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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

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!

 

Top Junior Tennis Academies in the U.S  (from Tennis Blog“)

“I know that the merits of a tennis academy are huge, especially for talented players who need absolute focus and immersion in the game. Whilst I may be more in favor of a private tennis coach or pro teaching junior players, there are some academies that come highly recommended and have produced quality players with all round strengths.

A tennis academy combines schooling and boarding with tennis and it keeps kids focused on both the game and their education. A parent’s time is then also freed up and you do not have to spend hours waiting for training to end, or watch endless matches when you would rather enjoy your own recreational activities such as gaming at top sites like www.androidcasino.ca

Considering factors such a reputation, highly qualified coaches, location, player development and future opportunities I have created a list of the top rated junior tennis academies across the US for consideration for your kids.

Saviano High Performance Tennis Academy is located in Plantation, FL and its motto of “There’s no substitute for proven” is very apt. Over 29 years, Nick Saviano has coached and developed more than 50 ATP & WTA players, Grand Slam winners, World #1’s; Junior Wimbledon, US Open, French Open and Italian Open Champions, 24 USTA National Junior Champions, 8 Foreign National Junior Champions and more than 25 ITF Junior Champions, including Sunshine Cup, Orange Bowl and Eddie Herr winners.

Picture of Nick Saviano

Nick Saviano

Evert Tennis Academy is in Boca Raton, FL and has a partnership with the world’s most powerful company in the sports industry, IMG. This partnership affords your kids better opportunities and opens more doors in the tennis world. With a history of developing strong tennis players, Evert’s past pupils include Madison Keys and Peng Shuai.

One of the best junior academies

Chirs Evert Academies

Nick Bollettieri Junior Tennis Academy (NBTA) is the most famous academy in the U.S. and the pressure on kids to perform is immense. This tennis academy is only suited to kids who are truly gifted and passionate, and players such as Andre Agassi and Venus and Serena Williams have trained here. The track record for producing world class players is unbeatable and junior players must be prepared to be built as a brand that will be backed by IMG.

Bollitieri Tennis Academy

Nick Bollitieri

All of these tennis academies have their merits and as parents it’s suggested you do some further research to determine which option is best suited to your kid’s educational and sporting needs.”

Note from MyTennisTools.com – If you are interested in improving your game, or your child’s game, this is a great site.  .  And get yourself a QM-1 Portable Camera Mount (and maybe the  K-2 Sport bundle if you don’t already have a camera) to learn tennis even faster!

 

Ran across this great article from Sports Illustrated that you might want to check out.   Some things to think about that will improve your tennis game:

1.  Stick with one pattern of play

2. Pull back on your serve speed

3.  Get your  back leg behind the ball

4.  Play the momentum of the match

5.  Drink on every change-over, snack on every other one.

6.  Don’t go for the line on every shot.

7.  Identify your opponents weaknesses and hit there.

8.  Stretch

9.  Get your racquet strung by a professional

10.  YouTube yourself.

My favorite tips?  1, 4, 6, and 10.

Click here to see the article:Radwanska with trophy

Okay okay, we have all heard “middle solves the riddle”, or something like that….it seems to be the gospel when it comes to doubles.   Well, bucko, not so fast!!  There’s at least one situation where you do NOT want to serve to the middle (or “T”), and that’s when you are playing in the Aussie or I formation.  Now, I would mostly say that this is true to the Ad side, but really, the same principle holds true for the deuce side, the difference being that on the deuce side, you have to contend with a right-handers return of serve which would be to another right-handers backhand.  Typically, given the weaker backhand of most players, that’s not a good match up.

Aha, but on the ad side, the tables are reversed.  You are serving to the returners backhand, and if he goes down the line, it’s to your forehand, which you can then crush or do whatever you want…..

Here’s a link showing what I’m talking about:    [embedplusvideo height=”283″ width=”450″ editlink=”http://bit.ly/1JmKsiD” standard=”http://www.youtube.com/v/B_U9_0gLLDY?fs=1″ vars=”ytid=B_U9_0gLLDY&width=450&height=283&start=&stop=&rs=w&hd=0&autoplay=1&react=1&chapters=&notes=” id=”ep7296″ /]

Bummer!  Just when you thought you had made that great shot that would get you  back in the game, your opponent makes such a bad call that you just know it was deliberate.   I mean, you are standing there watching your down the line shot and it lands six inches in.  You aren’t running and there is no way in the world that ball was out.   But your opponent yells out anyway.  At this point, most players just explode.  And that’s what my friend did to day when it happened to him.

What causes these bad, horrendous calls?  I have several theories:

1)  Maybe your opponent really thought it was out.  (Okay, not likely, as it was too blatant.  I mean, c’mon, there are limits to this theory.)

2)  Your opponent thinks you made a bad call previously and now he thinks it’s a good time to get even.

3)  He is just an out and out cheater, and willing to do anything to win a match.

If you can add to this list, please do.  So what do you do?  Should you make a retaliatory bad call to get even?   Wait for a big point?  What if, like it was for my friend today, at the end of a very tight match and there’s no time for retaliation?

I think the answer is that you just suck it up and move on.  That person will have to live with themselves for the rest of their lives.  There’s no honor in that kind of a victory, but there is honor in being the bigger man (or woman).

Personally, I always expect to get one really bad call every match.   So when it happens, I just go with it.  Maybe ask “are you sure”, and let it go.  What do you do?  Comments welcome.

I had the pleasure of rejoining forces with my old doubles partner from years ago, when we were a force to be reckoned with.   This night we certainly weren’t and fortunately I filmed the match and put it up on YouTube for my partner and I to review and discuss.   That’s us in the black with me serving to start the match.  Ain’t proud.   Didn’t play well…..but to our opponents credit, they pulled off some great shots from time to time, balls we didn’t expect to come back!

[embedplusvideo height=”283″ width=”450″ editlink=”http://bit.ly/1EAykFL” standard=”http://www.youtube.com/v/0IYRGTvo2Uc?fs=1&vq=hd720″ vars=”ytid=0IYRGTvo2Uc&width=450&height=283&start=&stop=&rs=w&hd=1&autoplay=0&react=1&chapters=&notes=” id=”ep7772″ /]

Here’s my partner’s reaction:

“Good data and visuals for us. Poor execution for too many of the games.​ Much to do!

I’ve watched it a couple of times already and can see we better get busy. Too many misses. Poor court position. Volleys not ending the point, but resulting in lost points. Half volleys certainly need work – resulting in too many lost points. My serve needs to be hit higher and out front so I’m moving into the court; not backwards (yikes!!). Service returns points lost too frequently and poached too frequently and simply hit out of court too frequently.

And, there’s more to be analyzed so we can beat these guys when we play them again in 3 or 4 weeks.”

I love having a doubles partner who’s willing to look at and improve our game, and I think we’ll take these guys next time!!

 

 

Charting a Tennis Match – What, Why, Who, How, When (and Beyond!). What is it, why do it , who should do it, how is it done and when should it be done. First things first:

  1. What is it? Charting a tennis match simply means objectively quantifying what you see happening on the court. Errors vs winners, included forced and unforced.  Or, if you like, anything that can be counted.  Like, walking back and touching the fence after each point.  Anything is fair game.
  2. Why do it? Charting tennis matches has been done mainly for the purpose of finding out what is working and what isn’t, on both a technical and strategic level.   Another purpose is to make a point to a player about what is happening on the court. For example, a player may think his big forehand is his best shot, but he actually makes more errors than winners. Tell him that and he’ll disagree – show him the stats and it can’t be argued.
  3. Who should do it? In my view, the ideal person to chart a match is the player him or herself, using easily obtainable match videos. Whether you’re a budding high school tennis player, a top collegiate, or a 65-year old recreational player looking to improve, it’s eye-opening to see yourself play. All those things your coaches and friends have been telling you suddenly become glaringly apparent! Of course, until the advent of easily made match videos, this wasn’t possible, but we now can inexpensively mount a camera on the top of the fence and film the whole match.MyTennisTools.com has all the equipment you need.  If the player can’t do it, next in line would be the coach, followed by the parent or a friend.
  4. When should it be done? As soon as possible! If you are charting your own match, using your match film, it is ideal to do it the same day if you can, while you still remember what you were thinking at the time.  Now that can get interesting, to see what is really happening versus what you thought was happening.   Not necessarily the same!
  5. How do you chart a tennis match? First off, there are quite a few options as to the actual mechanics, including both manual and electronic. If you are technically-oriented, you can chart a match using your iPad or smartphone along with one of the charting apps available on iTunes or Google Play store. One such that we’ve used is MyTennisStatsapp.com, a relatively feature-rich and easy to use program. You can also just use a pencil and paper. Below is a general form that can be used, and here are two other websites with still other approaches. Check them out and pick what works best for you!

Get Smart! Chart! by Tony Severino, and another, different approach,  by Ron Waite found here. Any question? Feel free to contact me at info@mytennistools.com   Beyond charting: We think that the best way to chart a match, whether it is done by a player or a coach, is after the match is played using a large screen TV. (And of course the “beverage of your choice”). This way you can replay a point (especially true in doubles) and see how the point developed. Maybe that forced error on your forehand was really the result of your weak backhand that landed short midcourt and allowed your opponent to set up early and smack the ball! Or that winner your opponent hit was the same kind of situation, where you actually set him up. Good stuff to know, and certainly under your control. And without the ability to review the point on film, it isn’t something you would necessarily catch.

Match Chart

DATE:____________ EVENT:___________________________ PLAYER 1:_____________________ PLAYER 2____________________

ERRORSWINNERSFORCED ERRORSCOMMENTSSCOREERRORSWINNERSFORCED ERRORSCOMMENTS

Key:   F=Forehand BR=Backhand Return B=Backhand FP=Forehand Pass V=Volley FR=Forehand Return Vx=Volley number FA = Forehand Approach S= Serve O= Overhead

We’re always reviewing videos and websites for good tennis-related information which will help us improve our tennis game.  I  ran across a video by Kevin Garlington about the four phases of a tennis point.  Kevin outlines a strategy to help you understand and appreciate the different phases of a tennis point.

Is this an opportunity?

 

His video on the four phases of play in tennis is here:  Four Phases of Play in Tennis

Video Summary:   This video outlines a rational framework on how to look at individual point development, especially when reviewing match play.   The four phases are the:

  1.  Start:  Starting the point with a serve or return or serve that doesn’t present your opponent with an immediate opportunity.  Returns should be deep, keeping your opponents back.  The same thing with serves – try to develop your serve to the point where it’s not a “sitter”.
  2. Rally:  Here is where you and your opponent are “feeling” each other out, looking for that next phase, the Opportunity.
  3. Opportunity:  This might be the trickiest to recognize, and where video analysis really helps.   By using video, you can start to recognize what opportunities were lost.  Could you have come in behind that lob or shot to the corner?  Would a dropshot have been appropriate?  What angles were there?  How about a lob over the backhand side?
  4. Finish.  Recognizing when to try and finish off a point  can be another tricky endeavor.  Go for it all, or go for a “one-two” punch.  From my personal experience, I think it’s better for the “one-two” punch.  Less chance of making an error and a high likelihood of winning the point.

By keeping them in the proper perspective, you can avoid trying to “finish” the point when really you are in the “Rally” phase and there wasn’t an “Opportunity” phase there.   In even simpler terms, don’t try to hit winners before it’s time!

Along the lines of strategy though,  you should have a plan in mind before you step on the court. Knowing only that you are going to attack his weaker side is probably not enough.  How are you going to implement your own game?  Do you know your own strengths and weaknesses.   For instance, one strategy of mine is to hide my backhand (my much weaker side), and capitalize on my forehand and net game.  As a tactic, I serve and volley, chip and charge on return of serve,  and come to net any time possible, even if it’s not the ideal setup.

Watch some of this 10 and under tennis and think of terms of the four phases. These guys are mostly about first and second phases, rarely getting past the rally ball. (Footage was shot with a GoPro and the QM-1 Camera Mount for tennis.)

Here’s a link to a very informative video by Oncourt/Offcourt.  I often practice against the wall, and Joe has some interesting comments.   You can also mount your QM-1 on a fence and watch your strokes to see how you’re doing.   Great tennis practice.

Click here to go to YouTube and use your back button to return.