I had a lesson recently with a teenager who had spent around five or so years playing tennis in various programs around the State as he and his family moved around a bit. He spoke to me about wanting to improve his technique so we hit a few balls and then I brought him up close to the net.
" Show me how you would treat this ball thanks buddy " as I dropped a ball in front of him nice and low about half way between the net and the service box. He netted the first three balls that didn't even look like clearing the net. We tried again, 'Just a little more height on your follow through mate, let's clear it this time, nothing fancy, not too much pace".
Net, net, net and net again on the next four balls I drop fed to him. " What would you say is the problem with your forehand Champ" ? as I asked the obvious. 'Not sure, maybe my grip'. So we had a look at his grip which wasn't totally incorrect but we made a slight adjustment then I fed another five balls to his forehand and he cleared the net just once however his shot went long.
Here's what was going on. The kid had never been shown how to loop a ball into court. All he knew was how to drive it hard with a net clearance of a bee's proverbial. The kid had no idea on topspin or how to take the pace off the ball and simply roll it into play and he had been playing for around five years.
"Have you ever had a one on one lesson mate ? " 'No, just group lessons'. So as usual I did the sums on the whole thing. What is happening in many programs is rather obvious, too many kids in a lesson, kids running around looking busy but no real substance to the sessions and definitely no work on technique. I asked the kid whether he had been shown how to abbreviate a shot, you know, break it down into parts and his reply was 'no' again.
Sure it's a requirement for a kid to have a fun session , run around and come off the court saying 'That was great fun Dad' ,but surely part of those sessions must be about slowing the tempo down and at least looking at the mechanics of a shot. Or are some coaches worried about boring a kid to tears ?
Are gimmicks taking over from learning ? I asked this particular student to throw me a few balls just as I did to him and I showed him how to simply roll a ball into play without the drive type of motion that he thought was the ONLY way to hit a tennis ball. I broke the shot down into parts and even started with holding the racket up near the throat to prove I could hit a ball into play with plenty of clearance and not so much as a racket handle to help me.
I also hit a few balls over with just my hand as he threw the balls to me. I struck the ball with the palm of my hand and proved that I could also hit topspin without a racket. ( Sorry, maybe a gimmick there ) I wanted him to see the motion that was required to come up on a tennis ball from underneath it to create spin.
He gave it a go himself and actually had some success with it which I was not surprised about because I have always found that hitting a tennis shot in parts is how to build technique. Tennis teaching to me is all about thinking outside the square and not necessarily following programs that look great yet miss the mark as far as technique building is concerned.
I still am rather bemused by certain programs in tennis that are a total waste of time yet are seen by some parents in particular as a program of substance for their child. Forget the 10 or 12 student classes, total waste of time once again and find something that has a bit of bite to it like a program that explains the game in detail at an affordable price.....
Hang on GT, that may just make way too much sense.....
Heading to the Wheat belt again this weekend to spread the word on the game, you know the word that explains the sport of tennis without all the glossy stuff that seems to be associated with the sport now days.....
See you all in a few days