Second Stage of Learning – ‘Live Ball Hitting’
After practicing and attaining muscle memory in the first stage of learning, it is now time to move on to second stage, which is the Live Ball Hitting, or Rallying Stage. By now, you will have a acquired the necessary muscle memory for your shot by hitting only pro-fed balls. Although the stroke or grip may not yet be fully automatic, the uncomfortable feeling of a new movement should now start to subside. This means that it is time to put the new shot into live ball play and trying some rallying. During this stage, the goal is to continue to reinforce the learned concept while rallying.
For practice in this stage you should attempt to hit lightly with the tennis pro, or a hitting partner who is willing to rally without playing points. You should continue to keep most of your focus on the learned concept to make sure it stays sharp and does not revert back to old habits. This is important since some of your attention will now have to be put towards running, adjusting and setting up for the shot. Adding the element of movement can be a big challenge and requires much more attention, so make a rule for yourself to check back to your goal at the beginning of every rally to make sure it stays consistent.
Lastly, remember that missing can still be common in this stage and something we should accept during the process of learning. It is ok to make some mistakes in the process but check back to make an adjustment when needed to keep your goal in mind. With enough time and practice hits during your rallies, you will soon be able to handle the new goal, moving and keeping the ball in play. Once you have spent enough time rallying and have started doing so with some success, it will then be time to move on to the third and last stage of learning, which is the Competition Stage.