How to work on technique?
One of the most important areas in tennis is technique. People often say that technique is not very important, that mental and physical are more important. However, it’s impossible to play tennis properly without the foundation techniques. All players have different, more or less academic styles of play, but all good players make use of these foundations.
What is tennis technique?
Technique is how you go about obtaining a desired result. There are fundamentals to respect for a stroke to be executed properly. We often see players having difficulties with their technique, the reasons for the mistakes are often easier to see from an outside perspective than for the player. Problems in tennis are because of bad technique. Sometimes you need to look no further than the basics to find the reason for a problem and improve it. Here are the fundamentals:
- For the ball to go up, the racket movement is from the low to high
- To knock down a high ball, my racket must be in the downward phase when touching the ball
- To have balance, my feet must wide apart.
- To have an effective service, I have to hit the ball as high as possible to get the angle.
- To make a low shot, my strings must be pointed upwards.
- To strike hard, my racket must travel a long way before touching the ball (inertia).
- To move quickly, I must stand on my forefoot.
- To strike the ball correctly and avoid getting hurt, I have to strike the ball in front of my body.
All these elements of technique seem simple and natural but they are often the cause of problems.
Then there are many biomechanical factors that enter into technique. It is the coach’s job to communicate this knowledge to players.
When and how to work on technique?
There are different times to work on the technique depending on the player’s level. For expert players, technique is best worked on during preparations (large training periods without a tournament). At lower levels, technique can be worked on throughout the year, to different degrees.
It is important to work on technique with a goal of in-game improvement. It is sometimes difficult for a coach to find the right exercise to improve technique. For example, we may not dwell on a consistency work at the baseline for a player doing volley volley return volley. Always keep a medium / long term vision with a clear idea of the results for the game.
If a player has a technique problem but their movement is effective, why change it? We often see players with very unorthodox techniques. Rafael Nadal is perhaps the best example: who teaches forehand the way he does it? Surely no one except for his uncle. However, it would be a terrible idea to change this forehand when how effective it is.
As long as the stroke does not slow down progress, there is no point in changing technique.
What are the basic techniques to work on?
There are several very important factors in order to work on technique effectively:
- Focus on one or at most two technique points per year. A technique change will cause neurosensory changes. It is very important not to get lost in too many technique changes, the brain will not be able to process all of these changes. Repetition is you best friend in learning a new movement.
- Mentally prepare the player: it is necessary to understand the reason for the change and to understand that there will be a phase of regression before improvement. This is why you take the time and avoid these changes in a tournament season. The player must be able to understand and visualize the desired technique change in order to be able to understand the technique. Changes must have a medium / long term goal, the goal is to gradually build a swing.
- Keep it fun! To be a good teacher, you have to work hard to always keep it fresh and to make the sessions fun. Inevitably, when we focus on one or two technique changes, we will very often be focussing on the same details. It is essential to find different ways to keep the player interested.
- Educational tools: the coach must above all have good knowledge of biomechanics in order to do their job properly. Then he will have to put things in place to correct the technique problem. There are two main categories of teaching aids: educational and corrective.
Educational tools are used to facilitate the task with the help of a tip, instruction, or equipment. To perform the desired movement, the player must follow the instructions.
Here are some educational tool examples: for forehand preparation and/or improvement, put an object next to them and force the player to start over the object and descend below it before striking the ball. To work on serving, give a marker to hit as a target. Put one on the net to work on trajectories.
The purpose of correction tools is to use exaggeration to achieve the desired result. Here are a few examples: if you have an extreme forehand grip and you can’t strike flat, try playing with a very open grip to feel the sensations and then gradually close the grip to reach the one you want to keep.
If I’m right-handed having problems with rotation and serving from left to right, or with a kick serve, I can try serving straight on, which will force me to exaggerate the rotation to keep the ball in. If someone has too much preparation and struggles to block when the ball is traveling fast, ask them to keep there elbow next to their body during preparation for their forehand.
These teaching methods are to be used according to your judgment. By following the basic rules, you will get positive results.
It is also important to remember that younger people are much more malleable. It’s easier to integrate new movement. The first years of a player’s training are very important to develop the right habits.
In conclusion, it is important to keep in mind that technique shouldn’t be neglected! The mental and physical aspects of tennis are of paramount importance, however, without the right technique, no one can reach a high level. It is very important to teach good habits from an early age. There are many ways to teach, but these fundamentals are essential for success.