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Every year, tennis players spend tons of money trying to improve their forehands, backhands, volleys, etc..  But just working on one stroke can consume a ton of money and likewise, a ton of dollars, and sadly enough, it often doesn’t produce the desired result.

In a typical lesson these days, your coach will feed you balls for hours giving you slight corrections from a vantage point 70′ away. And maybe you get better for a short while just through having hit enough balls. Your technique may limit you later on, but meanwhile, your coach shouts encouragment and says “that’s better” or“good shot” on every 4th or 5th ball.   I guess if he said “man, you just aren’t ever going to get it”, would you come back to him and spend your hard-earned dollars with him? Probably not!

Improving volley

A good coach gets specific!

Good coaches, in my opinion, will use various tools to help you improve.  Video Analysis to help you improve faster. They will also be good enough as tennis players themselves to give you some kinesthetic cues as to how it feels to hit with the correct technique.   As in, “it feels like you are hitting up on the ball”, or “it feels like you are aiming towards the side fence on your slice serve.”

Good coaches will also teach in progressions, whereby you learn in increments. For example, for a drop volley, practice catching a ball in your hand first, pretending it’s an egg and being real gentle so as not to break the egg.  Then, practice catching the ball on your racquet with only one bounce. Once you develop that feel,  try and squeeze just a little bit harder so the ball goes forward, but not too much.

To really accelerate your tennis improvement, try these learning tips.

  1. Practice in front of a mirror. It’s amazing how much this helps. You can mimic the correct position and swing path in the mirror and it gives you direct  feedback on how it feels to be in that position.   Brent Abel with WebTennis.com reminded me of this recently, and it was one of the methods that helped me greatly when starting on my tennis path.  And it’s one that I had put aside for too long.  I’m glad he reminded me!
  2. Video Analysis  Video your matches from the top of the fence so you get the whole court. You can then analyze strategy and technique under match conditions.  Do your strokes hold up?  Is your strategy sound? Click here to see  what one college coach says about match videos.
  3. Find a practice partner who shares your desire to improve. Find someone who is willing to do drills such as hitting crosscourt backhands for ten minutes straight, then forehands, volleys, etc. Someone who will not insist on playing a match.
  4. Have a practice plan If you are lucky enough to find that practice partner, get with him and agree what you are going to work on. Share tips, give each other feedback. Let him/her know what you are working on and ask for feedback if they can. This will keep you focused.
  5. Practice as if you were in a match.  Practice with as much intensity as you would play an important point in a match (and yes, they are all important).  Lazy practice will result in lazy play.
  6. Take tennis lessons and seriously consider filming them. I like to video my lessons so that I can review them at a later time to see what I might have been missing. It’s hard sometimes to  retain everything an instructor gives you. A reminder down the road can be a helpful thing. Towards that end, I always write down what we worked on after each lesson. I helps to review!
  7. Use props, like the Racquet Bracket, to help you develop the correct feel.  There are a number of props that help you develop the feel of correct technique.   Oncourt/Offcourt has a great selection of tennis-specific tools.
  8. Read some good books on learning, like Galway’s Inner Tennis, or one of my favorites, Dan Millman’s The Way of the Perfect Warrior. The Perfect Warrior never mentions tennis specifically, but talks about how we learn, and how to be mindful.
  9. Vary your practice opponents.  Playing against a variety of opponents will sharpen you game.  Better players will raise your game, and lesser players will allow you to experiment with new shots.
  10. Remember, practice does not make perfect, only perfect practice makes perfect. Mindless hitting just reinforces bad habits if you haven’t ingrained the right ones to begin with. Better to hit one ball right than 100 incorrect.

Incorporate all of these tips and you will be amazed at how quickly your tennis game improves. Just writing this article has me pumped up to improve my game, because I know it works, and in my quest for a National Title (senior of course), it’s absolutely necessary that I follow these guidelines.

Good luck!

Here’s a picture of me (left) with a trophy and winner’s check.  I like to win!

World Tennis Club, Naples, Florida

Accepting Trophy and check at Super Senior Tennis Tournament, Naples 2015

TennisRecruiting.com is a website all about junior tennis players and their careers.  Here is a link to an article that you might find useful before actually starting the recruiting process.  In it they point out that one of the things that you can start at an early age is shooting video of the matches they play.   If you have your own QM-1 Camera Mount, when you get ready to make your own recruiting video, you will have actual footage of actual matches.  Great stuff for college recruiters!

Here’s an example of a tennis recruiting video we did for Max Roder. The entire process took less than 4 hours to do, including shooting and editing. Think what you could do with more time!

 

Here’s another article from “Tennis Blog” which I think is excellent.   The reasoning for using video analysis for junior tennis players and college-level tennis players is clearly laid out.  Italics were added for emphasis

Improving the Feedback Loop

One of the many reasons I was drawn to college tennis coaching was because of the incredible feedback loop it provides between the coach and player. As college coaches, we get to witness a very high percentage of our players’ matches throughout the year. Not just that, but we get to sit on the court with them and monitor their self-talk, emotional state of mind while getting a better understanding of their decision making. This is incredibly valuable information to any coach as it informs us how we should coach and what we need to be working on in practice the very next day!

College coach is watching from the sidelnes as his players go at it.

College Tennis Coach Observing Play

When I grew up, I had one, 1-hour lesson per week with my coach and maybe he would see me play a couple of matches per year. I know that this has improved a lot through the years but I don’t believe it is still close enough to where it needs to be in the junior tennis world. Many players are not very adept at objectively self- analyzing their own matches at a young age, and part of this is because they haven’t seen themselves play often enough.

I can’t tell you how many times one of my players comes off after a match and gives me their version of what occurred. Early in their college career, their interpretation of what transpired during the match is often way off. If I had not just witnessed it, I would have no choice but to believe their version of events and then get to work on what they told me in our next session together.

As coaches, we want to ensure that our practices are deliberate and relevant. I can’t tell you how great I feel after most individual sessions with my players. I think we had gotten lots of productive work done and that we had fixed whatever maladies in her game she was experiencing at that time. Then we go to play a match and it looks nothing like the practice session we had two days prior! Now there are obviously a lot of reasons for that but if I had not seen the match first hand, then I may have continued on with my line of thinking as to what was the best way to develop this player’s game.

I guess we could tell by results and outcomes, but as coaches we tend to be more process orientated and if the player is very young then we are not going to get wrapped up in the score line. We are far more interested in whether or not what we are doing in our training sessions is translating on match day, and if they are staying true to the process. But how do we know if we cannot be there to witness their matches firsthand?

I know it is extremely expensive and unrealistic to have coaches going to every tournament with players. What I am proposing though is that more emphasis be placed upon coaches getting consistent feedback through the use of video footage to help better develop their players. Despite the improvements in technology and reduction in costs associated with capturing live play, I still rarely see matches being taped when I go recruiting.

There are very few junior coaches in attendance at these tournaments, so we are relying on a young player’s version of events or the biased opinions of a parent. As an industry, shouldn’t we be pushing harder to make this more of standard? Would it not be better if one lesson was on the court working on different aspects of the player’s game and the next lesson sitting together for an hour and watching the video from a match? Or better yet, a combination of the two? Wouldn’t this make the session far more deliberate?

I would estimate that one hour of watching video of a match with your student is more valuable than several private lessons on the court. I understand that most parents want to see their kid out on the tennis court working hard on their game with the coach and hitting as many balls as possible, but we have to reeducate them on what is the most productive use of their child’s time and their hard earned money.

Our system here at the University of Oklahoma is to take the video from matches [note:  Oklahoma uses the QM-1 Camera Mount], break down the relevant parts into clips with notes written at the top of each clip, and put it on our players google drive accounts ($1.99 per month). It is time consuming but incredibly valuable for the players and the coaches. Our players can log on at any hour of any day and visually learn about their game. Remember, over 60% of people are visual leaners. As a coach if you don’t have a camera, I highly recommend you purchase one; it will pay for itself a thousand times over.

Maybe you can lend it to your players from time to time when they are playing out of town. If this is not possible, maybe you can have the parent use their phone or I-pad to record crucial moments of a match, serving for a set, a third set tiebreak etc. Ideally you want to see what your players are doing at the most crucial stages of a match.

Ultimately, we have to improve the feedback loop if we are to help our players learn more efficiently and effectively. As we all know, practice and performance can often look like two completely different animals. We want to aid in the process of bringing those worlds closer together so that our players are practicing like they compete and vice versa.”

Here’s my favorite part: I would estimate that one hour of watching video of a match with your student is more valuable than several private lessons on the court.  Makes sense to me!  I talk to coaches and players every day, and they echo the same sentiment – once you use video and see what it can do for your game, it becomes indispensable!  And the cost of two or three  lessons may easily pay not only  for your QM-1 Camera Mount, but even the camera itself (assuming you buy the K-1 or K-2 bundle).

Above is an example of a lesson I took with David Lowenthal on the slice backhand.   I reviewed this right after my lesson and could still remember how it felt.  And towards the end I see David’s backhand slice – the way he take the racquet back, the way he turns his shoulders and the way he finishes.  Now I FELT like I was hitting it like him – but I can see I am NOT!  So it’s back to the mirror and mimicking how he hits his backhand.  Repeating this process over the course of a month has made a big difference – that video is coming soon!

 

The “TennisGuru” in Las Vegas had this to say about his recently purchased K-2 Bundle (3-28-17)

"You are the "MAN" Mike, lol.

Wow we had a great session with 2 of my senior kids.

Everything arrived and set up was easy.

10ft high  fence,  20' to base line.

First try & hang was perfect.

looking forward to trying extension to go higher"

Was very impressed with your service on getting the 

order out & ready for our 3 hr session.

We are all enjoying going over the video on my 75"

Sammy smart TV, Awesome Clear Picture. 

Thanks Again

Wonderful doing business with you."

Thanks, TennisGuru, for sharing your experience!!  We rely heavily on word of mouth sales and so far we have been very successful.  The QM-Camera Mount

 

If you are attending the 2016 USPTA World Conference in Indian Wells, please drop by our booth and say hi!   We’ll be there Monday night, September 26th from 5:00 pm to 10:00 pm.  Not going to the World Conference?  Drop us a line if you are in Southern California and maybe we can arrange to do a demonstration, as we’ll be visiting a variety of locations between Sept. 29th and October 2nd, before heading back to Denver, Colorado.

uspta-wc-logo

 

 

 

 

I thought this exchange from a customer might be useful to others.  This is a summary of some questions I r day and the answer.

  1.  How should the angle be set?
  2. Did the wide angle give the curve and should it be set to medium angle?
  3. Also what is the best way to delete videos and clear the SD card?
  4. Finally, what editing software for compiling the best shots and transferring them to YouTube do you recommend? Many thanks for your suggestions and website. Leianna

 

Hi XXXXX, hope I can help out!

a.)  The angle looking down into the court can be a personal preference.  Use the marks on the camera bracket to line up with the marks on the base and experiment from there.   As far as the fish-eye effect, the further away from the center of the picture, the more pronounced the affect.  There’s just no getting around it completely. As you angle the camera more downwards, the near baseline will be straighter and straighter as it nears the center of the picture, so you might want to experiment a little with what you like.   I find that using a medium field of view and a normal angle gets rid of most of the “fisheye”.  There are also in-expensive software programs that remove fisheye that work fairly well.

There are two recommended ways to delete videos, and what I do is generally is at the end of the day to download the video files to my computer, then format the card. You MUST delete or format the sd card while it’s in the camera, NOT with your computer. While in the camera, you can use either the app or just do it manually.   I have gotten in the habit of doing it manually and once you get the hang of it, it’s much faster.

As far as editing software, it depends on what computer operating system you have. I have a Macbook Pro laptop and use FinalCut X, although iMovie which is free is just about as good. I also use Quicktime to scroll through videos and look for certain points, then trim out those points. I haven’t tried it myself, but GoPro puts out a very basic software editing program that allows you to grab scenes. If for a Windows based system, I believe they have a free software package (Windows Movie Maker??) that works great from what I hear. I’ve also used Cyber

But what’s your goal with the videos? This guy Cizr is pretty popular with folks for editing out dead time from a video, but there’s a fee. http://www.cizr.com

Let me know if that doesn’t do the trick!

Thanks,

Mike

Ran across this article in the ITF files about why you might want to consider using video.  No, you don’t have to be a coach to follow this, but any coach or parent can use these ideas as a starting point as to why you should use video in your development of a tennis player.

Video Analysis for the Tennis Coach

Introduction

Video is an extremely useful tool (and underrated!) for tennis coaching. It can be applied to skill acquisition, technique refinement, visualization, injury prevention, and coach education. Although video has been around for many years, it is only now becoming a common tool for the tennis coach and player. This is somewhat surprising, given the numerous benefits of using video and the relatively low cost of this technology.

Some of the benefits of using video technology in your coaching include:

  • Slow motion replay Tennis is a dynamic sport and most skills in the game are performed at speed. Given this, the ability of a coach to analyse these skills in detail using the naked eye is limited. Video allows you to view various skills in slow motion, again and again, and from different angles, which means you have an opportunity to analyse motion in great detail.
  • Developing models After a time, you can begin to see certain patterns of motion that are common among elite performers. Tennis strokes, for example, have a fundamental pattern that forms the basis of good technique. Using video, you can categorise these patterns, and form the basis of a model, in which to compare other performances. Video-based models are a very powerful tool in which to coach different tennis strokes, particularly when you are dealing with novice performers. Children, for example, will often try to emulate their favourite players from what they can see on television.
  • Tracking performance changes As a coach, you are required to analyse a player’s performance, and make alterations to technique based upon your knowledge of what you think is appropriate. Video can be a very useful tool for tracking any changes that occur as a result of your coaching. Filming a player’s technique several times during a session or season can reinforce the changes you are trying to make and give you and your player quality information. Keeping video records of players can provide positive feedback to you as a coach, as well as to the player, who can see that their hard work is paying off. It should also be noted that sometimes this video feedback can show that what you have been trying to achieve with your intervention is not working as well as you had hoped. This is also valuable information and can form the basis of different interventions for your player. So much of coaching and video analysis involves experimenting with different ideas. Video is therefore a valuable tool to help quantify your experiments.
  • Self reflection Many athletes believe that they are in a certain position when performing a skill, yet when they see themselves on video, it becomes clear that perhaps they are not quite where they thought they were! There is a ‘mismatch’ between what the player feels and the position they are actually in. Video is an excellent tool for correcting this ‘kinaesthetic-mismatch’. It is important for an athlete to ‘feel’ what it is like to perform the correct technique and seeing themselves performing a skill on video can be the first step to achieving a new movement pattern. Historically speaking, video analysis has been a tool for sport scientists and biomechanists, which immediately brings forth bad memories in some coaches minds…numbers, tables, graphs, and equations that seem impossible to understand, and are somehow supposed to be related to coaching tennis! Although some aspects of biomechanics may involve complicated physics and mathematical concepts, this should not serve as a deterrent to the tennis coach who wants to apply biomechanics to their everyday coaching.

Is it better to lose than to win? Sometimes. I’m just coming off my worst loss in a long time, having been destroyed by Bob Litwin in the semi’s of the Men’s 65’s at the Boulder Open. 6-0, 6-1. Never could get any traction. I do feel better knowing that I had eight game points on my serve and one break point on his, but that doesn’t pay the bills. Luckily, I recorded the match and will be reviewing it with my coach and making up a game plan for improvement over the next year. Nothing like a good thrashing to motivate one!!

By the way, Mr. Litwin has about 17 national championships and I belive a World Championship in singles.  So, I really do feel good having been as competitive as I was, coming so close to winning as many games as I did.

Just wrapped up playing a tournament in Aspen, Colorado where I entered my first Open Men’s Doubles competition. My partner (whom I picked out of the crowd as the semi-final match was beginning, was a 4.0 rated player who didn’t like to play doubles). And we won the tournament. Okay, okay, there were extenuating circumstances……as in only four teams in the draw so we only had to win two matches. And okay, if you must know, one of our opponents in the final was a woman. No, I still don’t know the whole story behind that, but they beat a decent team to get to the finals, so she was a good small-college player. Seriously, the competition was not that easy, and in both our matches we had to outsmart our opponents as they were younger, quicker, and had more polished strokes. As in they could hit the heck out of the ball. So, how did we do it?

First, let me say that my partner and I had never met previous to this tournament. Heck, we didn’t meet until the third game of the first set of the first match. Seriously! My partner that I signed up with pulled a hamstring and had to quit. Our opponents, a couple of real gentlemen, were open to me getting another partner as they had come to play and didn’t want a forfeit. Pleading to the crowd (yes, there was a small crowd gathered, for what reason I can’t say), I finally got Genaro to volunteer. Genaro is a solid 4.0 singles player….with a great serve and the ability to camp on top of the net and swat balls away! Just what you want for a doubles partner, although I wish he wouldn’t have kept saying he didn’t like doubles!

So, our opponents in this resumed first match were very generous, and I’m pretty sure that the thought never occurred to them that they could possibly lose under any circumstance.

Anyway, to make a long story short (ha ha, that never happens), here’s what we did for strategy in both our matches:

  1. Geno camped on top of the net whenever possible and I would try to hit the ball to any spot in front of him, mainly crosscourt. That was Plan B.

  2. We kept up a positive attitude no matter what. Cause heck, we were lucky to be out there playing anyway, so what was to lose? We did our share of fist bumps and high fives throughout the match, especially if one of us missed a shot. This helped keep us loose.

  3. Our opponents had big serves, so we both played back when returning.

  4. Our opponents had great crosscourt returns of serve from the ad side, so we went Aussie on the ad side. On the deuce side we both crowded the net when serving, as they NEVER LOBBED US!!

They had no answer for these strategies! Here are some of the videos and [embedplusvideo height=”283″ width=”450″ editlink=”http://bit.ly/29PIKX8″ standard=”http://www.youtube.com/v/C42XDrThnUA?fs=1″ vars=”ytid=C42XDrThnUA&width=450&height=283&start=&stop=&rs=w&hd=0&autoplay=0&react=1&chapters=&notes=” id=”ep2110″ /]