Technique has become………… too technical!!
As I promised to myself at the start of my site, I am going to attempt to write this article in under 15 minutes. No editing other than spell check……… so here goes!
Technique is my least favourite subject in tennis. I know it is important, I get that but my reasons for not liking it are the endless discussions many tennis people have about it. I believe it is talked about it because it is the most tangible and visible ‘thing’.
Here are my thoughts on technique:
I see technique in 3 layers –
This can be looked at in two different ways.
It is simply a series of checkpoints or poses that people throw out to players. For example ‘finish with your elbow up in front of your nose’ , ’point the butt cap down the court when you prepare your forehand’ or ‘finish on your tip toe of the back foot when you follow through’
Pure biomechanics – efficiency of movement – the science of how the body works in its most optimal way
No guesses which one I would prefer to use or speak about if ‘forced’ too.
This is simply understanding about the tactical application of technique. Essentially it is relating everything to the game, how the ball is flying in, where it will put you, what option is best for you to play and then of course what is the best way for you to play that ball. Instantly this deepens the conversation and gives opportunities to teach percentage tennis and then help form the best game style for each player as they develop into their formative years.
This is the understanding of how the technique changes very subtly (or hugely) for all the different types of situations that tennis can offer.
Instantly for me this becomes equally about skill development and less about poses and pure mechanics. It opens up unlimited options for training that force you to prioritise what will help each player develop quickest to win more points, games, sets, matches and tournaments.
For this I would split into 3 categories and talk about how each one of them may vary depending on the impact of their opponents shot, what they would like to do back and where they will reposition too
I start with a simple concept of a player having a ‘core’ shot which is essentially the biomechanically sound shot. From here it is easy to talk about what needs to change in each area.
To give one typical example:
A player’s core forehand may involve the legs having:
Legs – simple transfer from back foot to front foot – tip stance finish
Body – standard 180 degree rotation through hitting phase to finish
Arms – standard back to front swing path with the appropriate low to high through hitting phase
Now the situation is the opponent has approached with a down the line slice backhand to a right handers forehand. The player wants to pass with an acute cross court forehand angle with spin.
It would be crazy for me to reference any of the above information as their mechanics have to fundamentally adapt to the situation.
Legs – Get behind the ball with right foot – may need to hop step as you hit to aid with vertical path of racket required
Body – A large rotation will lead to a more shallow path – here the player needs a steep path so there will be minimal rotation
Arms – Due to the above the player will more likely swing with their arm in a more vertical path. The racket can be swung by the shoulder joint, from the elbow joint and the wrist. A core shot will use all 3 for maximum racket speed but in this situation you will not swing too much with the elbow and wrist.
Now the crucial part…..
I know all this stuff and can spout all the biomechanics theory you want but the most important aspect is the player learning versus the want for me to teach!
This is the aspect of technique I like the least. Some feel the need to voice the encyclopaedia of information they have to the player. I get that, I used to to do it but I soon learnt that the most effective way to have someone learn is implicitly and not explicitly.
All I would do in this situation is place the player in the scenario and challenge them to figure it out. I would be on hand to throw in some pictures or feelings to have them internally focus and hope they soon start to adapt their technique accordingly.
Players like to be challenged whether it be physically or mentally and it is more fun to be creative and have them figure things out without having a technical bible thrown at them.
Even as I finish up here I’m imagining some wanting to argue about the swinging from the arm thing versus the elbow and wrist.
To finish with a slightly different scenario….
If the situation was the same but the player was on the run while passing then I would suggest swinging from the elbow – forearm – wrist – and this would be done with virtually no rotation in hitting phase and they would have to perform a run step through the hitting phase with the legs.
If they were absolutely desperately chasing then it would be simply from the wrist – hand.
The reality is that technique can be viewed in very black & white mechanical terms but the game of tennis most certainly cannot. Therefore it is my preference to talk about the game then the technique but of course when I first work with a player there may be a very short period of time where I have to help them develop efficient or conformed technique.
If you have any questions on the above please post below. I have literally thrown this on to the page so I understand if it raises some questions.
Thanks for taking the time to read it.