A Thought On The Power Of Momentum In Sports

“Momentum is the most awesome power in sports. If you could ever learn to can it when you’ve got it, and to shut it down when it belongs to your opponent, you’ve got the key to winning.”

Kent Demars, men’s tennis coach, University of South Carolina

How To Watch The Ball Playing Tennis Part III

The third part of watching the ball in tennis is to watch the ball at the point of impact. Now I realize that you cannot actually see the ball hit your strings, but we must keep our eyes on the ball as long as possible. Most of you tennis players are saying to yourself, “I am watching it as long as I can.” How do we know if we are watching the ball long enough. I have heard other tennis professionals say to keep your head still and that is correct but how long do I keep my head still?

The answer to the question on a forehand is to keep your head still until your chin touches your shoulder. I like to overemphasize this and tell students to count 1001 after they hit a forehand. If your chin is not touching your shoulder you know that you are not making a proper follow through. Look at the illustration below:

Another little tidbit, if you are having trouble, imagine that you are hitting through three balls and this will help you extend your follow through and give you better control of your shot.

How To Watch The Ball Playing Tennis Part II

In Part I, we focused on watching the ball come off the opponent’s racquet. In Part II, we need to focus on watching the ball bounce. What can we tell and expect from this? First, we must recognize and go back to our lessons on gravity in high school, that as an object gets closer to the ground, it moves faster than it does flying through the air. Our preparation in getting ready must include this. What else do we need to recognize? We must remember from Part I, that our opponent is most likely putting spin on the ball. What does a topspin shot do? It bounces higher than a flat shot while an underspin shot will bounce lower. We have recognized this in Part I, but we must be prepared for it now.

In Part III, we will focus on watching the ball at the point of impact and some tips in how to accomplish this.

How To Watch The Ball Playing Tennis Part I

I have recently started teaching tennis again and the most difficult thing is to get my students to watch the ball. Now I realize that you can’t see the ball come off the strings but I would like them to watch as closely as possible. Now how can I get them to do that without repeating Watch The Ball!!! which goes in one ear and out the other?

This post will focus on the first step of watching the ball playing tennis which is watch the ball come off the opponent’s racquet.

What can I tell about this if I was playing Roger Federer? I can certainly see that it is going to come to me at a pretty good pace. What else? It looks like he is putting topspin on the ball. If it was a slice, I know it would be underspin. What does a topspin ball do? It bounces higher, while a slice or underspin, typically stays low to the ground. What else? I can basically see what direction that Roger is hitting the ball and how short or deep it is going to go in the court. So with this information I need to start moving to get in position.

As you can see this is a process and in order to have an excellent outcome, I need to put all these pieces in place. We will see in Parts 2 and 3 how all this culminates in an excellent outcome. This may seem somewhat odd that I would put this in this blog, but I want our readers to see that if you want an excellent outcome in anything you are trying to accomplish that you must have the strongest process possible in order to achieve it.

Some Thoughts On Tennis From Various Authors

“It’s no accident, I think, that tennis uses the language of life. Advantage, service, fault, break, love, the basic elements of tennis are those of everyday existence, because every match is a life in miniature. Even the structure of tennis, the way the pieces fit inside one another like Russian nesting dolls, mimics the structure of our days. Points become games become sets become tournaments, and it’s all so tightly connected that any point can become the turning point. It reminds me of the way seconds become minutes become hours, and any hour can be our finest. Or darkest. It’s our choice.”

Andre Agassi

“Tennis taught me so many lessons in life. One of the things it taught me is that every ball that comes to me, I have to make a decision. I have to accept responsibility for the consequences every time I hit a ball.”

Billie Jean King

“What matters isn’t how well you play when you’re playing well. What matters is how well you play when you’re playing badly.”

Martina Navratilova

“Only boxers can understand the loneliness of tennis players – and yet boxers have their corner men and managers. Even a boxer’s opponent provides a kind of companionship, someone he can grapple with and grunt at. In tennis you stand face-to-face with the enemy, trade blows with him, but never touch him or talk to him, or anyone else. The rules forbid a tennis player from even talking to his coach while on the court. People sometimes mention the track-and-field runner as a comparably lonely figure, but I have to laugh. At least the runner can feel and smell his opponents. They’re inches away. In tennis you’re on an island. Of all the games men and women play, tennis is the closest to solitary confinement….”

Andre Agassi

“Except in a very few matches, usually with world-class performers, there is a point in every match (and in some cases it’s right at the beginning) when the loser decides he’s going to lose. And after that, everything he does will be aimed at providing an explanation of why he will have lost. He may throw himself at the ball (so he will be able to say he’s done his best against a superior opponent). He may dispute calls (so he will be able to say he’s been robbed). He may swear at himself and throw his racket (so he can say it was apparent all along he wasn’t in top form). His energies go not into winning but into producing an explanation, an excuse, a justification for losing.”

C. Terry Warner

Some Thoughts On Persistence From Douglas W. Stephenson

I love to tell stories and I believe I have an inspirational and personal story on persistence. I was a tennis professional in Alexandria, Louisiana at Holy Savior Menard Central High School in the 1980’s and we fortunately, had a very good team, both boys and girls returning this particular year.

We had never had tryouts due to most kids realizing that if they did not have previous experience at the elementary and middle school levels that they would most likely not be good enough to play. But we had a young man named Lance Clement, who was determined to make the team and really had no previous experience. Lance, when he came to our first practice, had an old Prince Junior tennis racquet that we used for beginners, primarily at the age of around seven or eight years old. As we fed him balls, he proceeded to spray balls everywhere. His forehand was more of a slap like hitting a hockey puck rather than a stroke and he hit his two-handed backhand cross-handed, which was highly unusual and not very effective. My assessment at this point, was that Lance, in no possible way, would be an asset to our team.

In order to make improvements in our fitness, I wanted each member of our boy’s team to run a mile in under seven minutes and thirty seconds, which I felt was reasonable. If Lance did not run the mile under this time, he would not make the team. You may have guessed what happened next. Lance, with no problem, ran the mile in under the required time, but also came in first with a time of six minutes and fifteen seconds!!! I may be off on the time a smidgen. Lance lived with his grandparents, who had no tennis background, but were very supportive in his endeavors.

Lance did not play much his freshmen and sophomore years except to participate in junior varsity matches and playing doubles for the varsity. He continued to practice and work extremely hard as he knew he was facing an uphill battle in ever getting to play varsity. His senior year, he played number six on the varsity and helped lead us to a state championship. I know this may not be that exceptional, but one of the players that played right above him, Alan Marks, played at the University of Alabama. This was a lesson for me in observing persistence towards a goal and having a hand in Lance’s development not only as a tennis player but as a person also. Lance and our teams at Menard, thank you so much for the blessings!!!