Technique is important in every sport. I'd venture to say it is even more so in tennis. Anyone who picks up a racquet for the first time post-childhood would likely agree, Therefore, teaching technique in this sport is critical. I like to break things down, and teach each portion of stroke production. I've found that being precise with what you are teaching can achieve greater improvements.
If you took the top 10 male and 10 female players in the world, and filmed them hitting a forehand, would they all be the same? Absolutely not! There are core elements that exist for all players, but each has his or her own distinct positions, angles, or movements. It's like a unique signature, on the tennis court. These nuances are influenced by physical capabilities, style of play, and coaching. If you've seen one forehand...you've seen one forehand. This leads me to ask: Why do coaches try to teach the same forehand to every player?
Over my coaching career, I have learnt how to break down a stroke to help the player. I teach four basic components to hitting a forehand: (1) preparation or take-back of the racquet, (2) dropping the racquet head into position to allow a top spin or flat shot, (3) the contact point or strike zone, and (4) the follow through--what happens to the racquet after contact.
If you can break down each stroke into these core elements, it allows the player to focus on one thing at a time. It's easy to tell the player what to adjust after each stroke, but what are you really working on? What's the priority? "You need to load that right leg, change the racquet angle on your set-up, contact the ball further out, and relax your wrist through the contact point." Huh?! When I work technique with a player, I might just work on the set-up of the forehand for the lesson, talking about the adjustments needed for a high ball, rally ball, low ball, and transition ball. The player can focus on this one aspect and carry it into the next hitting session. Teaching technique is...technical. This very focused instruction can become muddled if the scope is too broad.
As technical as I get in my lessons, please be unafraid to ask detailed questions to your children. Next time you ask your child what they worked on in class, try to get more specifics about the practice. I hope your conversations go something like this:
Thanks for reading. Have a sensational week out there.
Matt's Point (get it? Match Point!) is Matt's blog covering all the goings-on at IJP Tennis.