You Can’t Play Tennis Through Rose-Colored Glasses

What is the proper follow-through for a forehand or backhand? What should I be doing with my footwork? What is the best grip at the net? Each of these questions is like asking a golfer, which club should I be using? Don’t feel bad, I see these same questions being debated throughout the coaching world as well. Having a variety of shots available to pull out in a variety of tactical situations is where the real advantage lies.

It seems everyone is looking for that one magic technical pill to unlock the mysteries of tennis, but the answer is…it depends. You have to understand that tennis is an “open skilled sport” meaning that the conditions out on the court are constantly changing, such as the height of the ball, the speed, the spin, the trajectory and where you are on the court. Pigeonholing your game into simple compartments like a follow-through or a backswing, stalls your development and puts you at a distinct disadvantage.

I think the best answer to helping us sort all of this out came in a simple comment by an Aussie friend of mine named Brett Hobden. “The key to player development is in finding technical solutions to tactical problems”. In other words, rather than spending all of your time trying to groove that optimal forehand follow-through, which will only work a small percentage of the time anyway, learn shots that will advance you tactically and learn how to do it from a variety of ball types and positions on the court. Getting back to my golf analogy, golfers can have up to 14 clubs in their bag to help them with a variety of situations they’ll encounter out on the course, such as a driver for hitting long distances and a putter for shorter strokes on the greens. It may help to
think of your tennis game as a giant toolbox. Sit down and do an honest evaluation of where you are with your game and try to determine what tools or shots you’re missing. Begin with the most important tools like a consistent and reliable serve and work out from there. Singles players often require slightly different tools than doubles players and if you’re struggling to figure that out we have several expert Tennis Professionals on hand who would be happy to assist you!

Tennis is a complex gaTENNISme, but if you understand what is happening at your level and can look ahead to the next level and the skills those players possess, you can begin to see what tools are most important in taking your game to the next level.
I look forward to seeing you on the courts!

 

Ron Steege, Director of Tennis
Greenwood Athletic and Tennis Club

True! It’s All About That “Base”

You finally get that long-awaited short ball opportunity which allows you to attack the net and really apply some pressure to your opponent except for one thing, your opponent is the dreaded lobber! What are your options? To start with, nothing says lobbing is a bad idea to your opponent better than cracking an overhead for a winner! So let’s talk about how you can better prepare for this shot.tennisracketball simple graphic

1. In one move, immediately raise both hands up plus align your shoulders and feet sideways to the ball and your intended target. This doesn’t always mean you should be perpendicular to the net, sometimes you’ll find yourself slightly open to the net and occasionally you may discover that you need to turn as much as 45 degrees past perpendicular to the point where your back is exposed to the net. Where you are on the court and your target area determines shoulder and stance alignment.

2. I think most players are familiar with these technical elements but I find perhaps the most important element in gaining confidence and making solid contact on the overhead is having a wide base. By a wide base I mean wider than the width of your shoulders. In doing so, this should also create knee bend and drop your center of gravity. This is important because just the mere fact that you’re looking up, you’ll find yourself a little off balance, so widening your base will make you feel more comfortable adjusting to the ball and more confident.

Confidence plays a major role in having a good overhead. Learn to love them and you’ll have a great one! And remember, as Meghan Trainor says, “It’s all about that base.”

Yes, I twisted her words slightly.

For help with your overhead and more, check out GATC’s programs, drills, clinics, leagues and more!

Ron Steege, Director of Tennis

Greenwood Tennis Club Grand Re-Opening and Renovation

Greenwood Athletic and Tennis Club is excited to announce a new renovation and grand Re-Opening of the Tennis Club on December 3, 2014, 6:30pm.  The upgrade and expansion will improve the lobby, expand the locker rooms and social space, and create new outdoor space.

GreenwoodTennisClub_2According to Paula Neubert, President and General Manager, the upgrades will include a new entrance, lobby, reception area and a vestibule with specialized filter system to minimize the clay between the courts and the lobby. New expanded locker rooms will be added with wet and dry vanities and more lockers.

We are very excited to roll out an expanded observation deck and social area. A new outdoor deck will reveal mountain views and the additional space will be available for team parties or just cooling down outside after a match. This renovation will give our members the warm country club feeling they are looking for at Greenwood.

Greenwood Tennis ClubRon Steege, Greenwood’s Director of Tennis was just elected to the Colorado Tennis Association’s Board as the District Representative on the Intermountain Section Board. Ron is an industry leader who has extensive involvement in both the USTA and USPTA. According to Ron, “This expansion and upgrade is exactly what our membership wanted. Greenwood Tennis Club will continue to be, the place to play clay in the Denver area, now our facility will be the premier facility for members both on and off the court.”

Since 1995, Greenwood Tennis Club has been home to seven indoor clay courts in a fully air conditioned space and five outdoor hard courts, four featuring ProBounce. Greenwood Tennis Club is the USTA-recognized Tennis Facility of the Year with top USPTA Tennis Professionals and award winning tennis programming for youth, teens and adults. Greenwood Tennis Club has been recognized by Tennis Industry Magazine as “Facility of the Year,” Colorado Tennis Association as “Organization of the Year,” and recently by Shape Magazine as “Best in Tennis.” Greenwood Tennis Club is located at 5757 South Quebec Street in Greenwood Village.  Visit us online at www.GreenwoodATC.com or call 303.770.2582 to schedule a private tour.

DEVELOP SHOTS, NOT STROKES!

Has your tMonday Night Madnessennis development stalled? Do you struggle against certain types of players? Chances are that you may be looking at your strokes and tactics through the same colored glasses. There’s probably a lot more that you can do than you realize. Let’s start by understanding that tennis is an open-skilled sport. What this means is that the conditions and environment you are facing are constantly changing. Your position on the court, the height, spin and speed of the incoming ball all changes with nearly every shot. With this in mind, what’s interesting is when you watch most tennis players during practice they’re generally concerned about grooving only one or two strokes and are basically practicing in a controlled environment. It doesn’t matter if they’re on the baseline or service line or receiving a fast ball or slow ball, it’s all the same! It’s important to understand that with this approach you are severely limiting your potential for improvement. You must recognize that one size does not fit all in tennis. Thinking about golf, most of you probably know that you have an entire bag full of clubs, each club serving a different purpose. The driver for example is designed to provide power and distance and basically just get the ball a long ways down the fairway. This is the complete opposite of a wedge which is designed to provide control on shorter shots around the green where distance is not a concern and control is at a premium. We have this in tennis as well; there are at least seven different topspin variations on the forehand alone, each is designed to answer a specific situation that you may encounter. You have your power and control shots but the where, when and how can vary considerably. So instead of practicing how you send a ball with that same old repetitive forehand, try to pay more attention to the type of ball you’re receiving. Then ask yourself, what would be the best answer or method for returning that ball? There is likely more than one answer. This is how you begin to develop your style and you begin to think about various spins, placements and the speed in which you want to play this shot. In other words, you are now developing shot types. The more shot types you possess in your arsenal, the better you will answer any challenges your opponent will send your way.
Often a student will come to me and say something along the lines of “my forehand really stinks, can you help me fix it?” My traditional answer to this is- which one? Usually, mechanics are not the problem. Typically a player has difficulties handling a certain type of ball that an opponent is giving them or they are placing the ball poorly, so I work with them on how to hit the desired location or work with them on the mechanics necessary to handle a particular shot type. Are we worried about a high ball? Short ball? Soft ball? Where are we on the court? All of this must be considered to achieve your desired results. So the next time you’re practicing on the ball machine or with a hitting partner, work on executing the most appropriate shot and pay less attention to grooving a stroke. If you need help sorting this out, don’t hesitate to reach out to one of our many terrific USPTA certified Tennis Professionals that we have on staff here at Greenwood. We’re all happy to help! Good luck and I look forward to seeing you on the courts!

Ron Steege, Director of Tennis

The Importance of “Rituals” for Optimum Performance

Recently, I invited some of our top junior tennis players to perform their best impersonation of several well-known professionals on tour. It was remarkable how good the kids were at this and everyone could easily recognize who they were portraying. What the kids were imitating were these player’s rituals, everyone has seen these routines so many times they become as recognizable as a face or a voice. Often when you bring up the topic of rituals in sports, the discussion transforms to a dialog of athletic superstitions such as wearing the same pair of socks you wore for your first state championship! I point out the way the Broncos season ended last year as a case in point. Most certainly that loss had something to do with the way I put on my Manning jersey or what I had to eat that day, but I’ll be sure to correct these mistakes by next season!

Why do tennis professionals practice pre- and post-match rituals? The brain craves routine. Surprise and spontaneity cause excitement and sometimes stress. A consistent routine makes us feel comfortable and allows our brain to prepare for the task at hand and to focus. During the match, between point rituals basically serve as a reset. The goal is to process everything that happened on the previous point and make a clear plan for the next point. During game change overs, you should review on a broader scale what worked and what didn’t during the previous two games and form a plan for the next two games. Dr. Jim Loehr, a well-known sports psychologist, states that “rituals serve to deepen concentration and raise intensity levels prior to the start of a point.” I hear players talking about “mental toughness,” or the lack thereof, almost on a daily basis. Dr. Loehr says that “mental toughness is really tied to your ability to control a very precise way of feeling. It is a process of emotional fine tuning.” Rituals serve us in managing our feelings and prepare us for what lies ahead. The good news is that mental toughness really is a skill that you can train for; you can learn to be mentally tough! A great place to start is by developing specific pre-serve and return rituals. By becoming more organized and developing a specific plan for what you are about to face, you will naturally begin to develop better tools and become more mentally tough.

It’s common and understandable to focus your attention on things such as groundstrokes, doubles strategy and a serve. Try bringing rituals into the picture. Your practices will become more effective and learning will accelerate.

By Ron Steege, USPTA
rons@GreenwoodATC.com