Arum Akom’s tips for tennis beginners
"It’s honestly one of the most fun sports you could choose."
As a former player who picked up the basics and the enjoyment of tennis as a child, Akom has experienced both sides of the game on and off the court. He played in holiday camps and tournaments when he was younger and spent most of his spare time in evenings and school holidays playing tennis.
But a draw towards coaching led Akom along this path at the age of 15 when he began as a volunteer assistant coach at a local tennis club.
Akom now has a wide range of coaching experiences with children from a range of age groups. He is eager to inspire the next generation of tennis players in the area where he grew up.
Here he shares some of his best tips with Alex Waite for beginners looking to get into the game and advice on how players can get the best out of their serve.
AW: Is there any advice you would give to players who haven’t tried tennis yet but would like to give it a go?
Arum Akom: It’s honestly one of the most fun sports you could choose, it doesn’t require a lot of things for you to do it, even if you don’t have a tennis racquet or a ball, there’s still a lot you could learn, tennis-related skills that you can benefit from, there’s always something you can learn. You can play with someone or without someone that adds another benefit. There’s a lot to learn, I’d advise players to pick up a racquet. It’s a skill for life so it’s always something that can develop long-term. There are so many different avenues tennis can take you through.
AW: If someone doesn’t have access to a racquet, tennis balls or a court, are there any exercises or drills that kids can do at home or with a friend?
Arum Akom: Looking online is the easiest thing you can do these days. There are so many videos out there that you’ll be able to see and just put it on a screen, copy someone in front of you and try it out. Try to develop the movements you have already because tennis and most sports require a lot of general, fundamental movements that we use in sports and in general life. So if you can develop the coordination of those key skills your chance of development will be better and you’ll find it easier. It could be running or jumping. Developing the quality and consistency of those is a good place to start if you don’t have someone there to help you through.
"The serve is a relaxed motion and it is something you have control over so you can take your time."
"You want to have as much fun as you can."
AW: Serving is the best part of tennis for a lot of players. Do you have any tips for someone looking to improve the process of the serve?
Arum Akom: Use as much physical energy from the ground up as opposed to just your racquet. A lot of players think about pure physical power coming from the racquet but you’ve got to use your body so I always like to use the legs when trying to develop the serve and that will start with the jump. You’ve got to learn how to coordinate the body to understand how to propel up to the ball because the ball is tossed into the air, once a player propels themselves, they’re up and everything goes from there. The serve is a relaxed motion and it is something you have control over so you can take your time, it’s common for players to rush and think about the impact of hitting the ball. Bounce the ball a couple of times, look at your spot where you want to aim, think about where your opponent is standing. Breathe, make sure you’re nice and relaxed before you go through the motion and stay relaxed so you can generate smooth natural power than aggressive, forced power.
AW: What are the three main things you’d focus someone to focus on if they’re just starting out with tennis?
- Have a positive mindset: Understand there is a chance you may make mistakes and don’t let that put you down that you can’t do it, it’s just a learning process you have to go through like anything in life.
- You want to have as much fun as you can: Because we want you to come back whether it’s a coach or a friend, whoever you’re playing with, that person wants you to come back so try to enjoy the process if you can. From my experience, most people don’t enjoy it because they don’t think they’re doing well.
- Think outside the box: As a coach, it’s very common for us to tell you things, we will try to give you all the answers but there are times where I sit back and let my students try to work it out. Be prepared to be open-minded to understand what you need to do to make the correction. Tennis is a sport where you have to react and you haven’t got a lot of time to think because you’ve got a ball coming at you very fast so you’ve got to stay sharp and you’ve got to think on the spot.