How Basic Can it Get?

Here is a short list of tasks required to hit simply one ball over the net:

  • turn to the side early
  • move your feet to position for the hit
  • get their quickly in time with the ball
  • prepare the racquet in time with the bounce
  • use your legs to drive the hips
  • allow the torso to follow your hips
  • allow the arm to follow the shoulder
  • manage your contact point in sequence with the grip
  • contact the ball out in front
  • keep your head still during the swing
  • brush the ball as required for either topspin, backspin or sidespin (when approaching)
  • feel the ball on the strings
  • follow thru
  • watch the ball as it crosses the net
  • be ready when the opponent makes contact
  • then go thru this process again, and again, and again

Frankly, many of you have been with coaches who can add to this list of tasks.  And my concern is whether it is possible to listen, to remember, to manage these tasks in sequence and still stay fully concentrated on the ball.

Said another way, we once had a pro who worked at our club who said (this was actually said), “I like the sound of my own voice.”  And in his lessons, and this may have occurred to you, there was a constant stream of verbal instructions.

Mindset by Jackie Reardon (which is an excellent book on attitude and on what occurs between your ears) recommends that when looking for a competent tennis teacher, select one who talks less and empowers the learning more.

Rephrased, teacher centered learning occurs when teachers actively instruct, student centered learning (which is documented to work better) occurs when teachers instruct less and empower the student to explore, to feel, to experiment, and ultimately take responsibility for their games.

Hopefully you are finding me in the latter category.

So then I start to wonder, how basic, how grounded, how simple, how can I deliver small bites of stuff that unlock the feel of a stroke, the method, the balance, and this list does go on and on.  I try this on court, I try this in our podcasts, and now I am trying this same method in a new product stream – the “5 Keys.”

Meaning, what could be 5 simple easily understood keys to say – a one handed topspin backhand, the modern double bend forehand, the drop shot, or even a tutorial on the grips.

Nothing long winded, very little to digest, but actionable lessons, in small bites, that unlock a particular skill – but without the jargon, without the long winded (online) introductions when you may wonder when he or she will ever get to the point, and without the need to somehow translate the instructors words into basic elements that you can actually learn and feel.

Here is an example – at our club many of the players are unfamiliar with the look and feel of the drop shot.  But if you have ever played a ringer who knew the court and could feather drop shots when you were out of position – then you know how deadly this shot can be (on either the sending or the receiving end).

I believe the 5 basic keys to the drop shot – to playing “North to South” must include the following, and in this sequence:

  • It all begins with the continental grip
  • Lead with the lower edge for backspin
  • Court Position matters!
  • Double your backspin with an ascending incoming ball
  • Finish with a feathering touch!

I will be working within this 5 Keys – basic vein – if there are topics you would like to see covered – please reply within the comment stream below.  I’ve pulled out just one of the lessons out of 5 Keys to understanding Drops Shots. Take a look…

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The 5 Keys series are a set of short, simple, discreet courses that can help you with your game, they are:

  • 5 Keys to Deadly Drop Shots
  • 5 Keys to the Modern Double Bend Forehand
  • 5 Keys to the One Handed Topspin Backhand
  • 5 Keys to Understanding Grips

Learn More...

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6 Comments

  • eTennis League

    Reply Reply November 19, 2013

    Great blog Jim!

  • Dan Higashi

    Reply Reply October 15, 2013

    Psychological studies have proven decades ago that the human mind can keep track of 5 +/- 2 things at any one time depending on whether you’re having a good or bad day respectively. So you’re starting out from the right number of “keys”.

    • Jim McLennan

      Reply Reply October 15, 2013

      Dan – thanks for this – but what does the 5 plus or minus 2 have to do with span of control and or multi-tasking – that is where the Inner Game makes such a statement about watching the ball so darn closely you cannot truly think of anything else
      Jim

  • Winslow

    Reply Reply October 15, 2013

    Love the thinking Jim!

  • Robert

    Reply Reply October 15, 2013

    A more general comment, if that is OK. I keep hearing things like “the one hand backhand is dead” and “all the Juniors coaches teach the two hander now.” But lessons like this, and the consistent use of the drop shot both off the ground and in volleys by top players in both the WTA and the ATP, prove to me that that is not the case. Add to that the increasing use of slice backhands that we see deep in tournaments — and the two pretty slice forehands we saw from Nadal in the semifinal in Shanghai — and we can make the case that it is an essential arrow in the quiver in the modern game. So if Juniors coaches are not teaching the one hand skills, it is a great pity. That means that their charges are growing up with no real opportunity to become intimately familiar with the face of their racket. And no one is going to have much success on the ATP tour without that in today’s game.
    PS. I am getting more out of the 5 Keys than anyone has any right to expect or even dream of.

  • Bill

    Reply Reply October 14, 2013

    I will be jumping on this offer from you later tonight but for now, I just wanted to drop you this quick note. I was very happy to see you write:

    “Nothing long winded, very little to digest, but actionable lessons, in small bites, that unlock a particular skill – but without the jargon, without the long winded (online) introductions when you may wonder when he or she will ever get to the point, and without the need to somehow translate the instructors words into basic elements that you can actually learn and feel.”

    What we all want is simple, direct instruction without a lot of the verboseness that I’ve been seeing in other places. Once I read that, I was sold. Please don’t change!

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