardio workouts are more than just a treatment for the chronic rubber leg syndrome! We do a lot of stairs and wind sprints to improve leg strength and stamina, in order to prevent that rubbery-leg feeling during long points or matches. Whereas your opponent will die out in that point and will take a few more points after the tough one (thus giving you a couple of free points for your effort), you will still be fresh and will not need any recovery time.


3. Core workouts … the epicenter of the earthquake!

All of your power and strength stems from your core muscle groups. Due to this, we do exercises to increase the strength of our abdominal and oblique muscles. Your core muscles are of paramount importance when playing tennis, since they are key for whatever you are trying to accomplish, whether it be the torque that will improve your serve or your overheads, it all comes from the core muscles, ground strokes and even your general court movement. The core groups cannot be neglected.


4. Plyometrics … dynamite for your legs!

Also, in relation to the explosiveness that the core can help you with in certain ways, there are the plyometric workouts that improve your balance. For example, something as simple as jumping on and off of a box will increase the explosive nature of your quads and the rest of your legs, giving you a step up on your opponents. Other exercises, such as one-footed jumps, will improve your balance and stamina and help your game when you return to the court.


We all know that tennis is a demanding sport, but that is what we enjoy about it; otherwise we would not still be playing it. However, even when we are not physically out on the court, we are preparing to be out on the court and to make the most of our experience when out there. We don’t just want to beat our opponent, we want to feel good doing it. The only way to do this is to do your homework during the winter offseason and get ready for when the snow melts again in the spring. As a competitive player, there will always be something that you wish to improve, a facet of your game that you wish was just a little bit better. These desires to improve are what will provide the fuel for the focused player during the winter offseason.


Eric Dietsche

<p>Eric Dietsche is a senior and valedictorian of the Class of 2009 at St. John the Baptist Diocesan High School in West Islip, N.Y. As a five-time varsity letter winner in tennis, he is also a two-time All-League Player. He also won the title of Most Valuable Player in the New York Catholic High School Athletic Association in 2009. He plans to attend Williams College in Massachusetts in the fall where he&rsquo;ll play tennis. He may be reached by e-mail at edietsche@gmail.com.</p>