THE SECRET*-explained in detail for coaches:
*Copyright: TX8-570-398, Registered, All Rights Reserved, May not be copied or quoted without written permission from the author.
"ALL TRUTH passes through three stages. First, it's ridiculed. Second, it's violently opposed. Third, it's accepted as being self-evident." -Arthur Schopenhauer
Some of the information presented here may challenge some of your perceptions...
Example #1: A young baseball pitcher learns how to throw a "curve-ball." Within a short time, he/she learns (or figures out) that they can manipulate and release the ball in various other ways that will (hopefully) cause the ball to avoid the swings of opposing batters...
Example #2: A football quarterback quickly learns that besides throwing short "bullet" passes, he/she must, at times, loft the football more gently, over the reach of defenders...
What about a tennis hopeful?
They also must learn how to hit the ball with various amounts of spin and pace to affect the trajectory of the ball over the net, and how and where it will land in their opponent's side of the court.
The best way that I have found to illustrate this to students is with the use of an inflatable beach-ball. I will often have students practice hitting (with their palm) and catching, a beach-ball, back and forth, over the net. The size and colorful (spinning) stripes of the beach-ball illustrates to the student how they too can manipulate a ball, just as a pitcher or quarterback can.
A few years ago, a video was posted on youtube of Roger Federer hitting a tennis ball can off the head of a "volunteer," a la William Tell. Some people claimed that this video was a fake. Then, about a year ago (2016), another video was posted of Serena Williams, first hitting a small water-balloon target with a serve, and then hitting a small moving target, while she was standing on the baseline. Serena successfully did both, on her first or second try.
So, what does this tell us? -That a tennis player, with proper instruction, can get to the point where they can control the ball off their racquet strings as accurately as any baseball pitcher, or quarterback, can throw...
NOW, here's where it REALLY gets interesting:
What would you say is a baseball pitcher's target? Most would answer: "His Catcher's mitt." -But actually, they're visualizing a position, above or in relation to, Home-plate and/or, the batter in the "box."
And a football quarterback? -If their receiver is close and not moving, it would usually be the hands (or chest) of their receiver. But, if their receiver is moving, the quarterback is VISUALIZING where his receiver's hands will be in the time that it takes for the football to get there, AS WELL AS, the height (trajectory) that the football must achieve, to get there.
Practice makes perfect, but still, it's nothing short of amazing how the human brain can calculate and execute something like this , in a fraction of a second! -If only Brett Favre had calculated a little better on his final pass in the 2009, NFC Championship game! -for us Vikings fans...
But, the very best sports analogy for tennis, is a hockey player taking a slap-shot...
...While focusing their eyes on the puck, they are using SPACIAL AWARENESS (closely related to: peripheral vision), of themselves in relation to the goal, while VISUALIZING a target in their mind. SPACIAL AWARENESS, of the tennis player in relation to the court, is the other missing FUNDAMENTAL that is not being taught by organized tennis (in the U.S.A.), for some reason.
-IF THERE IS A "SECRET" TO LEARNING TENNIS, it surely is this:
Having a complete understanding of what happens (or what needs to happen), in the critical millisecond of contact, between the ball and your racquet strings, and, VISUALIZING (in your mind) the correct target...
When hitting from the baseline, where 90% of your tennis shots are made from, you should be visualizing a fixed position well above the net. (At least 4 feet above the net, -unless hitting a passing shot).
This is no doubt, the most important article I've ever written, and maybe, the most important tennis discovery, ever...
It reveals, what I feel, are the two most important (and over-looked) FUNDAMENTALS in tennis, -and possibly many other sports. This discovery opens up a whole new field of study which I will be writing more about, and naming: PsycoCyberAthletics, and: Sports Performance Imagery.
For more information: See "THE TRUST FACTOR" blog on my Home page.
Most tennis players, and even the "pros" are not aware/conscious of these facts because so many things are happening in an instant (of time), while their eyes are/should be, 100% focused on the contact event between the ball and their racquet strings.
I offer a reward on this website to anyone that can show me these concepts, published anywhere, prior to me revealing them here, but so far, no one has been able to claim the reward.
Visualizing a (correct) target is as fundamental to tennis, as is correctly holding the tennis racquet.
Peripheral vision is closely related to: SPACIAL AWARENESS, -of the player in relation to the court.
Height adjustable, above-the-net, hoop-targets are offered for sale on this website. Hitting to these targets gives immediate feedback to the student that they have performed correctly, and, they add a fun challenge for young tennis students. Order two so you can practice rally/pass drills, and rally/approach drills. The height of your target above the net must change for these two different sets of shots.
Target and Spacial Awareness training can easily be included into your tennis programs. Contact Coach Brian about mini-camps for instructors, drills and other ideas to help your students benefit from these new discoveries.
Copyright: TX8-570-398, Registered, All Rights Reserved, None of the above may be copied or quoted without written permission from the author.
* It has come to my attention, that, in 1995, Joe Dinoffer, () wrote a book: "Airzone," which mentions "visualization" as an "aid" for all player levels. My claim, as you can read here, is that visualizing a target above the net (when hitting shots from the baseline) IS FUNDAMENTAL to learning tennis. This claim is not made in Joe's book, but I still wanted to acknowledge Joe's earlier, similar work. -Coach Brian, Nov. 2018.