ETI 004 | Balance – in the extreme

[headline_tahoma_small_left color=”#000000″]Balance may be the most important but least understood element of our game.[/headline_tahoma_small_left]

And more than any other aspect, the control of your head, “poise if you will” defines your grace, your economy of effort, as well as how clearly you see the ball.

Many years ago, in my training with Tom Stow (I was in my early 20’s and had already played 4 years of college tennis) he totally remade my game with constant reference to balance, to posture, to playing with less effort and more “conk.”

Watching our very best players, you can see a similar poise, balance if you will.  Federer is the acknowledged master of all this.  But you too can start by working on how you carry your head.

As amusing (hopefully) as the drill in the video appears, see if you can see if you can perform your swings with a “ball on the hat.”.


  • Everett Cox

    Reply Reply April 24, 2012

    Jim made this simple suggestion to me today while I was on the court: watch a fixed point on the fence opposite to judge whether I was keeping me head still. (I wasn’t). For the next 100 balls I thought of nothing other than keeping my head from moving side to side. The improvement was instant. I suddenly felt relaxed and the power of my forehand became effortless. Somehow, keeping your head still on top of your spine allows your body to rotate and your arm to move freely. And he is right – it makes it harder to keep your eyes glued to the ball at impact, but it didn’t seem to be a problem.

    Thanks for the tip Jim.

  • amanda

    Reply Reply July 13, 2011

    That was an interesting podcast! I’m going to try it out tomorrow.

  • Michael Jessup

    Reply Reply July 9, 2011

    I love balance and am always learning more. I wonder if keeping the ball on the head is applicable as the head being quiet doesn’t mean still. If the head needs to be still in relationship to the body what happens when the body moves into different angles? When people do archery or shoot guns their head tilts to the side for better vision. Does the ball thing pertain more to open stance?

    • Jim McLennan

      Reply Reply July 9, 2011

      Mike – good questions (as usual) – not at all sure about the tilting of the head thing, for yes about shooters, but somehow with the turning thing, maybe something like gyroscopic stability an upright skull might be less prone to wobble – that said Agassi did tilt his head on the forehand – we will always be studying – hope to see you soon

  • giuseppe tripodi

    Reply Reply July 8, 2011

    Hi, Jim,yes great as we know the head control the shoulders to donwards, will have a go with my juniors tomorrow and will get back to you with the results

  • Bruce Gullikson

    Reply Reply July 7, 2011

    Great tip as always Jim a pencil behind the ear can work as well. I love high tech personal raining but do think that simple concepts such as Alexander technique and balance and economy of motion are more important than adding another weight to the squat rack

  • Ken Wong

    Reply Reply July 7, 2011


    Great stuff about balance and keeping the head still. It still amazes me when students come to me for help with the “complaint” that their other teaching pro told them to “watch the ball”. Try as they might, the results were inconsistent at best.

    My question to them is always, “Has anyone ever told you how to watch the ball?”

    The answer is almost always “No.”

    Your video is a great primer to support my advice to “Watch the ball by moving your eyes and not your head.”


    Kenny Wong
    USPTR Professional

  • Mestengo Hidalgo

    Reply Reply July 7, 2011


    Your constant reference to coaches of a game long since past is beginning to sound like a VFW vet from WW I giving advice to troops headed to Kabul.

    Is there no one contemporary that has taught you something worth passing on?

    • Jim McLennan

      Reply Reply July 7, 2011

      Mestengo – I am still studying, still going to conferences, and reading – and yes there are many good ones out there right now – but my formative years occurred from 1960 through to 1990 more as a player and a rookie teacher – so that is why I refer to them – sorry
      Though I have spent time learning from Nick Bollitieri, Robert Lansdorp and even Brad Gilbert

  • Rick Hartten

    Reply Reply July 7, 2011

    Another very good one, Jim. I think I’d better sign up for TennisOne. I’m 73 and $100 is a lot for me, but it should be worth it. (Years ago, when it was about $33, I was a subscriber.) You and Brent Abel are the best.


    • Jim McLennan

      Reply Reply July 7, 2011

      Rick – thanks, Brent is amazing, I am just trying to keep up

  • Mac – Love it. Tom helped my game so much initially by getting me to focus on how the swing came out & away from that balanced position. Eventually it gave me that sense of ‘swing freedom’.

    As always Jim, great stuff. Thanks.


  • Kris Tuttle

    Reply Reply July 7, 2011

    Watching the pros head position this year I noticed that not only did they keep them very quiet and still but also had them well behind the ball. Being aware of it helps to make contact with the ball out in front of you and keep your weight behind it.

  • Larry

    Reply Reply July 7, 2011

    What a great idea!! I would imagine that it’s very difficult…I’m going to give it a try..

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