In the semifinals of the US Open 2011, Roger Federer, Andy Murray, and Serena Williams have shown us that their rhythm and timing can ebb and flow within (and between) their matches. They may not have wanted to lower their performance level and they showed that they could recover some level of their performance. They also showed that after recovery they faltered in maintaining that level needed to win their matches.
What are the advantages of good rhythm and timing for a tennis player?
Our brains have a series of rhythm and timing circuits which control our motor planning and sequencing. This is the central hub for our coordination functions. When these circuits are well tuned, we have accuracy and make few mistakes. The more precisely tuned these circuits, the more accurate we are and the fewer mistakes we make.
The statistics we gather about performance in a tennis match are an excellent gauge of how well tuned our rhythm and timing circuits are. Winners, unforced errors, double faults, aces, and service percentages are all certainly good numbers to watch to know how well a player is performing. These numbers also clearly indicate how a player’s rhythm and timing circuits are performing.
How do problems in rhythm and timing show up in a tennis match?
During a match, the changes in the player’s statistics are a good indicator of the changes in the player’s rhythm and timing. So, when we see a dip or surge in winners, unforced errors, double faults, aces, and service percentages we know that there are changes in the rhythm and timing.
Of course, an increase in double faults and unforced errors are an indication that rhythm and timing are in trouble. And, an increase in winners, aces, and services percentages indicate that rhythm and timing are getting better.
Overall, a player’s ranking is an indication of how well their rhythm and timing circuits function. Generally, those near the top of the ranking have the best rhythm and timing. Of course, there are all kinds of things which enter into a player’s ranking, but ranking is a good rule-of-thumb for understanding how well are player’s rhythm and timing circuits are working.
What are the kinds of things which affect a player’s rhythm and timing?
We need to remember that rhythm and timing is developed as we mature. It is not innate. Rhythmic stimuli help a child develop their basic rhythm and timing. Rhythmic exercises help us maintain and further develop our rhythm and timing as children and adults
Injury, illness, and surgery are some of the kinds of physical trauma which affect our rhythm and timing. So, when someone is recovering from these kinds of things, they need to have a rhythm and timing regimen in their training program to recover the connections between their brain circuits and their muscles. Most players simply combine their physical therapy with their return to their normal training regimen which has been developed for their sport. But, this is often not enough to recover their rhythm and timing to peak levels. Most physical therapists have no experience with or training in rhythm and timing.
There are emotional states which affect a player’s rhythm and timing. These may be affecting the player for a few minutes or hours or weeks (or even longer). What happens is that our emotional states can help us maintain our good levels of rhythm and timing. Or, they my bring about changes in our physical functioning which improves or degrades our rhythm and timing.
We know from experience that a player’s confidence that they can win a particular match has a lot to do with their ability to succeed. We also know that when a player recognizes that the opponent is going to win the match, something changes in the player’s state and the player performs so that this belief about the loss becomes true.
Another thing which can affect a player’s rhythm and timing are environmental factors. They can eat, breath, or touch something to which they react badly and their body goes into a reaction which affects their performance.
All of these things affect the relationship between the player’s rhythm and timing circuits and their array of muscles. Those timing relationships are critical for excellent performance, so when these kinds of things have occurred, the player’s performance will suffer.
What can tennis players do to prevent a drop in rhythm and timing?
For the physical traumas, it is simply part the normal aspects of any sport. Be prepared to re-build your rhythm and timing circuits with a training regimen which gives you optimum rhythm and timing. Have a training resource which specializes in that aspect of your game and use it when recovering from anything physical.
For emotional episodes which affect your rhythm and timing there is an aspect of effective rhythm and timing training which helps the player develop two sets of emotional skills. First, in an effective rhythm and timing training program, there are exercises in which the player learn to maintain and emotional even keel. All players experience the situation where an easy slam is presented and they get excited and end up with an unforced error. In a good rhythm and timing program you learn how to maintain the emotional states which maintain the highest levels of rhythm and timing. You also learn tips and tricks for recovering your good rhythm and timing on-the-spot when you have popped out of rhythm..
Second, some players have an extraordinary rhythm and timing training program which helps them develop multiple sets of rhythm and timing circuits. One for normal performance and others for special circumstances. So, if the player chooses to go into a particular emotional state, they don’t lose their rhythm and timing effectiveness. We all know of players who can continue performing well when they get angry, but most players are not able to maintain effectiveness in that state.
For environmental factors, it is best for players to have done an environmental audit to know everything which affects them. This gives them a way of preventing many environmental factors from affecting their performance.
Is there an objective, non-tennis test for Rhythm and Timing?
Yes, you can measure how precise your rhythm and timing brain circuits are functioning for yourself by taking our rhythm screening test. This is a simple, one-minute, online test which gives you a number (your Rhythmicity Index or RI) between 0 and 10o (some can score higher than 100). One hundred (100) is perfect and zero (0) is perfectly awful. The higher your RI, the better your coordination, the more accurate your shots, the more stamina you have, the more aces you can deliver, the faster you run, the faster your reaction times, the more accurate you are in challenges, etc. . . We recommend that professional athletes have an RI of at least 90 and preferably 95+.
Just because a person has an RI of 90+ does not mean they are or will be a great athlete in any sport. That person still needs to have training in the sport to become good. But, good rhythm and timing are essential to becoming a great performer in any sport and improved rhythm and timing speeds the training to achieve those results.