When a guy who is commonly known as a Tennis Coach begins working with you at a young age there is a significant amount of experience changing hands. On one side of the coin you have a 'guru', a type of sporting 'zen master' who knows the game so well it's almost embarrassing.
On the other side it's like a new born puppy learning some new life skills and that peeing on the carpet is not one of them.There were certain areas I had to learn about the game.
My greatest issue with the game of tennis was that I had watched Borg and Wilander play who didn't volley much, if it was good enough for them to stay back, well......
So my biggest area of improvement, like that puppy who needed to learn his limitations in life was to accept the fact that my game was so one dimensional it was laughable. I needed a volley. My only trips to the net were usually to shake hands and whilst this was good enough to beat the locals it was never going to be good enough to win against the better players.
Pete started from the beginning with my volleys, the grip, the lack of follow through, the shoulder turn on the backhand volley in particular and the footwork. We worked on the approach shot also, the shot to get me into the net in the first place and the split step.
There was no point in continuing the run to the net if the ball was on me before I got there, stop, split step, volley, then get in to finish the point.
Pete would give me drills that were match situation type drills, realistic ones that were always going to come to fruition in a match. I vividly remember the approach shot drill. Pete would start me in 'green light' territory, half way between the baseline and service line, feed me a short ball then get me moving forward. He would hit me a ball when I reached the service line, working on a good deep first volley in followed by a final move close to the net to finish the point.
I liked this drill as it taught me basic things that I didn't know about the game. Sometimes I would see kids trying to emulate their hero's and with no disrespect it didn't look quite right particularly on the net charge. Running in from the base line resembled a charge from soldiers in the trenches, there was never going to be enough time to get where they needed to be.
I likened the base line to a trench, a red light area, do not go, stay and fight.
I enjoyed the simple way in which Holmsey taught me to get into a position that would conserve my legs and stamina, a way to end a point at last that didn't take me 40 shots. He taught me that I didn't always have to be the 'hunted', I could at last be the 'hunter', it all made perfect sense, implementing in was another story.
I did a rough count the other day when I was doing a lesson of my own that a student will hit around six to seven hundred balls in an hour of technique oriented hitting. That's a lot of balls hit.
If the balls are hit correctly then improvement will be just around the corner but during that session it is also an obligation to teach tactics also, the two go hand in hand. So it's one thing to teach a student to hit a ball correctly, it's another to teach them how to play tennis, one without the other is pointless. I learned from Pete that staying back and playing in the 'trenches' will only make me predictable to play and cannon fodder for a smart player.
Learning the approach and the net game was something I will be forever grateful to Holmsey for as it gave my tennis game a new found sense of freedom. I was out of the trenches and into the front line, dangerous yet strangely exciting. No longer the hunted I now felt like a hunter in search of prey. I was ready to implement the changes and become a more complete player.........
Part 8 to follow