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Optimum Performance: NFL quarterback, pro female tennis player face similar challenges |

Palm Beach Gardens, Fla. — For the past three weeks, I assisted a top NFL quarterback with his performance training objectives. This week I find myself coaching a top female tennis pro with her training plan. While the names of the two professionals are irrelevant, what is relevant are the game situations which they have in common.

In the case of the QB, he has less than four seconds to either advance the ball himself or transfer it to another teammate. The female tennis player must make a decision on how to react to her opponent’s serve in half that time.

On a drop back passing play, the QB can move between three to seven steps before he throws to his receiver, while the female tennis pro will move (mostly laterally) between four to six meters (one meter = 3 ft. 3 3/8th inches) to make contact with the ball in order to execute a return shot.

Both players perform on multiple surfaces during their respective seasons — synthetic turf and grass for the QB and hard court, clay or grass for the tennis pro. And speaking of seasons, the QB will start his “voluntary” offseason performance training with his team usually in April and complete the season in February — if he’s lucky enough to make it to the Super Bowl.

The female tennis pro will start her offseason training in early December — with her season ending in October — if she makes it to the World Championships.

As for punishment each game doles out, needless to say the QB competes in a game that has been labeled a train wreck on each play. And, with his hands above his chest on a passing play and his back turned away (blindside) from many of his oncoming tacklers, the QB is always at risk for injury.

The female tennis pro will changes directions more times in a three set match than the entire starting back field of a college football team does during a game. Needless to say, the trauma to the knees and back on each change of direction mount as the pro tennis season progresses.

If the QB gets hurt, the game goes on after the TV commercial, while he is being escorted or carried off the field. In the case of the tennis pro, if she gets hurt and is forced to “retire” during the match, she moves on to the next city on the tour.

Both can face similar climate situations relative to temperature and humidity. But, the QB may end up playing in rain, snow or sleet, and still must deliver a win. The tennis pro will have a game stoppage if it starts to rain, but those rain delays, much like in Major League Baseball, can wreak havoc on the ability to stay sharp and refocus at what might be at 1 a.m., when play resumes.

As for their respective training modes, both players can be considered overhead throwing or hitting athletes – with the tennis pro transitioning from a low to a high position in order to make contact with the ball on the downswing.

The QB, on the other hand, transitions from a low position (at the snap) to a set up to throw with the ball at shoulder height. Once he cocks the trigger, the QB must execute a rifle shot to a receiver, who undoubtedly is moving in unfriendly traffic patterns. A common thread for both athletes is the velocity and distance of their respective shots. But, while speed is impressive, accuracy kills and wins games too.

As the QB told me on the first day of our training, “If your not willing to do what it takes to play at the highest level, then you shouldn’t be out there in the first place.”

The female tennis pro said, “let’s do it.”

Enough said.

Mackie Shilstone, a regular contributor to | The Times-Picayune, has been involved in the wellness sports performance industry for nearly 40 years. He is currently a fitness consultant to Serena Williams and has trained numerous other professional athletes and consulted a litany of professional sports franchises. Contact him at

Source: Optimum Performance: NFL quarterback, pro female tennis player face similar challenges |