Showing posts with label tennis technique. Show all posts
Showing posts with label tennis technique. Show all posts

Thursday, May 9, 2019

WHERE DO YOU SEND YOUR AWARENESS?




“THE ABILITY TO QUICKLY SHIFT YOUR AWARENESS AROUND TO DIFFERENT PARTS OF YOUR GAME IS A KEY TO PLAYING WELL”



You need the ability to shift your awareness around as you play. Each shot requires a slightly different focus, no stroke is the same.



Here are some of the main areas you need to send your awareness to as you play a match. Some of the areas I mention may surprise you. Tennis is not just about awareness of the ball and your opponent… there’s much more to tennis than that!



1.   Court Awareness

Because you are playing the ball from different places within the court you need to shift your awareness to where you are standing sometimes.



This is even more important when you are in less familiar territory such as very deep off the baseline or very wide on either side of the court.



When you are made to play from these “special” positions on the court, shifting your awareness to where you are standing will help you factor in the height of the net, the distance to the baseline and the type of spin required.



2.  Ball Awareness

The ball tells you everything. It tells you when to move back (for deep balls), when to move forward (short balls) and the timing you will need to adjust to (slow or fast ball)



Therefore, an awareness of the ball is critical to playing well



3.  Opponent Awareness

Opponent awareness covers both where you should hit the ball (hopefully where your opponent is not!) and the type of ball you should hit to your opponent (tactical)



Far too many players are concerned only with what THEY are doing. Developing opponent awareness will take your game to the next level.



4.  Racquetface Awareness

If I was only allowed to give just one tip to a player it would be… develop your awareness of your racquet head.



The racquet head is the surface the ball takes its instructions from. If a player has no feel or control of  their racquet head they will never reach a higher level



Great awareness of your racquet head is more important than footwork!



5.  Self-Awareness

To play well you must be constantly monitoring yourself.

Awareness of your technique, confidence levels, fitness levels and the type of strategy you are using are all important during a match




Wednesday, April 3, 2019

LEARN FROM ROD LAVER





MY FAVOURITE PLAYER  GROWING UP WAS ROD LAVER. 

What I admired most about "Rocket" was that he was just a normal guy, humble, down to earth and hard working.

During his career Laver was known for his ability to play his best tennis when it mattered most. He hardly ever lost a five set match.

Here are 2 ways for you to learn from Rod "Rocket" Laver:

#  1  Stay focused in the present. Allowing your mind to get too far ahead or beating yourself before you get on the court can be disastrous. Avoid the internal mind games by sticking to tactics and don't allow yourself to lose focus on executing them throughout the match.

Laver built up a reputation during his career of coming up with something special when a match got tight. Begin building your legacy in tight situations!


#  2  Simulate match pressure during practice sessions:  Train in a similar way to what you will experience during competition. 

Laver and many of his peers trained under the legendary Australian coach Harry Hopman. In his day Harry Hopman revolutionized  the way tennis was trained. He insisted on each one of his players being extremely fit, far beyond the norm during that era.

In matches Hopman was also famous for telling his players to "Relax and hit for the lines". 

This is how Laver trained under Hopman both as a youngster and while he was on top. By adopting a similar attitude and work ethic in your training also, you will be able to better handle yourself under difficult conditions in real matches.    

Monday, March 25, 2019

BE CAREFUL WHAT YOU SAY!



A coach can only do so much with a player who is experiencing destructive mental issues related to tennis competition.

Players who find competition mentally too much to handle and suffer from choking, low levels of self confidence or an inability to close out important matches are generally the victims of their environment. They are reflecting the environment they live in everyday when they compete in matches.

Prolonged and repeated negative mental issues in matches when competing as a junior player, also continue to be a problem for the player much later in life, even though the environment which has caused the mental issues in the first place might have changed for the better.


Considering a majority of competitive junior players suffer from an almost crippling mental war inside their heads, it would be fair to say that a majority of players never fully reach their true potential.

It therefore becomes clear that the  environment we grow up in when we start our tennis is critically important. 

Coaches can sometimes merely inherit the mental problems of their students, although in some cases coaches actually add to, or at worst create the negative mental issues.

This article therefore is for Parents and Coaches who need help in understanding how to avoid their child or student developing mental issues related to competition in the first place. It can also be a reference in how to handle players who have already developed issues mentally and ultimately how to reverse the problem.


A father recently messaged me while on his way to a tournament with his son. They were on their way to play the first day of the Nationals.

The stress in the car must have been considerable because his son had asked his father "What if I lose"?

His father had messaged me asking "What should I tell him"?

The most important thing for Parents and Coaches to remember is that in order to play at their best a player must enjoy the process of playing. Enjoyment unlocks the mind and allows you to perform to your potential. Any form of mental contamination will hurt your performance.

The root causes of contamination are broad but can include unrealistic expectations, unrealistic pressure, low self esteem, low self confidence and fear.

In my experience most of this is picked up by young players from the people they want to please the most, parents and coaches. It is therefore important to know now that what you say as a parent or a coach becomes extremely powerful... the emotion you send to a young player within your comments is magnified 5 times!

 IF YOU THINK THE SUBTLE COMMENT YOU JUST MADE WAS NO BIG DEAL, MAGNIFY IT BY FIVE TIMES... NOW TELL ME IT WASN'T MEANT TO HURT OR PUT STRESS ON THE CHILD!


I prepare myself to react to situations around players. I prepare for possible questions that may come, either in a few moments or in several days. I'm ready.

I also react to questions or situations in the third person. Often I observe myself speaking to a player from the perspective of the third person, monitoring my words, my tone and my body language.

Timing is important. Don't bring up possible stressful topics around stressful times, before or after matches for example. I'm not saying tough topics can't be discussed. I'm saying be smart with when you bring them up. 

DEVELOP EMPATHY FOR YOUR CHILD OR STUDENT

Parents often ask me what they can do that makes a real difference to their child's tennis. By monitoring how you act and what you say around your child you will create an environment whereby a happy, competitive player emerges. This is the single most important  ingredient in developing a successful player.

With enough awareness and empathy you will also be able to correct unwanted behavioural problems that have already developed.

Sunday, February 24, 2019

THE ROLE OF THE WRIST ON THE SERVE



The wrist plays a really important role in the serve. It not only allows you to generate more power but also gives you greater feel for your targets.

In order to perform these jobs the wrist needs to be supple and relaxed.

The most common issues associated with players with serving problems stems from them having wrist that fail to function well, usually because the wrist is locked.

It's really important to have a loose wrist when you serve. Apart from a loose wrist allowing you to generate more power and give you more feel, a loose wrist will also take the pressure off your shoulder joint and therefore prevent injuries in the long term. 

Here are some key check points to help keep your wrist loose on the serve:

1.  Ensure the take back is relaxed
If the take back is relaxed it's almost certain you will hit the serve with a loose wrist. If you are stiff or tight on the take back it's difficult to change to loose during the swing.

Look to see how loose the take back is in the video. Divij Sharan doesn't "carry" the racquet back as if it's a heavy object. He allows the weight of the racquet to "break" the wrist and to relax his arm... there's no tension here at all.



2.  Hit the serve with your wrist, not your arm
The mindset to adopt is one of hitting the ball with your wrist, not your arm. The wrist is the dominant focus when you serve.

A serve with a dominant arm will always be still and lack the power and feel you need.

3.  Release the wrist on the finish of the serve 
As a check point to ensure that your serve is relaxed throughout the serve try to finish with a soft wrist. 

Avoid squeezing the finish and tightening. Often a habit of tightening the finish or the serve creeps into the whole service motion without you realizing it.



PLEASE COMMENT OR ASK QUESTIONS ON ANY OF THE INFORMATION HERE! 


Friday, February 22, 2019

4 STEPS IN UNDERSTANDING & MASTERING CONTACT: "Control of Heights"




80% of all the mistakes you will make in tennis will be either in the net, or out over the baseline (the other 20% of the mistakes will come from hitting too far right and too far left).

We can address these two most common mistakes directly, because contact is responsible for both of them.

If you hit the ball too short, your racquet face was too closed on contact with the ball.

If you hit the ball too high and out over the baseline your racquet face was too open at the moment of contact.

Many people confuse the jobs of spin and contact.
When trying to master feel for net clearance don't ask spin to give you feel for height accuracy, that's the job of contact, not spin!

For height accuracy you need to put your awareness in the position of your racquet face and particularly the awareness of whether the racquet face is open or closed. This should be the sole method of achieving net clearance accuracy.

The job of spin is to create the required arc to help keep the ball inside the lines. 

Understanding the two different and distinct functions of contact and spin is a very important component in mastering  control of your groundstrokes.
It is therefore really important to gain enhanced "feel" for your racquet head. 

There are two approaches a player can take to increase feel for their racquet head. Firstly you can hope that your racquet head feel develops from hitting thousands of balls over years of practice. 

However what I have found with this "improvisation" method of gaining feel is it breaks down under pressure.

The other method, and the one I teach my students, is the use of the opposite hand, or non racquet hand to set the racquet angles (closed or open).

When adopting the "Opposite Hand" control the racquet 
with the finger tips... this will give you greater feel for the 
racquet face and ultimately greater feel for your heights

There are several benefits to using the opposite hand, but the one we will focus on here is using it to set the racquet face angles in terms of degrees of closed and open depending on the height you want the ball to cross the net.

Fingers on the throat of the racquet, ready to set the 
racquet head at the desired "Open" or "Closed"
positioned...

Instead of improvising  with your racquet hand (it already has enough work to do!), you will begin setting the racquet face with the opposite hand during the backswing.

For each shot you are deciding what height you want the ball the clear the net. The higher the net clearance, the deeper the ball will land at the other side. The lower the ball crosses the net the shorter the ball will bounce on the other side.

In Summary

1.  Separate the roles of Contact and Spin. They each have distinctly different roles to play. 


2.  Contacts' role is to given you net clearance 


3.  To gain greater awareness of your net clearance (heights), use the opposite hand on the throat of the racquet to set your angles in degrees of Open and Closed


By introducing this second step of 4 Steps in Understanding & Mastering Contact you will increase your  awareness of heights and gain mastery over the reason for 80% of mistakes on groundstrokes.


Please send your comments here to join a discussion on Contact.


4 STEPS IN UNDERSTANDING & MASTERING CONTACT: "The Three Parts of a Swing"




THERE ARE 3 PARTS OF A SWING and each part has its own unique function.

The 3 parts are (1) The Backswing (2) The Contact and (3) The Follow Through. Here is a break down on each of these 3 parts of the swing.

THE BACKSWING: The purpose of your backswing is to supply power to your stroke. The bigger the backswing the more power you can generate.

A return of serve for example doesn't require much backswing generally because the power you need is mostly coming from the serve you are trying to return.

Strokes where you commonly  want to generate more power than normal, are mid-court forehand and shoulder height groundstrokes. It's common to see players taken big backswings on these two options because they want to generate extra power.

THE FOLLOW THROUGH: The Follow Through is the release of energy from the stroke you just completed.

The size of your follow through should be directly related to the amount of backswing you created to hit the ball - no more, no less... they are related to each other, backswing creates power and follow through releases that power.

Follow through also has another very important function to perform. It creates spin.

The higher your hand finishes after contact, the more topspin you can achieve.

If your hand finishes low after contact (chin height), there will be less spin on the ball. If your hand finishes above your head after contact, there will be a lot of topspin.

This demonstration of a running forehand shows the 3 parts of a swing working together to achieve a desired shot...


(1) Because the ball is fast and deep the depth of the backswing is less because his opponent has created all the energy required for the shot. 


(2) The player has positioned the racquet face at the correct angle to send the ball over the net at the desired net clearance. 


(3) The finish is extreme because all that remains for the player to do is create arc and "tail" at the other side of the net to keep the ball inside the baseline.

THE CONTACT: Of the 3 parts of a swing, Contact has perhaps the most important role to play. Contacts' job is to get the ball over the net and in the direction you want.

The racquet face position at the moment of contact will determine where the ball goes. The ball goes solely where the racquet face tells it to go.

In Summary:

1.  The 3 parts of the swing described here all have different functions. Very often players' try to vary these roles. The most common instance of this is when players try to spin the contact in the belief this will give them elevation over the net.  Net clearance is the job of Contact, not spin.

2.  Every stroke is different. Players need to learn when to adjust the amount of backswing, Follow Through or Contact depending on their needs in the point..

This is the third part of 4 STEPS IN UNDERSTANDING & MASTERING CONTACT.  By understanding the clearly defined roles of Back Swing, Follow Through and Contact you will gain greater mastery over your groundstrokes in terms of feel, versatility and adaptability.



Please feel free to comment below to begin a discussion on this post.

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

4 STEPS IN UNDERSTANDING & MASTERING CONTACT: "Late & Early"





Lesson 1: LATE & EARLY CONTACT...

When you hit a ball with late or early contact, that can be a positive thing or a negative thing, you either did it on purpose or by mistake, 

Let's look at late and early contact in the positive sense first...


To master the tennis rally you need to be able to direct the ball both down the line and cross court at will. This is where the ability to hit late and early on purpose is crucial.


If you contact the ball early within the contact zone the ball will go cross court.  





If you contact the ball late within the contact zone the ball will travel down the line or inside out ( depending on how late you hit the ball)



This is the positive aspect of late and early contact.

However, most players think of late and early contact in the negative sense. This is when they struggle with timing the ball in the right spot within their contact zone.

Here are some reasons you may be hitting the ball late unintentionally:


  1. Your arms dominate your swing
All swings should start in the ground, it supplies the timing and power for your stroke. If you are not injecting "Ground" into your stroke as you start the swing then you are asking your arms to generate timing and power, neither of which the arms are able to do as well as the legs when interacting with ground.

  1. You don't begin your swing from the ground first
Sometimes you might be under pressure to set up "Ground" because the ball is either too deep or too fast for you ( or too deep AND too fast at the same time) to prepare.

This will lead to timing problems and invariably late contact.
  1. Your swing is manufactured and not practical
Another common reason for late or early contact mistakes is a players' fixation with producing "copy book" form.

Most early stages of tennis coaching involves showing the new student where to take their backswing and where to finish their follow through

The problem with this type of coaching is that it does not take into account the ball!

These players then continue trying to produce the "perfect" backswing and follow through on all balls, rather than "reading" each ball and adapting to the situation. 

In summary, 

1. Train yourself to be able to change the direction of the ball by adjusting the contact point.

2. Also, be adaptable to each and every ball by adjusting your backswing and follow through according to the properties of the ball you are hitting.

By working this first of 4 Steps in Mastering & Understanding Contact you will gain greater control and feel for this important fundamental.


Wednesday, January 2, 2019

HOW MANY CHANCES DO YOU NEED?




I WOULD HAVE A VERY GOOD CHANCE OF BEATING ROGER FEDERER… if I was given multiple chances to correct and replay any shots I didn’t like.

Here’s an example. If I was given multiple attempts at all first serves and was able to select the one serve that I liked the most amongst my many attempts, my service game against Roger Federer would probably be good enough to hold my own.

Expand that concept to every shot I play and allow me to (1) Prepare for his shot with much better preparation (I now know where it’s going and the speed and the angle of the ball because I have already seen it) (2) Make correct decisions on where and how I want to play the shots, and (3) Technically perform the shot perfectly. With multiple chances I have a very good opportunity to beat Federer.

Now you are saying “but nobody has the luxury of taking shots again” and you would be correct. But let’s look at why this “2nd Chance” scenario is important to understand for both Coaches and players.

When Federer plays a match he almost never needs a “2nd Chance”. His game and the games of the other top players are almost 100% correct most of the time in terms of their decision making and the their execution of the shot. 

And this is where every player trying to take their game to a higher level can learn from this “2nd Chance” concept. 

You may already have the technique and strategic thinking to be able to play amazing tennis and to be ranked well above your present position in the National or ITF rankings. But the speed at which your brain processes information during a match only allows you to operate at 50% of your optimum ability. The other 50%, which would give you massively better results, is absent because YOU DON'T THINK FAST ENOUGH OR CLEAR ENOUGH!

I see this all the time when working with developing players. These young players, if given multiple opportunities to correct and improve their shots or decisions would perform overall MUCH better.

So what are the lessons to be learnt from the “2nd Chance” concept?

ALL MISTAKES IN A MATCH ARE ULTIMATELY MENTAL MISTAKES


The top players think faster, sending their awareness to the key elements that make each specific shot work best. The lesson to take away from the “2nd Chance” scenario is that you as a player must train to think faster and more accurately in order to play at your optimum level, a level which is already present inside you.

Training the brain to think faster, like most things in tennis, should happen on the practice court. 

You'll need to break your practice into two mindsets. The first mindset is "The decision you make" in the various situations during the points and the second mindset is "The technique you employ" for each individual shot. 

It's not necessary to analyse every shot you play, just the times you make an error. By working together, both player and coach can decide which was the culprit, the decision or the stroke. The player must work very hard to mentally retain the feed back from mistakes during these practice points and try to perform the particular situation better each time. 

Here's an example... 

the player has made a mistake on a running forehand. The error could be based on poor shot selection. Instead of playing the shot down the line he/she should have played the higher percentage shot, cross court.  

But let's imagine the error is a technical one. The player is not giving the ball enough spin to keep it in. The passing shot is going over the baseline without enough arc. By making a few technical adjustments the shot begins to go in. 

In both examples, over a period of time the player is practicing each day with the goal of making quicker and more accurate decisions. He/she is also learning to send their focus to two of the most important aspects of playing matches well, decision making and technique. 

Comment below... What do you do, either as a player or coach, to optimize the full potential of your game?






















Monday, November 13, 2017

5 IMPORTANT WAYS TO COMBINE PHYSICAL TRAINING WITH TENNIS TECHNIQUE


A correct physical training program can enhance your tennis game significantly, while an incorrect physical training program can also harm your game tremendously.

In past years players honed their skills on-court and then participated in an off-court physical training program that was very general and non specific to the demands of a tennis match.

This all changed several years ago when players, coaches and trainers began to mimic the physical demands and skills required in competitive tennis. Suddenly off-court training became highly specific to tennis and the players began to experience a marriage of tennis skills and physical ability… the two facets of training began to enhance each other!

If you have not yet synchronized your on-court and off-court training programs you are definitely missing out on obtaining optimal results in competition.

So what areas do you need to be aware of when synchronizing physical training with tennis technique?

 Here are 5 areas you must get right:


1.     The Line




With any movement you undertake in the gym you must be aware of an imaginary Line from your head, to the foot you are using to leverage ground forces.

When you play any stroke in tennis, correct execution of this Line insures optimum timing and an efficient transfer of energy into the ball.

However, if you repeat The Line incorrectly many times in the gym you are creating an incorrect habit that will hurt your timing and consequently your consistency in matches.

Focus on the Line while working with weights and any pulley type apparatus in the gym so that you are creating habits that will benefit your on-court technique.

2.   Balance


Put simply, good balance is maintaining the Line from your head between both feet at all times. Any time the line from your head goes outside either foot you are falling (loss of balance).

Your program in the gym should incorporate activities that enhance stability through a wide base (feet) and dynamic balance exercises that test this stability during movement (maintaining the head within the boundaries of the feet).

By combining awareness of balance during off-court sessions in the gym and on-court practice sessions you will develop excellent stability as you move and hit your shots during matches.




3.   The Ground




All strokes in tennis require the creation of energy. Energy is generated from the ground and transferred to your strokes from the legs.

Therefore anytime you perform an interactive exercise in the gym between the Ground and a weight or pulley system you should maintain awareness of the energy you are drawing out of the ground and through your legs.

If this awareness is unfocused and performed incorrectly you are teaching yourself bad habits that will carry over onto the court and your strokes will lack optimum timing and consistency and could even lead to injury.

4.   Speed


The human body is very good at adapting to the conditions within its environment. If you train repeatedly in a slow twitch manner (under fatigue, with weights and in an endurance mode), your feet are being taught to move in a slow way.

There is a time and place for strengthening the legs by using weights and creating fatigue in order to enhance endurance on-court. But if you are trying to develop more speed and agility on-court you must incorporate fast twitch exercises into your fitness program and avoid activities that teach the legs to work in a slow twitch manner.


When you want to develop more speed and agility, create a fast twitch environment in your off-court sessions

5.    Posture


Put simply, one of the purposes of your fitness program is to be able to maintain proper form and technique throughout a match no matter how long the match lasts.  Another benefit of having a high level of fitness is the ability to make good decisions under pressure and while fatigued.

Often your posture as you hit a stroke is an indicator that you are fatigued in a rally.

Make sure that anything you do in the gym is done with an awareness of correct posture so that when you are on the match court that awareness is being repeated during points and while under pressure.


The importance of synchronizing your off-court and on-court training programs is critical to you reaching your full potential. Likewise, if these two components are not working to enhance each other the consequences can be detrimental to your game.