Is Repetition The Only Way To Learn

Repetition in Tennis

The age old way of getting tennis students to learn a particular shot was to give them repetitive exercises to instil the technique in their brain.

This can be an effective way of teaching, but it is also incredibly boring and can risk losing the student to the game completely. Many coaches preach that repetition is the key to instinctive and subconscious play. And only through repetition can a player truly play in an automatic fashion.

Your body has an incredible aptitude to change, adapt and to some extent mold itself to new behavioural patterns. The rationale to this coaching theory is sound, repetition makes your play automatic.

The Two Principles Of Learning

There are a basic two principles of learning and they are:-

  • Repetition
  • Time


To master a new movement it is important to repeat the action over and over again. Patients who have been in rehab can enforce this ideal. In tennis however it does not have to be the exact same drill, in can be a combination of activities that cover the necessary actions.

Repetition plays on your subconscious, you might not feel that you are learning at the time but subconsciously you are taking all the relevant data on board and it is getting stored in a new file in your brain.

Then in one match an occasion will arise for a particular shot you have been trying to learn. You will be amazed when you deliver the perfect shot, and wonder how on earth did you manage it.


Think of all that repetition, and think how long it takes to learn new things in this fashion. And you will then understand that the second principle of learning is time.

The brain is a complex part of the body, and teaching it something new is quite an advanced request you are asking it to do. In layman’s terms a new file needs to be opened and new data needs to be written in it.
There is also a chemical element involved in that the brain matter needs to change chemically in its evolvement. This all takes time, and if enough time has not been devoted then you will learn very little.

An example would be if you hit a thousand balls a month to improve a particular shot. Then you decide to change strategy to speed things along a little and hit a thousand balls on the first day of the month and do nothing for the remainder of the month. The results would be not nearly as effective, as there has been not enough time for your brain to register the data, a thousand balls hit during the course of the whole month would be much more effective.

When you take regular coaching sessions with your tennis coach he will explain these two principles over and over again as they are the foundation of your learning.