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If you’re a boy who likes playing sports and you grew up in the U.S. you probably played football. Even if you didn’t play on an organized team, you probably threw a ball around with your dad and played a game of touch now and then with your friends.

While you were tossing around the pigskin on those crisp fall days of your youth, you didn’t even realize you were setting your tennis game back years.

If you’ve ever taken serving lessons you might have heard a tennis pro tell you that serving is approximately the same motion as throwing a football. Some pros will even bring nerf footballs onto the court and have their students toss them over the net to get a feel for the service motion.

Don’t believe them.

Seriously, think about throwing a football. Where are your eyes? They aren’t affixed to the ball, that’s for sure. Your eyes are downfield, looking for an open receiver and oncoming rushers. The throwing motion might be similar to the service motion, but the all-important eyes are focused in completely different locations for each.

Boys who played football have been trained since childhood not to look at the ball, but to direct their attention out in front. The habit is ingrained, and exceptionally difficult to break. And in truth, it affects more than just the serve.

But it can be done, and being aware of the problem is a big step in the right direction.

The next time you’re practicing your serve, keep the football throwing motion in mind, but let go of the need to be looking down field. Your first serve percentage will thank you.

Next: How Baseball and Volleyball Help Your Tennis Game

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