Professional tennis players may be making a living off of their tennis skill, but their athletic talent reaches far beyond just their tennis abilities. Most of our favorite players grew up playing additional sports and still incorporate many of these sports into their cross training – soccer, tennis soccer, basketball, ballet, etc. Don’t believe us? Here are just a few examples.
- With a soccer uncle and a tennis uncle, Rafael Nadal grew up playing both sports competitively before deciding to exclusively pursue the latter.
- At age 14, Andy Murray turned down a spot in the Rangers Football Club School of Excellence in favor of tennis.
- Gael Monfils, one of the most athletic people on this planet, had more than just one professional sports path open to him. He is a talented basketball player who can nonchalantly dunk and an incredible sprinter who excelled in the 100M dash as a teenager. His former track coach is certain he could have been an Olympian if he had kept with it.
- Nick Kyrgios will play basketball any chance he gets. He has even admitted that he actually does not like tennis and that basketball is his true passion.
Why is all of this important? There are a ton of benefits, both mentally and physically, of playing multiple sports while growing up.
- Injury Prevention: Many young female soccer players tear their ACL because of overuse. When they are constantly playing soccer, their muscles are only being used in one way, making them very susceptible to injury. Different sports require different muscle groups, different uses of the same muscles, and less of a chance of overuse.
- Increase Overall Strength: By using different muscle groups in different sports, young athletes increase their overall strength.
- Improve footwork: Soccer and basketball help increase speed, agility, coordination and balance. All of these things translate onto the tennis court. Just look at Nadal, Murray, Monfils, and Kyrgios’ footwork and movement on the court.
- Flexibility and Strength: Earlier this year, Djokovic revealed that he takes ballet. No wonder his strength, flexibility, and gracefulness are off the charts on the court.
- Avoid Burning Out: Playing multiple sports allows young athletes to change gears, to not focus all of their attention and energy on one sport all of the time. This keeps them interested and passionate about what they are playing.
- Field Vision: Vision is a key part of sports and something that is very difficult to teach. Multi-sport athletes will actually become smarter tennis players. By forcing them out of a type of tennis tunnel vision and focusing their attention on figuring out another sport, they will be able to more easily think through the complexities of tennis strategy. Kids will learn to see and understand the court or field more clearly.
- Mental toughness: Every sport requires mental toughness. Physical toughness is important, but I would argue mental toughness is one of the key factors that helps us accomplish incredible things. The mind is a very powerful tool. The more ways a young athlete is exposed to challenges and forced to prepare and react, the more mentally strong they will become.