No matter if you’re playing in sectionals or just for fun…when it comes to tennis, preparation is everything. In the recreational world of tennis, players come to the courts carrying all sorts of different items. Some show up with a single racket in their bag, and maybe a tennis towel and a water bottle, while others carry an extra large tennis bag with 5 rackets and a small store inside it.
But honestly, there is nothing better being “too prepared”. Other than the obvious (like your tennis racket) there are so many other useful things you really should have in your bag at all times, and here is my list of 14 of them:
Tennis Balls: OK…tennis balls are obvious…but I’m talking about unopened, pressure-sealed tennis balls. Having a fresh can of tennis balls in your bag means you are always ready to play. Even if you’re just hitting with friends, you should still use new balls because used balls are much softer and have a heavier feel to them, unlike the new balls you hit with in league matches. And when you’re done, you can add them to your hopper for serve practice or use them to massage trouble spots in your feet, back, shoulder, or wherever it’s sore.
Extra Grips: If you play a lot of tennis you know how important this one is…especially in the hot summer months. When you sweat a lot it gets all over your grips and makes them slippery which can cause them to fall apart, and there’s nothing worse than trying to grip it and rip it when your racket handle is slippery. A quick grip change during a set break can help you get a better handle on your game ;-)
Extra Socks: I can’t stand it when my feet are all sweaty in my tennis shoes…it’s SO nasty! Aside from feeling gross, you can actually get blisters from your moist foot rubbing against the damp sock which is rubbing on the inside of your shoe…and who wants blisters, right? Though tennis shoes will develop a smelly odor over time, changing your socks also helps keep your shoes from getting stinky as fast. It doesn’t matter if it’s freezing outside or the middle of the summer, ALWAYS keep an extra pair of socks in your bag.
Notebook (and pen): No matter what level you play, this is a really helpful tool. A notebook is good for two things: 1) you can write down your errors and ways to correct them after discussing them with your coach or instructor, and 2) if you’re a league player, you can write down the names of your opponents that had particular strengths or weaknesses so you can be ready for them next season. USTA Comment 30.1 for Rule 30 in “The Code” states: A player may bring to the court written notes that were prepared before the start of the match and may read these notes during the match. So the next time you find yourself down a set in a match, just whip out your notebook and you’ll probably have the tools to win your match!
Extra Sweatbands: Most league players I know show up to their matches wearing the only one or two sweatbands they will have during the entire match. And on hot, sunny days, those will get drenched pretty quickly, basically turning into sweaty-wet washcloths wrapped around your wrist…YUCK! Keep an extra pair or two like these from Wristpect Sport in your bag and not only will you keep the sweat out of your eyes, but you’ll look fabulous while doing it!
Extra Towels: A towel can serve so many purposes. It can wipe off excess sweat, provide shade, and even cool you down if you have the right kind. Just a plain cotton towel works great for wiping your grip, face, and hands during a match, but these work great for keeping you cool on changeovers.
Body Spray Or Cologne: This is to put on after you play, so that way you don’t smell like a gym locker when you go to the club or a restaurant for a bite to eat (or celebratory cocktail) afterward.
Sunscreen: I think we all know that sunscreen is a MUST if you’re doing anything outside, especially for long periods of time. Make sure it’s the spray kind (it’s too hard to get off your palms) and apply 45 minutes prior to being on the court, and re-apply after an hour (during a changeover or between sets). The spray on type works best because you won’t get it on the palms of your hands so it won’t affect your grip. Though I prefer all-organic everything, I haven’t found a brand that works well for tennis (and believe me, I’ve tried!), so I use Banana Boat Sport “CoolZone” SPF 30 which smells as great as it works – and it’s pretty cheap too!
Lip Balm With Sunscreen: Lips can get very chapped–even sunburned–after a couple of hours in the sun, so it’s important to use a lip balm like this one that’s all-natural with SPF 45 when you’re out on the courts.
Extra Dampeners: If you’re a fan of using vibration dampeners, it’s a good idea to have a few extra in your bag as certain types can come off fairly easily, especially if you make off-center contact. These are too funny!
Instant Ice Pack: If you knowingly play with an injury (I did in order to move to the next division), these are great to have on hand to apply immediately after your match, speeding up recovery time as well as preventing small injuries from becoming larger ones. And if there is ever an emergency, this will help until you can get to a doctor. Hopefully, you’ll never have to use them, but they are SO useful if you ever do.
First Aid Kit: It doesn’t have to be anything fancy…this small one is perf. Some New Skin is great to have on hand as well; it covers blisters and scrapes just like skin and takes away the pain. I’d throw in some Tylenol too, in case you or a teammate (or even an opponent) has a headache or cramps, or needs help minimizing swelling in case of injury.
Flip-flops: YAAAAASSSSS!! When your match is over and your feet are killing you, it feels so great to take off your shoes and socks and walk around in some fun flip-flops like these. It helps to even out your “sock tan” too.
These are all of the things that in my opinion, are “must-haves” for everyone’s tennis bag. What do you have in your bag that’s a must? Tell us about it in the comments section below!