Hello, my name is P.J. Simmons, and I’m a Tennisaholic. By day I work on environmental issues (I chair the Corporate Eco Forum), but by night — and weekend and every spare moment possible– I play tennis. I’m also the founder of the The Tennis Congress, which I launched in 2013 as a means to give recreational tennis addicts like me access to pro-quality training with the world’s best teaching talent.

I love everything about tennis. Passionately. And my addiction only grows the better I become as a player. Because I started tennis relatively late in life, I’m on a mission to make up for lost time. So I’ve been investing a huge amount of time and money in my tennis education (clinics, privates, teams, online tools). So much so, in fact, that tennis is currently my sole “retirement fund”: I’m betting that my investments in training today will generate priceless dividends in the form of happiness and health down the road. Given the incredible amount I’m learning from amazing coaches and trainers, it occurred to me in summer 2012 that I might be able to help others with a similar drive to improve if I started documenting lessons learned (and frustrations) on my own journey. There’s no question I’ll learn a ton from the process of putting stuff down on paper (and video)– but it’s my sincere hope that sharing some of my own epiphanies and experiences will help others wanting to fast-track their own improvement. I also hope my posts help coaches on the lookout for new ways to explain things to students and help them break through to the next level. This blog is primarily geared towards players who share some (or all) of the following qualities:

  • You’re a tennis addict
  • You started playing (or returned to playing) as an adult
  • You want to push yourself to the highest level possible – as fast as possible
  • You want to train as efficiently and cost-effectively as possible

Full disclaimer: I am a student of the game, not a teaching pro, so fellow students are strongly advised to dive into many of the professional sites I’ll recommend on this blog for a far more comprehensive set of time-tested tools and strategies. My goal here is to add insights from a student’s perspective in ways that complement to all the great professional sites already out there. Some of my favorites include Jeff Salzenstein’s Total Tennis TrainingJohn Yandell’s TennisPlayer.netTennisResources.com, Will Hamilton’s Fuzzy Yellow Balls, Ian Westermann’s Essential Tennis, Fifth SetTomaz Menzinger’s Feel Tennis,  Florian Meier’s OnlineTennisInstruction, Clay Ballard’s TopSpeed Tennis, and Jeff Greenwald’s Fearless Tennis.

From a tennis fitness perspective, however, I have worked hard to become an expert on the kind of fitness training tennis players need– especially competitive adult recreational players– to enhance performance on court and ward off injuries well into our “golden years.” In my 20s I was a certified fitness instructor and in January 2014 became both a certified Personal Trainer by the International Sports Sciences Association (ISSA) and an iTPA Certified Tennis Performance Specialist — the gold standard certification for fitness training in the tennis industry. I also am an ISSA-certified “Specialist in Fitness Nutrition.” I pursued these certifications both to be more empowered to create sound training regimens for myself, but also to stay at the cutting edge in helping design the curriculum for The Tennis Congress. 

MY BACKSTORY

As a kid I was an avid spectator of tennis, but I never learned to play. None of my family or friends were into tennis. And my high school and early college years were totally focused on training for what I thought would be a career as a professional musician (I began as a trumpet performance major at the New England Conservatory). After college, I didn’t think I had the time or money to pursue tennis as a hobby, given my all-consuming, low-paying first jobs in Washington DC. The years passed and I was always “too busy” doing other stuff…

Everything changed in 2008 when I moved to New York City to a building literally across the street from the Manhattan Plaza Racquet Club.  I signed up for an advanced beginner’s clinic and I was hooked. Thanks to the encouragement of a great pro named Bruce Barney, I kept coming back about once a week. Within a year it was twice a week. By 2011, I was playing 3-4 times a week and going upstate for a weekend once a month to train at what became my “home away from home”: Total Tennis. In spring 2012, I captained my first USTA Men’s team.

Today I’m closing in on 4.0 level, but my real sights are set on getting to 4.5 within a few years. When I launched this blog one of my first coaches, Tumeka Harris, yelled at me for not naming this blog the “Road to 5.0 Tennis” because that’s what she thinks I’m capable of achieving in the next 5 years. I hope she’s right, and I’ll certainly work towards that. But for now, I’m keeping my eye on the 4.5 ball, which is at least a couple years of hard work away. In the meantime, I look forward to sharing everything I learn in the process of getting there.

You can reach me directly at: roadto45 [at] gmail.com
TWITTER@tenniscongress

36 Comments

  1. PAUL BIRNBERG
    Aug 22, 2017 @ 20:10:41

    On your blog you wrote, “Also, if you fly into Laguardia (LGA) there’s a special bus that will take you directly to the US Open.” From where and when does this bus leave Laguardia? At what price? Does the company running the service have a website describing it?

    Reply

    • P.J.
      Aug 22, 2017 @ 22:39:27

      Hi Paul, it’s the NYC MTA Q48 bus and it goes directly to CitiField/Mets-Willets –only about 5 min from Laguardia Airport. The stop on the MTA website is listed as ROOSEVELT AV/WILLETS PT BL STATIO. P.J.

      Reply

  2. MJ Sloan.
    Feb 20, 2017 @ 21:47:08

    What are you favorite places to train. Have you enjoyed any group trips.
    I am a 4.0 but would love to get to 4.5. I need work on my backhand and serve and strategy.

    I have been to Hyatt in Amelia Island , sea colony in Bethany beach De, wintergreen in VA, palmetto dune and sea pines on HHI. I have used these as vacations w a ton of tennis

    I have found the clinics at these resorts as valuable but they lack the individual focus on my weaknesses.

    I take weekly lessons w a club pro but find I am driving the boat and they can only get me so far.

    I have looked at the IMG Academy in FLA.

    Your blogs on Total Tennis in NY have intrigued me.

    Reply

  3. Kimbomama
    Dec 01, 2016 @ 15:16:51

    Hi, PJ:
    I agree with your coach wholeheartedly. Aim for 5.0. I started playing tennis at 30, had three kids, and have an active law practice. Years ago, I was an endurance athlete. Not anymore, to be clear. Two years ago, I was bumped up to 5.0. I cannot tell you the absolute level of humility I feel playing kids just out of DI tennis colleges in singles matches. But sometimes I get traction, and I’ve had to work a lot on fitness, some nutrition, certainly mental toughness (no one respects my skills, honestly, because everyone else at 5.0 is a former college player), and basic stroke production (esp with serve and volley). I love your website and will look to it. I’d add that rolling and MFR is a big part of my warm up regimen as I age. The aches and pains just keep coming!
    Good on ‘ya with the website!

    Reply

    • P.J.
      Dec 02, 2016 @ 17:32:15

      Hey there, thanks so much for writing! What a tremendous accomplishment reaching 5.0 after starting as an adult – congratulations. One of the many things I love about tennis is that we all bring something unique and special to it; rating levels and the ability to win is a function of so many interrelated skills — mental, physical, technical, tactical — and it sounds like you continue to make progress on all those fronts. Hopefully above all you are enjoying the journey! Thanks again for reaching out, and please keep me posted on how you’re doing. P.J.

      Reply

  4. Brian OConnor
    Nov 26, 2016 @ 22:37:15

    Hi PJ,
    Brian here a new alumni of Tennis Congress:) Being a teacher, I have two weeks off for the holidays. Have you come across any tennis clinics in December for players around 4.5? I love out in San Francisco. I would be open to traveling.
    Thank you,
    Brian

    Reply

    • P.J.
      Nov 28, 2016 @ 12:18:14

      Hey Brian! Haven’t heard of any high-level specialized clinics being planned but will keep ear to the ground… I’m sure you know about Tennis Resorts Online, but just in case — they have tons of great info and reviews. Wishing you very happy holidays!! P.J.

      Reply

  5. Denise
    Aug 23, 2016 @ 12:16:10

    Came across your site when my friend and I were trying to figure out which sections of the Grandstand/Louie Armstrong stadiums (stadia?) were NOT in the sun. Great article — I am referring to the one containing tips for a good experience at the U.S. Open.
    Like you, I love the game and like you, I hit at MP fairly often. Bruce is a great guy!
    Thanks for doing this blog, this is really cool. And thanks for the tips! They came in handy. We took your advice and bought seats in the soon-to-be-history Armstrong.
    Enjoy the Open!

    Reply

    • P.J.
      Aug 23, 2016 @ 12:23:27

      Hey Denise, thanks so much for the kind words – and how cool about the MP and Bruce connection! Enjoy Armstrong – you will love it. I’m so sad to see it go… Hope to see you on a court one of these days! P.J.

      Reply

  6. Kevin
    Jun 27, 2016 @ 19:30:07

    Cool! I’m similar to you. Sorry if you answered this already but did you make 4.5?

    I played high school and community college level (lower seeds). Got back into tennis again about three years ago and now almost 4.5.

    Reply

    • P.J.
      Jun 27, 2016 @ 20:16:30

      Hey there, great to hear from you. I’m almost done a new blog post that answers your question… the short answer is no, the long answer has to do with why I’m feeling good about that. Will definitely post it over the upcoming holiday weekend when I have some time to finish it! P.J.

      Reply

      • Kevin
        Jun 27, 2016 @ 20:40:26

        Thanks! Inspired that you love tennis like I do and that you made the tennis congress. I learned about you listening to Late to the Ball audiobook.

        I feel good where I’m at that I’m a 4.0 with some sparks of 4.5 play that happen from time to time. I organize a Wednesday doubles group that has been a joy.

        Tennis is a journey. Good luck and excited to hear about your path more.

        Reply

    • P.J.
      Jul 11, 2016 @ 00:02:09

      Hey Kevin, thanks again for writing and for asking! Great to hear about your progress. I finally was able to finish a post last week explaining where I am on my “Road”: http://www.roadto45tennis.com/detours-roadblocks-and-discoveries-on-the-road-to-4-5/ P.J.

      Reply

  7. Sally
    Nov 01, 2015 @ 22:43:42

    PJ, I just stumbled on your site — it’s an amazing tennis resource! Thank you for your tennis obsession and generosity in sharing the knowledge.

    Reply

    • P.J.
      Nov 02, 2015 @ 09:47:35

      Sally, thanks so much! I deeply appreciate the kind words!! P.J.

      Reply

  8. ShannonD
    Oct 08, 2015 @ 01:49:33

    I just found your site and I am so excited to read through past posts! After a college tennis career I hung up my rackets for almost 10 years. I recently picked them back up again and I’m re-addicted to my love for the game. But after 10 yrs off and three kids and an 80 lb weight gain I am working REALLY hard to get back into a fitness and rating level in happy with. My dream is to go to Nationals as a 4.5 competitive player. Right now I’m losing most my 4.0 matches because I get in my head and psych myself out but you’re inspiring me to keep working and not give up on my “grown up” tennis goals. Thanks for sharing your story!!!!

    Reply

    • P.J.
      Oct 08, 2015 @ 03:01:38

      Shannon, wonderful to hear from you and about your journey to dive back into your own Road to 4.5! Look forward to hearing more along the way… Thanks so much for writing and the very kind words! P.J.

      Reply

  9. Gary Barawidan
    Sep 07, 2015 @ 17:35:09

    Awesome. I’m interested in finding itpa pro to start training. Please email me I have questions.

    Reply

  10. Urmez V. Davar
    Sep 04, 2015 @ 00:23:22

    PJ,

    My family and I are coming to the evening session this Saturday. The tickets say entry around 5:00 p.m. Is it possible to enter the facility before 5:00 p.m.?

    In addition, do you know who might be playing in the evening sessions this Saturday?

    Thanks

    Urmez

    Reply

    • P.J.
      Sep 04, 2015 @ 06:34:58

      Hi Urmez, unfortunately not – 5pm is earliest they’ll let you in for an evening session ticket. You can look at schedule from yesterday to figure out who’s playing on Saturday, but you never know who they will actually put on Ashe for evening until they announce. PJ

      Reply

  11. Becky
    May 01, 2014 @ 11:51:42

    P.J. – you’ve been an inspiration to both myself and my sister!

    I met P.J. at his first U.S. Tennis Congress – what an AMAZING event! (We just signed up for 2014!!)

    My local pros are fabulous and are so supportive as well. I played until I was 11 in CT. Then, horseback riding took over my life for the next 44 years until I retired my last heart horse. I picked up a racquet in October 2011 when a Match.com date suggested it for a first date. (Unfortunately, romance did not follow, except for my passion for TENNIS! LOL) I discovered we had a pro at our subdivision and it all began.

    When I was considering moving from the Richmond, VA area to Austin, TX (where my sister lived), I told her I would only consider moving if she found us a nice place to play tennis. She did – and only minutes from our home. :)

    Anyway, I play a ladies doubles club league, USTA 3.0 league and Ultimate Tennis League (believe it or nor, USTA Flex is not offered in Austin – thus playing Ultimate – same idea). I also take a couple private lessons a week as well as drills and just hitting with the ladies.

    While my play has improved over this 2.5 year period, it’s my mental game that I believe has made most of the difference in my results as well as being ok with not so good “score results”. US Tennis Congress played a HUGE part in this. It gave me the tools, along with local pro support, to stay positive, confident and happy, not matter how the match is going.

    I’ve had an incredible win streak this season, which ended last night in my Ultimate Playoff Finals. I had lost my one match (the first one of the season) to this really good playing lady (about 6′ and 20 years younger than me LOL) 4&2. I was looking forward to a re-match as no one had gotten more than 5 games off her all season. I’d played a Long three set doubles league match in the morning, suffered through a migraine at lunch, then sitting at the computer working for a couple hours before driving to her club to play our match. I’m happy to say, that while I lost (4-6,6-4,4-6), I battled every shot and point, mind over body at times. 😉 I felt blessed to be out there and doing what I love. (And I look forward to playing her again in the 3.5 Ultimate this summer. We both got bumped up.)

    I have a tough USTA singles match coming up tomorrow. Our team is in first place and there’s a lot of pressure to stay there. The best thing is that while I know I’ll feel the pressure and nerves, I also feel confident that my mind will not get in the way of my play. (At least that’s the plan. 😉 )

    THANK YOU, P.J!!!

    Reply

  12. A reader
    Jan 13, 2014 @ 13:54:54

    Hi, I started reading your blog last year and I can identify with you. I am female, started playing at 32 (2007), and I got bumped to a 4.5 last November. I don’t have much time to practice, due to family, work, having baby, etc, but I sneak in some tennis in between whenever I can. I play mostly singles, and I hit against the wall a lot, it’s cheap and time effective. Of course the women’s game is a lot less competitive then man’s, you could become a 4.5 easily if you were an athletic inclined woman =). On to 5.0 now! Best Wishes.

    Reply

  13. Steve
    Jan 12, 2014 @ 13:25:25

    Similar story here. Musician who started playing tennis late in life. (At 35. I’m 38 now.) I’m happy with my progress and am also closing in on 4.0. I need a second serve that does more than surprise my opponents with its sheer lameness. (It’s so slow sometimes that people net the ball or hit long) I also need to improve my footspeed and timing on the backhand wing so I’m not always forced to hit the slice. I have been told by 4.0 and 4.5 players I’ve played against that my consistency is really good and that upping the pace of my rally balls will go a long way to bringing my level up another notch. So I’ll be working on that in the coming year. I am glad to have found your site as your experience seems to mirror my own in many ways. I will follow with interest.

    Reply

  14. John
    Dec 12, 2013 @ 17:51:14

    P.J.:

    I loved your article :10 Tips for Better Doubles Strategy.” Great work–keep it up.

    Reply

  15. JB
    Sep 17, 2013 @ 11:39:55

    This blog is primarily for young folks. Obsessive tennis is extremely damaging to the joints, especially at a high level like 4.5, requiring ultra quick poaching, pivoting and hard serves. The knee joint and serving shoulder capsule will be damaged, not if, but when….it has been established through clinical indications, across many studies.
    Social tennis on clay where points are longer is noted more healthy. As with most addictions, the downside can be negative.
    Enjoy the game. “Tennis, the greatest game”~Arthur Ashe

    Reply

    • P.J.
      Sep 17, 2013 @ 12:02:44

      Thanks for your comments – we clearly agree that Tennis is the “greatest game”! But I have a different viewpoint regarding age and level of play. Being a 4.5 player surely may look different at different ages – but from what I’ve seen, getting older doesn’t preclude maintaining a high level of play. For instance, older players may not have 100+ mph serves, but they often have fluid service motions with effective spin and smart placement that enables them to compete at a 4.5+ level (while keeping their shoulders healthy). Similarly, older players that can no longer do “ultra-quick” movements safely can still retain a high level of play by playing smarter and more strategically. I personally know many terrific 4.5+ players in their 40s, 50s, 60s and above who are healthy and injury-free because they have trained smart both on court and off. At 46 I’m in the best shape of my life and injury free because I’m doing tennis-specific off-court training exercises and playing with better and better technique and court movement skills.

      That said, for sure the vast majority of recreational players don’t do enough (or any) off-court conditioning to enable their bodies to withstand the demands of high-level tennis. So they do get injured and their level drops.

      Perhaps most important, every individual is different with a unique fitness background and physical profile. So the wisest course is to consult with their physician, physical therapists and trained professionals (and listen to our own bodies) to determine the specific training regimen and goals appropriate for our own unique circumstances.

      I wish us both many more years of healthy fulfillment from our great sport!

      Reply

      • Brian OConnor
        Nov 26, 2016 @ 22:55:29

        I love this response PJ. I would love to raise my level to 5.0, and it’s inspiring to read this specific response. I’ve heard a lot of naysayers talk about injuries that would result from being 44. I now know I need to start doing some cross training like you have.
        Thanks,
        Brian

        Reply

  16. Wilie
    May 27, 2013 @ 20:46:58

    Born and raised in NYC. Moved to Florida in 1988 at the age of 25. Met a girl in 1995 who introduced me to tennis. Ended up befriending her ex-fiancé/my future tennis coach and ended up Florida #1 in 4.5 in 1999. Stopped playing for ten years due to injury. (Second neck surgery). Picked up the game again two years ago and now I am back on the wagon. I’m 48 and playing hard, shooting to be better than I previously, in my mind, was. Great blog!

    Reply

    • P.J.
      May 28, 2013 @ 09:17:11

      Willie, Thanks and great to hear from you! So good to hear you’ve recovered from the surgery and are “back on the wagon.” Keep up the great work and please keep me posted on your progress. If you ever feel like writing a guest blog on any big things you’re learning on your road to improve, would be awesome. P.J.

      Reply

  17. Rich
    Jan 26, 2013 @ 14:21:24

    Hi P J

    I was a. 4.5 player. For 20. Years

    Now. I. Play. 4.0. Senior. Tennis

    I think the real difference between the two levels of competition

    Net Play

    Second serves

    Confidence

    Movement. at a quicker pace

    Focus on those areas.

    Play,against. 4.5 players. You can tell real quick. What’s missing

    Than find one of these guys to play. Doubles your level goes up real quick

    Good luck

    Rich

    Reply

  18. Tomaz Mencinger
    Oct 10, 2012 @ 11:41:03

    Hey P.J.,

    Found your site through Youtube video of Federer. You’re sharing some great ideas on your site which are interesting and useful even for a veteran tennis coach. Keep ’em coming!

    Reply

    • P.J.
      Oct 10, 2012 @ 11:45:29

      Tomaz, I’m deeply honored and thrilled that some of what I’m sharing might be helpful. Thanks so much for the encouraging words! P.J.

      Reply

  19. Nadine
    Sep 18, 2012 @ 10:58:15

    Great idea. Fabulous blog. Thanks PJ for sharing and hope see you on the courts soon!!

    Reply

  20. Bob Brusa
    Aug 07, 2012 @ 16:28:46

    Great I agree with the 5.0 statement. Go get them PJ. I have no doubts about you.

    Reply

  21. Rob MacMillan
    Aug 07, 2012 @ 12:59:59

    Hey, PJ – Great idea, and way cool blog. Inspiring an old guy who is always too busy to go out and play.

    Reply

  22. Dawn Georgoulis
    Aug 04, 2012 @ 10:24:38

    Love your blog. Looking forward to reading all of it.
    And having seen you play I have no doubt that you will reach your goal!
    Go PJ

    Reply

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