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Kirk Cousins Explains Carryover Benefits of Tennis & Learning About Pete Sampras' Serve


Tennis anyone?

How about tennis for everyone?

Count Kirk Cousins in for a match, or at least recurring drills.

The Vikings quarterback participated in an interview with USTA Director of Tennis Engagement Leah Friedman for an episode of "Net Generation Live" that aired Wednesday afternoon on USTA social platforms. Cousins explained that he worked the sport into his football offseasons after speaking with fellow NFL QB Drew Brees.

"He was one of the people who actually made me think about getting into tennis because he said he plays a little bit in the offseason, and as I learned more about what it could do for me I thought, 'If it's good enough for Drew Brees, it's good enough for me.' "

Cousins is stringent about offseason conditioning with multiple types of football drills that he's added during his career, but he's also found overlapping benefits.

"I was looking for an activity I could do that was a little more fun, a little more engaging, involved hand-eye coordination but would still provide the agility and training that I needed to get my heart rate up," Cousins said. "I didn't want to have any risk of injury — playing pick-up basketball is an option, but the odds of rolling an ankle are pretty high — so I thought tennis fit the bill.

"When I got out here and started playing, I couldn't believe how much carryover there was to quarterbacking, from the motion of the serve being like the throwing motion, to all of the movements on the court mimicking the way I have to move on the field, to the cardiovascular work," he continued. "I said, 'I've got something here.' And I was having a lot of fun, too, so I look forward to training and can't wait to get out and play tennis whenever I get the chance."

Cousins said he was particularly surprised to learn just how interconnected the serve motion is in tennis to the one he uses to throw footballs.

"I … mentioned that to the pro that I was hitting with, and he said, 'Well, yeah, Pete Sampras used to warm up for matches by throwing a football, to get his shoulder ready for serving,' " Cousins said. "So there clearly was a carryover, and that led me to … focus on using the serve to help build arm strength and shoulder health for when I'm throwing the football."

The serves actually mark a return to the court for Cousins, who played tennis and golf in summers through middle school but focused on baseball during the springs of his high school years. The bats and gloves followed the hoops and hardwood that occurred after the shoulder pads and helmets of fall.

Cousins is grateful his parents encouraged him to play multiple sports.

"My mom and dad had me really well-rounded. It was football, basketball, baseball as a starting point, tennis and golf in the summer because I grew up in the North, so it was harder to get outside in the winter, and then we were playing roller hockey in the driveway — just about anything we could get our hands on, we tried," Cousins said. "I ended up playing football, basketball and baseball all the way through high school and played competitively in tennis through middle school, but then baseball took over as a spring sport in high school. I stayed very multiple until I got to college and had to hone-in on football, and I'm so glad I did stay multiple. I think it helped me stay away from having injuries, kept me well-rounded and developed a lot of skills that I still use on the football field."

It's an approach Cousins plans to implement with his two young sons when asked about the advice he'd share with other parents.

"I'd say try to have them play as many [sports] as they can to stay well-rounded and let the kid kind of discover which one he takes to and which one steals his heart, because parents will often push," Cousins said. "They want to see them in a certain sport — and many times for the kids' best interests — but I do think if you expose them to a lot of different activities, you can start to see the one their heart is in, the one they love going to practice and going to play. I know for me, I'll try to expose my kids to all of the different activities and see which ones they gravitate toward and then start to try to develop them in those specific ones."