Tennis & Programming Similarities

When you've been playing tennis all your life, you can basically pick up a racquet at any time and play descent tennis.  Sure the foot work, timing and endurance are slower than expected, but the natural game is still there.

When I was a junior, I stopped all other sports to focus on tennis.  My coach Cid played #1 position for the local university.  Unorthodox, yet fierce.  Had a one hand backhand slice, the ball never rose.  Pin point accuracy.  And used the same grip for both forehand and backhand.  Serve wasn't spectacular, could place the ball anywhere on the court at any time with complete accuracy.  And never missed a shot due to unforced error.

That's the game he taught me.  Minus the one hand slice backhand.  Primarily because I throw left handed and played right hand, so the two handed backhand was better than the forehand.

Every lesson, had to do physical strength exercises.  And consistency.  Hit a forehand crosscourt, inside the singles lines, behind the service box.  25 times in a row without missing, or start over.  Then go down the line.  Then backhands, same thing.  Volleys.  Overheads.  Serves.  And running.

Those private lessons helped to compete with the local community players.  Our coach taught at Nick Bolletteri in Bradenton, Florida.  The best players in town practiced every night after school.

Some of those juniors went on to the pros.  The interesting thing, when you've played at a certain level, you can determine a players ability in a short time.  When I taught tennis for a while, you could pick up players strengths and weakness pretty quick.  Did they have talent.  Were they still getting better or have they plateaued.  Some people get to a certain level, and never get better.  I'm sure the same applies to life.  I think programming is similar.  You can size up a persons skills and depth of knowledge.  Are they keyword specialist, do they have history of proven success, do they avoid work at all costs, are they continuous learners or one hit wonders.

I've played tennis since the 6th grade and got started in computers in the 8th grade.  Quite a long time on both fronts.  I find the similarities are, performing the actions without thought.  In tennis, after you have the skills, you run on instinct.  Maybe true for programming too.  Who knows.

I suppose the major takeaway is this.  You practice and learn for a long time.  Without knowing it, at some point, you have the skills to teach others.  I still enjoy hitting the tennis ball.  And still enjoy solving complex problems.  Just trying to get better, and enjoy the ride.

Bloom Consulting Since Year 2000