My 10-year-old son was serving great. Now, however, his toss seems to drift away or too close to his body. I asked some coaches to see if they can find out what’s wrong, but they always insist that he keeps his weight on his back foot. You say in your video that weight should be on the front leg. What’s your suggestion on this?
Hi. Before recommending any coach to work with your son, try this:
1. Do not concern yourself with the location of his body weight.
2. Have him stand in a normal serving position, but with both feet together.
3. Tell him to toss the ball first with the racquet starting behind his shoulder, and then with his full motion.
Placing both feet right next to each other will force your son to toss slightly in front of his feet and a little to the right, which is the right location.
I’m a competitive junior in Florida and have trouble winning against the Saddlebrook juniors at tournaments. I feel like I’m just as good as them in practice, but whenever I play tournaments I go for too much and usually lose badly. Do you have any advice?
Hi. It seems to me that mentally you have already lost the match before you play it because you go for too much when facing supposedly better players. Think about your strengths and execute them with control. Do not panic and start going for broke. Hit into the bigger parts of the court and aim for bigger targets with your shots. Believe in yourself, and tell yourself that you are a winner, and that you can do it.
Hi. I spent a day courtside at the Connecticut Open. Watching the pros hit, I could feel the muscles in my arms and legs twitching, almost as if I were hitting the ball. The next morning, I played a match and never felt better. I was hitting harder, deeper and more consistently. It’s as though I were replicating, on a scaled-down level, what I had seen the pros do. Have you ever experienced or heard of this phenomenon? Are you aware of any training video that I could use to recreate the same effect?
Hi. I have a very simple answer for you: Keep sitting courtside watching pro players in action. Even though there are many great instructional videos out there, I don’t think there are any that can duplicate the feelings and sensations you get when you sit courtside, and see the quickness and athleticism of professional players, and the speed of the ball that they hit. Witnessing them execute so well gives the spectator confidence to do the same. But getting inspired is one thing and getting your technique correct is another. Remember, you will need both to perform to the best of your ability. If you work on both, you will see improvement in your game.
Hi, can a person increase the degree of competitiveness they feel and harness it for greater success in sports or life? Or is this trait hardwired in the brain? This instinct can be called competitive spirit, drive or the will to win. No doubt that the world’s greatest athletes have this (in addition to technical skills and dedication). But can a person get more of it?
Hi. When I evaluate a player to determine how to best communicate with and motivate them, I also study their parents, friends, schoolwork and environment. That helps better determine who they are. The same way that different people are born with different levels of athletic talent, I’ve observed that players are also born with different levels of competitiveness.
This competitiveness can be developed by their environment and training, but within certain limits. I’m sure we would all love to have what Maria Sharapova has in this regard. In her case it was partially environmental and partially a gift God gave her to believe: “I will win—no matter what.”
Hi, I have seen Rafael Nadal and Pete Sampras, among others, turn their shoulders when they toss the ball to serve, so part of their backs face the net. Why do they turn their shoulders like this and should I be doing it?
Hi. Yes, you should. The more hip and shoulder rotation you generate, the greater disguise and more power you will be able to produce. Think about a golfer or a baseball pitcher: They use their hips and shoulder rotation to generate power. Without hip and shoulder rotation, you will be serving with only your arm.
Hi, I am a 13 year-old, top-ranked player. Lately I’ve been having trouble generating power on my forehand. I try what my coach tells me to do, but my forehand always goes into the net. What should I do?
Hi. Without knowing your grip, it’s difficult to give you a specific answer. However, most players try to generate power by muscling the ball. In reality, one gets power from a strong lower-body foundation and by increasing racquet-head speed on contact. Maybe you are too tense when you swing. You need to be loose and relaxed on your strokes.
Hi, I’m training our eight-year-old son to be a well-rounded tennis player with the big aim of having him become a pro. At the moment, he’s decent enough during practice and coaching sessions. He hits through the ball, preps well before striking and sees the ball quite well off the opponent’s racquet. I’m finding, however, that he needs to develop his 1) agility through footwork and quicker reflexes and 2) racquet-head speed to have more weight in his groundstrokes. I’m also finding difficulties in coaching him on serves. Thank you in advance and looking forward to your advice.
Here’s a drill. Have several balls in your hand. Stand close to the hitter. Toss the ball and say, “Get your racquet back.” Do this for several balls in a row.
For the serve, start him at the service line. Use an Eastern grip and then move to Continental. Place the racket behind his shoulder and make sure he does not release the ball too soon. After the release, let his tossing hand stay up as if he is trying to catch the ball. Make sure he hits up on the ball.
Before doing this, get a little football and just work on his tossing motion. Then try to get him to do the same with the racket. Don’t worry about consistency. Learn how to coordinate the racquet and ball.
Now, you may get mad at me for saying this, but I think you are trying to teach your son far too much. Go slower and make sure he has fun. Do not jeopardize your relationship with your son. I have four suggestions:
1) Train him not to be a professional but to play and enjoy the game. Let the goals set themselves as he gets older.
2) Introduce him to basketball and soccer, two sports that help footwork and agility.
3) Go to a qualified performance coach so he can evaluate your son and give you a few more simple drills to practice.
4) Remember that your son is only 8 years old. Be sure to use the 10-and-under balls that will give him time to increase his racquet-head speed. Another drill is to pitch balls to him with a closed stance and only step with the front foot. Keep the back foot in place, which will force him to increase the speed of his racquet head.
Hi, I am an aggressive-style player but with mild strokes. How do I improve my groundstrokes so I can hit harder?
Hi. First off, please understand that hitting harder is not the only key to getting better.
Hitting harder with control is what you must achieve first. The best tips I can give you are:
1) Prepare early and make contact out in front of your body.
2) Make sure you drive through the ball and out to your target.
3) Remember that you get power from your waist down to your feet.