ETI 017 | Moving to the Ball – Turn and Go


  • ETI 017 Moving to the Ball
    ETI 017 Moving to the Ball

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Tennis – moving and hitting – not really much more to it.  Quicker players have an advantage, consistent power hitters have an advantage.

When it comes to improving the moving, the footwork, your getting to the ball and recovering back to center – there are many training methods to chose from.  The first and most obvious choice concerns weight training, where stronger muscles may help you “explode” to the ball.  Another variation includes actual dance and balance exercises, where the goal becomes moving with more grace and less effort.

But no matter your current performance, or your training methods, consider the following question.

“You are positioned on the baseline – ready to go in either direction – you see the ball is coming wide and fast to your forehand side (this assumes you are right handed) – which foot do you move first and where?   Said another way, how do you initiate quick movement to the ball?

As you can probably imagine, I have a few ideas on this topic.

32 Comments

  • Ole Clamdigger

    Reply Reply April 19, 2013

    “Well, Yes indeed”…! Gotta love it.. You’re Salty.

  • hans brink

    Reply Reply November 7, 2012

    again very usefull

  • Mary

    Reply Reply July 11, 2012

    I’ve watched this multiple times and I simply can’t get it. I am coordinated, so what gives. Could you show this from the back? Is there another way to think about it perhaps?

  • bud Longnecker

    Reply Reply July 8, 2012

    I need help at getting io the ball quickly.

  • Geoffrey Sohr

    Reply Reply July 6, 2012

    Very interesting your Moving to the Ball blog! But it does seem to make sense that essentially you are using both feet to get our mass in motion much like a sprinter in the blocks.

    A question: Is it an.unreasonable scenario that a professional one handed backhander develop a two handed backhand for return of serve and high bouncers? I keep trying to find a scenario where Federer can challenge Nadal or Djok on clay , using the two hands solely for defense and preservation of energy.

    • Jim McLennan

      Reply Reply July 6, 2012

      Geoff – difficult question on the two handed return from the ad court of a high bouncing ball – yes the one hander may not be an offensive weapon at that point the way Novak’s two hander rifles the ball from a similar point of contact – but on the other hand I think the variety that flows from the one hander (topspin, slice, drops, sidespin) may level the competitive field – finally I think this debate will go on for years and years
      Jim

  • David C.

    Reply Reply July 2, 2012

    Hi Jim,

    Enjoyed your footwork and agility for your age, ha ha!
    What about a diagonal move to take the ball earlier or
    on the rise rather than side steps? Will the same
    patterns be usable or should the back step for balance
    be eliminated? Your thoughts?

    • Jim McLennan

      Reply Reply July 3, 2012

      David – yes – in each case the trick is to turn the hips precisely to the direction of the ball – and gravity will start the process every time
      Jim

  • Kevin

    Reply Reply July 2, 2012

    Takes me back about 50 years and a segment on TV where Maury Wills was talking about how he used (I’m almost certain) a “crossover” as his first step when stealing second base. It never “felt” right to me, but I couldn’t logically come up with “why”. Your explanation makes a lot of sense to me.

    Kevin

    • Jim McLennan

      Reply Reply July 2, 2012

      Kevin – thanks, I have studied whether base stealers do this move (some do some don’t) but I had always thought Rickey Williams was one who did
      Jim

  • William

    Reply Reply July 2, 2012

    I believe Lee Taft calls a variation of this move a “plyo-step.” The problem becomes when techniques such as these are demonstrated in slow motion in an unrealistic environment.
    I suspect there are a lot of sub-variations, as well. I appreciate the way you always investigate nuances of technique with great aplomb and true integrity.

    • Jim McLennan

      Reply Reply July 2, 2012

      William – yes that term works – but plyo implies effort – and in most instances the flow from gravity is effortless – perhaps the plyo magnifies this effect
      Jim

  • Noushin Kananian

    Reply Reply July 2, 2012

    Thanks a lot, it’s very useful.

  • Grahame

    Reply Reply July 2, 2012

    Thank you, Jim. I’ve had plenty of input from tennis coaches on footwork but no one has mentioned this technique. I’ll give it a try and let you know how things go.

  • Lisa Ann

    Reply Reply July 2, 2012

    We will practice the pivot and turn agility exercise at home!
    Thanks for this new method to increase our speed for those
    pesky wide tough corner shots coming at us….Lisa in Royal Oak, MI

  • Elizabeth

    Reply Reply July 1, 2012

    Hello Mr. McLennan,

    You have asked for feedback and comments about your videos. Here are some of my general thoughts:

    * I wish there was more time between the videos: for example if they came once a week instead of every day or two. (If I was able to get to a court every day and try something new each time that would be one thing, but the information has been coming in at a far greater rate than I have had to try out the tips.)

    * I really like your course and think the tips are excellent and well explained, but sometimes I think they would be improved if there was slightly less time on introductory comments each time, vs. a little more time in demonstrating.

    (FYI: I am someone who about 10-15 years ago used to spend many, many, many hours trying to develop a kick serve, getting instruction from pros and then often spending time alone on a court practicing with with a big basket of balls… I wanted to use it for my 2nd serve to have a dependable but strong serve — but even for a first serve it could be effective because so many people I played with had a hard time returning anything with heavy topspin. Some of your tips are familiar to me, but others I wish I could have had the benefit of at that time!!)

    * One question I wish I could see addressed: what is the best way to increase the degree of topspin? (I5 years ago I was strong and in very good shape, but I remember one young teenage girl who had mastered incredibly heavy topspin that made her one of the top players at our club. (This was in Athens, Greece, where I was living at the time as an expat). I practiced for hours with a (male) pro who fed me heavy topspin to improve my ability to return serves or any topspin shots — and ultimately I almost (but not quite) beat the teen in a very dramatic tournament at our club. But I never could achieve anything like her degree of spin and “kick”. My 12-year-old son longs to learn heavy topspin, and I wish I could give him guidance!)

    Thanks for letting me share.

    – Elizabeth

    • Jim McLennan

      Reply Reply July 2, 2012

      Elizabeth – increasing topspin is merely (though this is not at all simple) increasing the racquet speed in an upward direction, coupled with a grip that creates a glancing rather than full or centered blow – but often when changing grips in order to find this spin serve the unfamiliarity of the grip and swing winds up reducing racquet head speed
      Jim

  • John Mauzy

    Reply Reply July 1, 2012

    Looks like it makes sense — will have to follow through with my own movements and determine just what’s going on. Probably don’t have the same footwork depending on the situation and urgency.
    Thought I would hear you say “drop step” but I think that’s what some of the footwork actually could be called. Right?
    Practice. Practice. Practice.

  • Robert A

    Reply Reply July 1, 2012

    I did use this in the other sport that you mention, and I found that because of the dynamic imbalance aspect the stagger step (another name for it?) gets me at speed (such as it is) a step and half or so sooner. But frankly, it’s when I get lazy or I’m picking daisies and suddenly there is a dropper floating toward the service box that I resort to to this step to get moving quickly. Isn’t it odd that our footwork patterns prepare us best for moving parallel to the baseline and then for moving back, but we don’t translate it to moving forward so well?
    Now that you point that step out, though, I am practicing it out of the split. I think the challenge is tolerating the momentary imbalance while the hips rotate into the pivot.

  • Rodger Schuester

    Reply Reply July 1, 2012

    Mestengo,

    With all due respect and kindness:

    1) I don’t hear Jim suggesting that this is some “new” idea in the video and 2) after you read the below from one of Jim’s 2003 articles, it just may be that the reason the player development staff agree that the drop-step is the quickest from a dynamic start had something to do with Jim and other coaches having these kinds of discussions 10 years ago – notice that Jim’s article was published some 9 years ago.

    Per Jim McLennan,July 2003, published in ADDvantage – the magazine for the professional tennis coaches association. “The gravity turn, or drop step, drops the right foot away from the ball as the hips turn, creating forward motion…..At the 2002 USPTA World Conference in Las Vegas, I posed the question, “What is the quickest and/or least effortful way to move for a wide and difficult ball?” About 90 percent of the audience chose the jab step, while less than 10 percent chose the crossover step, and only a handful from an audience of 200 chose the drop step.

    http://www.addvantageuspta.com

    Mestengo, would you mind keeping your posts a bit more positive and constructive in the future for those of us who are trying to learn from Jim???

    Thanks and Kindest Regards, Rodger S.

  • Bud Light

    Reply Reply July 1, 2012

    Makes a lot of sense and the beauty of it is that one can use all three varieties with equal benefit. Thanks for bringing our attention to this. Best, Bud Light, [email protected]

  • Mestengo

    Reply Reply July 1, 2012

    Your friends are either ignorant and making up names or lazy since what you are demonstrating is a Drop-Step, a term well documented for the past 25+ years. The only controversy has been which is quicker. Research studies currently learn towards the drop-step being the quickest footwork from a dynamic position start. The USTA Player Development staff have for 10 years shared this “new” view.

    • Jim McLennan

      Reply Reply July 1, 2012

      Mestengo – I am sorry if my materials offend you – truly – that said in the morning I will look in my files for backup – but from memory I believe I published this in Addvantage magazine in 1989, presented this at a USTA national teachers conference in New York in about 1994, also at a Tennis Science and Technology conference in London in 2004, and worked with the biomechanical engineering lab at Stanford University on a related research project in about 2004 as well. But I do not take any credit for these ideas – I learned them from Don Kerr, Tulane tennis coach – and his term was “gravity turn” – I am totally open to the dialogue but do prefer less heat and more light – I will give you as much backup as you like – there is actually a very very long history here – I have also published this material extensively at Tennisone.com – in fact an article there shows McEnroe and Seles using this move – the link is as follows – but it may require a membership in Tennisone to view the following

      http://www.tennisone.com/club/lessons/jm/silicon/split/splitting.php

      It is important that all in the tennis community have a sense of give and take, and approach new and old ideas with an open mind – at my end that point of view was inspired by a book I met in college, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions – which revolved around “paradigms” and how they influence the point of view of any field (including tennis instruction)

      I will find the precise dates of these publications tomorrow – but suspect in any event you may still be quite angry – if so I am sorry
      Jim

  • Don McDonald

    Reply Reply July 1, 2012

    I am not sure there is an ideal way to run. I have two videos of Federer hitting forehands. In one, the ball is hit directly at him and he takes 13 baby steps to hit the ball and twice rolled over onto the side of his foot. In the other, he has to hit a ball several feet to his right. I do not remember exactly how he started, but he took only 5 steps. I run flat footed on a wet field, on my toes for racquetball and cannot decide how to run in tennis. However, I am “leaning” toward nearly flat footed as if wearing bedroom slippers. This allows you to pull with one foot and push with the other to begin to move. So you move one step toward your target before you reach the position you reach with the gravity drop. There was one WTA player Sissel K… who I believed moved this way. She was unbelievable. As she waited for serve she looked as if she had let down roots. And then with no discernible effort she simply glided over to the ball.

  • Rodger Schuester

    Reply Reply July 1, 2012

    First off, please have support email me at [email protected] re: reup my ETI membership – I lost their last email.

    Second, If you can put together a course that teaches senior citizens how to move like young studs, I’m gonna buy a dozen and hand them out to all the old duffers around me…just joking, but I’m going for a second 20 lbs off the butt while I keep working on your fast footwork ideas…so far no injuries of any kind.

    Third, I’m pretty focused on my neutralizing drills from your master the ground game video. I’m hoping 4 months of practice will help a wee bit on that “consistent power” thing down the middle of the court to the baseline. I’m starting to pick up a few more points that way, which keeps these guys from picking me off somewhere between how far it is possible vs probable for me to move to. (taking a bit of creative license with your yellow/orange cones concept)

  • Mary

    Reply Reply July 1, 2012

    Could you include some links to Fed video. I like this already. Thanks, Mary

  • ray

    Reply Reply July 1, 2012

    What happened to the split step?

    • Jim McLennan

      Reply Reply July 1, 2012

      Ray – the split still exists – this was a dialogue about moving to the ball from a ready stance or after a split – same goes for infielders in baseball and what I am wondering about is why they don’t split step??
      Jim

  • mike shephard

    Reply Reply July 1, 2012

    Thanks it gives me fresh look at footwork that I can show my girls when we have a hitting practice

  • harlan

    Reply Reply July 1, 2012

    Hey Jim, I really like this! Thanks, I’ll definitely become more aware of this other option of movement, and will begin trying it out. Thanks again.

  • Fred

    Reply Reply July 1, 2012

    Hi Jim,
    Great topic and very well explained.. One other name that can be associated with this movement is called the drop step.. No matter what name you choose if one can practice this movement they will indeed start to become a bit more agile..Thanks for all your insight and thoughts about the wonderful game of tennis…

    • Jim McLennan

      Reply Reply July 1, 2012

      Fred – yes – drop step, gravity turn, floating pivot, negative step – all possible names – probably there are others as well
      Jim

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