"Change and growth take place when a person has risked himself and dares to become involved with experimenting with his own life." Herbert Otto*1
By Jim McLennan
Publisher's Note: Jim McLennan, TennisOne's Editor, now takes over the writing of the TennisOne newsletter. Kim Shanley, Publisher, will continue to contribute periodic feature articles.
Back to Basics
In baseball the concept is to revisit the fundamentals, again again and
again, until the guys have gotten it right. Not that these professionals
have forgotten anything, but rather that it pays to constantly revisit the
nuts and bolts of baseball.
As you gear up for USTA leagues (which are huge
in my neck of the woods) do you have a similar “spring training” ritual? If
you don’t, here are some thoughts. Pick one shot in your game that might
deserve attention, be specific, set measurable goals and a timetable for
improvement. One of the difficulties in tennis is that one’s wins and
losses are influenced by how poorly or well our opponents play, and in that
manner we are not always sure how well we are playing.
Picking One shot
So here are two suggestions. If the saying, “You are only as good as your
second serve” rings a bell, my thought is to find a partner and practice
second serves while your friend practices returns. No rallying, no scoring,
just serve and return.
I joke (but also teach) the juniors at our club to
answer the following question that may be delivered to them by their college
coach, “Okay kid, what are your strengths?” The answer we rehearse is,
“Coach my serve is the best part of my game (as was the case for Sampras and
now Roddick) and the next best part of my game is my return (as is the case
for Agassi).” Now the coach knows the kid understands tennis and can truly
play the game, for if the answer was, “My big forehand” then that presumes
getting into a point on serve or on return and then getting a forehand.
The measuring is to count percentage of serves, and percentage of returns
in each 10 shot sequence. Meaning 8 of 10 serves (perhaps) and 7 of 8
returns (not bad). Further, the servers objective is to find some amount of
spin so the swing is fast and not a push, and the receivers objective is to
play the return well inside the baseline at the absolute top of the
Exploration and Guided Discovery
I am reading an interesting book, Coaching for Performance, recommended by
Sean Brawley.*2 The book contrasts command style teaching with exploration
and guided discovery. The “command” teacher surveys the situation, tells
the student what to do, and hopefully the student gets the message and
changes. Does this sound familiar?
In the exploration and guided discovery
model, the coach asks continuing series of questions, intending to promote
awareness and responsibility within the student. Well if awareness and
responsibility become your own personal watchwords on court, then the serve
and return drill above really works. With repetition, and quiet but
continual internal awareness of how things feel (not why they work but just
how they feel) you will start to improve both your serve and your return.
With apologies to the legions of command style tennis teachers, if you
experiment with this you may make as much headway as when you have been “taught.”
I use a large collection of training aides for pupils and for myself. Often these aides are just the trick to clarify a difficult feel, or to
learn a new shot. Bullwhips (for the serve), indo boards (for balance),
8-board (for rhythm), vision cards, audiotapes (sports psychology) and more.
In this issue I want to call your attention to a Dynaball. This is a
gyroscopic trainer, a spherical ball with a smaller ball inside. Once
spinning, you rotate your wrist to accelerate the inner ball, the gyroscopic
action makes the Dynaball become heavier, and the resulting exercise both
strengthens the forearm (rehabilitates as well) and equally trains rhythm
and feel, for there is an art to using this Dynaball.*3
Good luck with your spring training. My project this spring is retooling
the return of serve. Had a good one once, or so I think, but have become
tentative and less confident of late. Remember, practice makes perfect - if
you are practicing perfectly.
- Revisiting the Inner Game of Tennis/Sean
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Analyzing ProStrokes: Jelena Dokic and the Millennium Forehand
An in depth analysis of the Dokic technique and the Millennium Forehand, broken down into an easy to repeat, three step system by Heath Waters, one of America's premier tennis coaches. It's all here, the good, the bad, and the ugly. Study this lesson carefully then apply the techniques to your own game.
The Truth About Strings and Things
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Fixing The Broken World of Recreational Tournaments
Are you playing much tournament tennis lately? If your like most players, the answer is probably no. Let's face it, recreational tournaments, for years, the backbone of the game, are dying. For what they deliver, it takes far too much displacement of one's life to enjoy them. Yet, those who run tennis wonder why the sport struggles to grow. Joel Drucker offers some possible solutions.
Exclusively on TennisONE
ProStrokes Gallery: James Blake's Groundstrokes
James Blake is included among the rising group of young Americans and with his matinee idol looks and engaging personality,he seemed like just what was needed to give American tennis a shot in the arm. But lately some of this group is passing him with Taylor Dent, Mardy Fish and Robbie Ginepri placed ahead of him on the ATP standings. Blake is quick as a cat but his balance seems a bit suspect. Study his strokes and see what you think.
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