|THIS ARTICLE EXPLORES THE CONNECTION BETWEEN THE |
GROUND AND THE SWING, AND THE BEST WAY TO DEVELOP IT
The term loading refers to a player interacting with the ground by bending their knees and thrusting out of that position to create greater racquet-head speed. While that is exactly what happens on all good ground-strokes, serves, returns and overheads, teaching a player to only load the ground can be detrimental.
A player who follows the instruction to load will go through the action of bending their knees. This is what most coaches want to “see” and with a small percentage of “talented” players that process of loading automatically translates into better timing and increased racquet-head speed.
Unfortunately the majority of players suffer the reverse effect. For them the timing can actually get worse and they can be labeled slow learners or lacking in talent. The closer they follow instructions the worse it gets.
The problem with the term loading is that it only describes the action of preparing the ground for the inertia that will transfer energy from the ground, through the body in a chain reaction and eventually into racquet-head speed. It’s like sitting someone in a car and expecting them to know how to get to the next destination simply because you have introduced them to the car!
Loading is the beginning of timing, power and consistent ball striking but surely the player needs to be aware that those are the goals, otherwise they continue to focus on simply loading and bent knees. I have seen players instructed to load by staying down and remaining bent at the knees during the entire stroke, as if bent knees were the magic formula for everything that ails a player!
I encourage players to not only load the ground but to also think in a more wholistic way. I try to encourage players to critique their strokes in terms of timing and ease of effort. A stroke that is timed well and flows easily most certainly has good ground (loading).
Therefore loading also has other applications other than creating racquet-head speed on ground-strokes. Loading is necessary to supply timing for all the other strokes we use. Think of the serve (knee bend), the return (often only toes used but that’s still a form of loading). Even the volley benefits from the step used to get near the ball. That step is also a form of loading.
The next time you are trying to add power to your game be sure to maintain a broader mindset. It’s about transferring ground forces through the body to the racquet-head. It’s a multi-faceted process that goes beyond just loading the ground.