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Advanced vs. beginner players
Hi Oscar, in your teaching methodology, you have emphasized natural and intuitive methods of learning to hit the ball rather than rigid formalisms. I believe this is great for beginners, and less advanced players. Do you recommend the same techniques for more advanced players, or does your methodology emphasize the technical aspects more?
For example, does the advanced player need to hear things like, "Lay the wrist back, tuck in the elbow close to the body, lead with the elbow," etc., for executing an advanced forehand? Will concentrating on specific things like these actually set one back as compared to continuing to do drills more naturally and intuitively? That is, is there a way to lead the advanced student to execute strokes effectively and with the appropriate form without "intellectualizing" it?
I don't know if I have made myself understood well, but I am very interested in your teaching philosophy, so please let me know if I need to clarify my question. Thanks!
I would not recommend to tuck the elbow close to the body, especially to an advanced player. The "flying elbow" of Sampras, for example, permitted him to close the racuqet face, something necessary when hitting the ball with so much power. Still, simplicity is the key at any level. I don't think people are giving enough credit for the natural and creative ability, and therefore we tend to overteach. I would now rather focus on feel and let the athlete or hacker make his own choices. Read the Fundamentals of Thought book by L. Ron Hubbard, and see how this applies to tennis. There is much more to the "spirit playing", rather than the "mind" than we originally thought.
I am not a scientologist, but have read this book and it is intriguing. Not easy reading though. Oscar, can you elaborate on how the principles set forth in this book inspired your teaching method?
Originally Posted by Oscar
Originally Posted by Oscar
Hey, the "flying elbow" of Pete Sampras is also charateristic of the Eastern forehand grip which promotes a looser elbow or roll. This is a problem at the lower level with those who use the Eastern forehand grip as many have a hard time keeping the elbow in sync with the swing. The SW and W grips provide a natural syncing due to the hand position with the handle, and the laid back wrist. The elbow passing close to the side of the body is a HUGE thing!!!
Hey, hey, what do you say?
Last edited by Oscar; 05-23-2006 at 10:57 AM.
Dear Bungalow Bill, the principles that are most helpful is defining the roles of the spirit and the mind. They are quite distinct, and knowing about them makes coaching the easiest task. If you are interested, I can e mail you an article that I wrote for tennisone.com in this regard.
Can you email me this? Also, have another question for you, In your book you advise people to hit with the bottom edge of the racquet rather than the center for control. Which edge is this? The part closer to the throat of the racquet or below and to the side of the center? Thank you!
Originally Posted by Oscar
I believe a man's athletic drive, confidence, determination, and heart come from when they are challenged. The mind needs to be pushed, challenged, energized, and encouraged so that the spirit of a man can come alive breeding maturity, hard work, discipline, and peace.
Originally Posted by Oscar
Further, the spirit needs to be classified into areas such as a good spirit, an evil spirit, and the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit can only be received, it is not something we can take or give. The Holy Spirit is available to those who believe that Christ is the way, the truth, and the life. There is no substitute.
Joh 3:5 Jesus said in answer, Truly, I say to you, If a man's birth is not from water and from the Spirit, it is not possible for him to go into the kingdom of God.
Joh 3:6 That which has birth from the flesh is flesh, and that which has birth from the Spirit is spirit.
Joh 3:7 Do not be surprised that I say to you, It is necessary for you to have a second birth.
Joh 3:8 The wind goes where its pleasure takes it, and the sound of it comes to your ears, but you are unable to say where it comes from and where it goes: so it is with everyone whose birth is from the Spirit.
Last edited by Bungalow Bill; 05-24-2006 at 03:49 PM.
Bungalow, Cannondale is right, Oscar isn't very responsive in his own forum. Can you share your thoughts about the question I asked him regarding striking the ball near the edge of the racquet?
I have also wondered about this advice. Im not necessarily opposed to the idea, the premise I guess is that modern racquets are so powerful you must strike the ball off center to maintain control. Why not switch to a smaller, control oriented stick?
Originally Posted by JSpin
Last edited by Cannondale; 05-28-2006 at 09:49 AM.
Originally Posted by JSpin
I think what Oscar is trying to do is give you a mechanism or a reference on how low your racquet needs to be near contact. If you have a reference point then you can train the brain on how to use it for clean contact.
For example, my reference for the offensive slice backhand is the outside/top of the ball. I aim for that and when keepig my wrist under control, can nail it and it is a lot of fun. I must however, not release my wrist too soon (lose the bend in the wrist) or it sucks!
The last time I read something on this it is the bottom part of the frame that is aimed. You are trying to hit the bottom part of the frame as the racquet is going up to the ball. If you have found anything contrary, please let me know to discuss.
Originally Posted by Cannondale
I am not sure but it sounds like the advice is correcting a misjudgement happening in the eyes or an optical illusion.
For example, if you turn sideways and block the back eye from seeing the ball, chances are you will think the ball is closer to you then it really is. So you will swing too soon and mistime the ball.
By turning your head more towards the net, so that both eyes can see the ball, the back eye is no longer blocked by the bridge of the nose and provides depth perception and better information for the brain to calculate with.
Last edited by Bungalow Bill; 05-31-2006 at 02:14 PM.
I have a question for you, I am an okay player and I play very well at times, when I play people of higher skill than me in a match I tend to play very well and even win the match. But when I play people of lower skill than me I tend to play horribly, keep hitting into the net, hitting slow, and I tend to become very worried and self concious about my game which has driven me sometimes into losing the match. Any help on how to improve this? Also, I have a tendency, like a time I was up in an 8-game pro set 5-2 and was playing well until, all of a sudden I lost it. I dont know what happens but I seem to choke when I'm in the lead by a lot and in that match I even ended up losing 5-8 and when I was done was so confused at what happend I didn't know what to do. Any help or information would be appreciated.
Hmmm, could be a number of things. Physical perhaps? How is your conditioning level? You may have just ran out of gas in the proset. If not, maybe mental, play one point at a time, one stroke at a time. Be aware of your bodys state when you feel you are "choking" and take steps to combat this, slow down between points and remember to breathe. I don't think it is an issue w/ your strokes if you are playing well at other times. Good luck, I know you will work it out!
Originally Posted by snarec
Dear friends, I have been swamped by work on some new projects and in renovations on a townhouse we bought at the end of March.
My apologies for not being very responsive.
The question about hitting below the sweetspot while hitting topspin, that is towards the bottom of the frame (closest to the ground), is to help, with the torque so created, to keep the racquet closed, and to prevent the ball from flying. With this technique you can grip your grip looser and feel less stress on the arm and elbow. You'd be surprised how close to the frame the top pros hit when playing their best.
On playing badly with lesser players, it is a timing problem. Try counting to five. Count (silently) one exactly when the ball bounces, then 2, 3, 4, and five when you hit. In the beginning you may thnk you don't have enough time, but as you practice this, you'll find there is more and more time.
And on the next post is the article I wrote for tennnisone.com that you asked for, JSpin.
Who is playing? (continued on the next posting to fit this forum's rules)
Bjorn Borg used to say, “Tennis is a simple game. Just hit the ball over the net one more time than your opponent.” That is the essence. Yet for all its grace and simplicity, too often the game and the mind are cluttered with a myriad of extraneous thoughts that only confuse and restrict the flow. Most teaching pros try to instill a series of ideas into the conscious mind i.e., take the racquet back early, bend your knees, etc., these well meaning concepts only serve to make a simple sport very difficult. To learn to play tennis well, I ask only that you empty your mind and, using a simple, uncomplicated technique, focus on the feel and sound of the ball on the racquet.
To clarify this concept, perhaps I need to get into the philosophical aspect.
To best understand the causal relationship between mind and body, ask yourself the question: who is the operator, the source of the decisions of the action? The operator of the body-mind-thinking process is the being, that which is sometimes called the soul, or spirit, the center of awareness, or consciousness center. When that being departs, the body ceases to function and death occurs. So it is obvious that this spirit is central to existence. While it is true that we cannot physically touch the soul, or spirit, that is who we really are.
A simple test developed by L. Ron Hubbard (www.scientology.org) reveals who is in command. Close your eyes and picture a cat, or a dog in your mind. Clearly see the picture you created. Move it a bit from side to side. Now ask yourself the question, who is looking? Who created the picture? Who is in control? The answer is you, the soul, the actual source of your decisions and your existence.
So what is the mind? You just looked at it in the previous test. It is the complete collection of mental image pictures, including all perceptions, a record of all the experiences of life. It is a tool that the being uses to decide present and future actions, even those that operate below the level of awareness.
How does this work in tennis? What would be the most practical way to operate?
Tennis is a sport for the being, rather than the mind. The being thrives on feeling, on aesthetics, on beautiful coordinated moves; while the mind thrives on pictures, perfect poses, right-wrong computations.
The best tennis pros are artists who operate at the higher harmonics of aesthetics flows, with little thought involved, just like concert pianists at their best and you too can learn to play this way. This level of optimum performance is sometimes called the zone.
To handle something well you need to put your attention on it. You can place your attention on many things at once or focus on just one thing at the time. What is most interesting about tennis is that while you are focusing your attention on one thing almost exclusively, everything else gets aligned with that instinctively. Especially when you operate by feel!
Playing tennis on a conscious level which operates by using several mental image pictures of consecutive body positions, is too mechanical and slow and therefore inadequate.
Pro tennis players operate on an instinct level, avoiding as much as possible to think about the task at hand. They remember a stroke by what it feels like, not how it looks. They don’t look into their mind to recall its mechanics. They play by feel, and consciously slow their mind down. Breathing or walking are things you do on an instinctive level – hence they are smooth and effortless. Unlike say, balancing your checkbook, which requires great mental effort.
When playing tennis that would be the ideal: to operate on instinct and feel. Follow the ball attentively. Trust instincts. It either feels good or it doesn’t. You’d be the judge.
You can try different techniques, but beware of falling into anything purely mechanical. Choose the one that gives you more ease and a better and longer feel of the ball.
Judge your strokes by these simple criteria. Does it feel natural? Does it get the ball in the court? Do I mildly resemble my favorite pro? (Who has obviously mastered the stroke)
By copying your favorite pro you are actually using all the years of practice that he or she needed to perfect his feel, his technique. If it doesn’t work well for you, you can pick the stroking of another pro. You may learn in a few days by copying what it took the pro years to find.
The simpler you make your task, the easier it will be to know what to practice, what to put your attention on, and what not. Again, you need to trust and develop feel. Do not strike the ball head on. It won’t stay on your strings much and the feel is too short. Brushing it up with topspin, for example, makes the ball stay on your strings much longer. Starting and prolonging this contact on the strings below the center of the racquet helps you feel the ball even more.
Focus on repeating that which feels best. Improve it, again by feel, practicing to get certainty and confidence. Practice until it works.
Tennis is movement. First of all, find the ball, then stroke it wherever you find it - all this by feel. Use your mind to reinforce one thing, finishing your swing. Make a picture of the position of your arm at the very end of the swing and repeat it over and over. Leave the racquet at this position for a bit, looking at the landing of your shot, even while turning and recovering, relating this physical finish position of your racquet to your placement of the ball. This particular process will give you a comfortable correlation between cause and effect. The racquet up there, the ball landed there. Easy! Confidence builds up!
It is the best way to occupy your mind. Follow the ball into your racquet as long as possible and “finish” the stroke. It will help calm your fears and make sure you don’t freeze or change something half way through the stroke. You may swing slower or faster, but make sure your racquet goes all the way to that “finish”, repeating it each the time. Observe Federer, Henin, Agassi, the William sisters, Hewitt, Davenport. These pros “finish” all the time.
On the volley, which is a punch, this “picture” of the finish would be the impact point, which acts as a stop. Prime example of this would be John McEnroe, perhaps the best volleyer of all time.
Practice your groundstrokes by simply finding the ball, tracking it into your racquet, and feel it across your strings, propelling it over the net while finishing your stroke. No power yet. Mainly feel. Drill. Repeat and repeat. The ball speed of your strokes will slowly increase. You’ll know how to apply more and more power without losing control.
To focus attention on anything else like feet position for example, will only impair hand-eye coordination. It takes something you learned by feel, instinctively, at a very young age, and brings it to a conscious level. This floods thought patterns, impairs observation, and actually serves to confuse. You in fact begin to resemble a puppet, working out which foot to put first, and where. And while you are worrying about this, the ball may hit you on the head!
Another all too common error is taking your racquet back too soon, a teaching method that fortunately is on the way out. This also clouds thought, because it forces you to imagine and adjust to the ball’s path ahead of time. Racquet back early, separates it from the path of the ball and is a killer of timing, coordination, and of ease of play.
In tennis, as in many other sports, the less you think about positions and of what is going to happen in the future, the more feel you’ll have. Tennis pros play in the present and so should you. Trying to judge the speed of the ball only makes tennis more difficult. But here’s the secret, you don’t need to judge it. If you look at it carefully, you’ll see how much it slows down, first in the air, then a lot more after the bounce. Research has shown that from baseline to baseline, the ball loses close to 60 percent of its speed. And it always curves down, less speed, more curve! Just be ready to approach it from below!
Take your time, and become an observer, while you are still running to the ball. Your legs may be going fast to get to the ball but your arm can wait a lot longer for the ball to get near your grasp.
Tennis professionals have favorite body positions when executing their strokes, if they have available time. Those preferences were acquired after much practice and determined by feel, not by thought. Furthermore, in professional tennis you are usually on the run, and the player easily abandons those preferences and follows and stalks the ball with the racquet. When he gets it within his grasp, he then concentrates on getting it over the net, moving the arm and hand independently of the rest of the body to accomplish that aim. In other words, they play tennis with the hand, and the rest of the body acts in an instinctive way.
How would we define instinct? This takes us back to where we started, in the beginning of this article.
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