How to Remain Competitive in Tennis, or Any Sport, as an Adult

Posted by Nick Crossley on October 29, 2020

Successful athletes all have goals and aspirations. It is important to realize that these goals may need to change depending on many variables. Adults typically will have an athletic experience advantage, but must figure out how to deal with limitations that can be physical or the result of leading very busy lives. I truly believe that there are many worthwhile challenges in sports that can help keep the competitive fire going for people of any age.

Demands of Job and Parenting

Many tennis players have commented to me “It must be nice to be able to train while on the job”. As a tennis pro, I must admit that there are some benefits to my game having a racket in my hand 30-40 hours each week. The tough part for me is finding motivation and energy to train after being on my feet all day. For others, working a 9-5 job away from the tennis court also brings its own set of challenges. Here are a few obstacles and how they can be overcome:

1. Time – Many people use the excuse that there is not enough time in their busy lives to train. I would highly recommend that you prioritize time to play your favorite sport and also train to avoid injury. There must be something in your schedule that you can compromise. Do you really need to stay up late and catch up on everything that happened on Twitter? Unfortunately, I am still struggling with this one!

Start small by creating an extra hour or two for yourself each week. You can decide if it is possible to expand on that time in small increments. The key is to train smart with the time carved out.

A list helps. Jimmy Connors was known for doing extremely intense workouts in just 45-60 minutes. The workout intensity is much more important than the amount of time spent, regardless of age. When I plan on sandwiching a workout around a full day this principle holds true.

2. Goals – In high school or college, many of us were on a team. Having team and individual goals were easy. While finding a team may be challenging, there are still opportunities such as USTA teams at all levels and age groups in the tennis world.

Individual goals can still be reached as well! Now that I will never again see a day in my 30s, my tennis training is focused on winning a gold ball in the 40 and over USTA division. It would be a great excuse to spend some time in California or Florida.

If you see me on the court training with some of our youngsters in town, it is so that I have a chance to compete in tournaments. Whether your goal is to compete with people your age and younger, or simply to shed a few pounds and stay in shape, sports can help you accomplish the set goal.

3. Family – Marriage and kids are the greatest blessings I will ever have in my life. They will always come first. Yet, it is not selfish to carve out some me time. I believe the key to this is prioritizing your training and being creative.

I find that the most peaceful time in my day is the early morning, well before the sun rises. Of course, getting up is completely dependent on me shutting down the Twitter time at night, so I can wake up with energy.

Another option is to become a Weekend Warrior and decide to really crush it when your work week is complete. Dad mode at Chuck E Cheese feels so much better after getting an intense workout in beforehand!

Injuries and Prevention

It took a knee operation and a cartilage loss for me to drastically change my training. My sports regimen was always very rigorous and included vast amounts of grinding on basketball and tennis courts. After knee surgery, at the age of 35 and words of caution from my surgeon, I eliminated competitive basketball and focused on quality rather than quantity in my tennis training. The experience also helped me understand that more off court strength training was crucial to preventing additional injuries.

Embracing new challenges as I age truly invigorates me. Instead of playing basketball, I ride my bike to work trying to build leg strength. Weight room exercises are focused on strengthening by using pulling movements. In tennis, almost every movement involves pushing. So it is not wise for me to focus on exercises such as bench press.

The goal is to balance out the muscles that I use on the tennis court. Pull ups, rowing, hamstring exercises, and core work are crucial so that I can offset my tennis training. Finding motivation to do these exercises can be directly tied to the success that I strive for when competing!


Physical activity and sports can really help us find an identity and give our lives’ greater meaning. I think that many of us put our own aspirations on the backburner as we get older. While it is probably a good idea to give up the dream of playing at Wimbledon, there are many achievable goals we can set for ourselves! Good luck on your personal journeys and feel free to come sweat with me on the tennis courts!

Nick Crossley

Nick Crossley

Nick has been teaching tennis since 2002 and enjoys working with the casual tennis player as well with higher level college and high school players. Nick is currently the head coach of the Rochester Century boy’s high school team and assistant coach of the Carleton College men’s team. He enjoys spending his free time with his wife and their two boys.

Contact Nick Crossley at (507) 287-9335 ext. 308.

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