Boys High School Tennis is starting, and hundreds of Long Island players are transitioning from placid indoor conditions to the variable and harsh early season outdoor tennis environment. A select few players are readying for Spring Super Nationals. While sun, wind and temperature are the most obvious outdoor variables, reaction to diminished sound might be the most underappreciated adjustment for successful early season play.
Indoor, the "pop" of the ball when struck by the racket is loud as the sound reflects, rebounds and amplifies. Outdoor, the sound of a strike is diffused and muffled and the impact on play is enormous because players react to auditory feedback, as well as visual stimulation. While you can be a passive indoor listener, it is necessary to become an active listener for outdoor tennis success. Fortunately, auditory perception is selective, which means that you can react to what you choose, while disregarding unimportant sounds. The busy chatters of the world are reduced to "noise" by the top players with a strong resolve and a laser focus. Successful players identify, target, listen, perceive and react to the sound of the ball striking the racket of an opponent with clarity and accuracy.
Steven Kaplan is the owner and managing director of Bethpage Park Tennis Center, as well as director emeritus of Lacoste Academy for New York City Parks Foundation and executive director and founder of Serve & Return Inc. Steve has coached more than 1,100 nationally-ranked junior players, 16 New York State high school champions, two NCAA Division 1 Singles Champions, and numerous highly-ranked touring professionals. Many of the students Steve has closely mentored have gone to achieve great success as prominent members of the New York financial community, and in other prestigious professions. In 2017, Steve was awarded the Hy Zausner Lifetime Achievement Award by the USTA. He may be reached by e-mail at StevenJKaplan@aol.com.