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varuscelli
10-10-2006, 04:42 PM
Review Notes for Joe Dinoffer’s “Ball Machine Drills” DVD

Price $34.95, including shipping, for the two-DVD set (about 2 hours worth of combined material, including ball machine drills with the bonus backboard drills DVD). Ordered on a Wednesday and received on Friday, two days later (quick response and shipping).

OK, I have basically watched these two DVDs one time apiece (each is about an hour long). I took notes as I watched, and what follows is basically nothing more than those notes with some very light editing so it could be posted here. Most of the machines used for these videos are VERY high-end machines costing several thousand dollars. Not your basic Tennis Tutor or Silent Partner or Lobster.

And I feel I must repeat that this is more series of notes than a true review. Since I wasn't getting paid to do this and rushed my way through it, I made sure my organization of content and writing style both sucked... :p

The first DVD is Joe Dinoffer’s “Ball Machine Drills” DVD, which is a combination of his earlier video “Millennium Tennis” and some new material in called “Ballmachine Breakthrough.” The second DVD is focused on backboard/wall practice and drills.

I think the “Millennium Tennis” portion of the first DVD is unchanged from its original content, but not having seen that video, I don’t know for sure.

“Millennium Tennis” is basically a bunch of drills that can be done for individuals or groups of players using high-end ball machines. I get the feeling that the video was developed as part of a sales tool to help sell PlayMate ball machines to tennis instructors. While there are quite a few concepts expressed in this video that could be taken by an individual and used as a basis upon which to develop his/her own drills, the video does not seem to have that purpose as its intent. It is definitely not focused on the individual ball machine owner, but seems more geared toward the professional instructor who might be considering the acquisition of a ball machine to help in putting together group instruction. I think this was a way for PlayMate to sell PlayMate machines to instructors who want to expand their group offerings.

Some items on the DVD have nothing to do with ball machines but are there to make a point about good practice “progressions.” I don't say that as a bad thing, but a bit of a divergence from the ball machine topic.

Covered in the “Millennium Tennis” portion of the DVD are sections on:

1. Blocked, Serial, and Random Practice. Blocked practice is same shot over again, Serial practice is the same sequence over and over again.
2. Grooving Shots
3. Shot Specificity
4. Decision-making Drilling (depends in part on a machine that can do a form of random oscillation/random feed, variable shot ball machine, varied feed frequency, sophisticated programmable options, rather advanced features).
5. Directionals
6. Rhythm Skill Development
7. Aerobic vs. Anaerobic Training
8. Footwork Patterns
9. Perception and Awareness
10. Tactics and Positioning
11. First strike tennis
12. Beyond Endurance and Conditioning

All in all, I’d say that “Millennium Tennis” is kind of like a beginning instructor’s guide to setting up ball machine drills for students, and some of the philosophies behind different drills.


“Ballmachine Breakthrough” is the second portion of the first DVD.

This second part of the DVD is better than the first part. Covered in part two of the DVD are:

1. Safety, Benefits of ball machines,
2. Use of ball machines to accelerate the learning process,
3. Guided discovery
4. Teaching tools
5. Flexibility
6. Video replay in conjunction with ball machines
7. Creative drilling.

The machines used in “Ballmachine Breakthrough” are the Matchmate Coach ball machine, Ultimate Coach (I think I have that right). This is also a very high end machine. Many of the drills will not be able to be emulated on less expensive machines. (Programming deep and short balls, mixing lobs with groundstrokes, variable speeds within the same sequence, etc.)

Drills covered:

1. Forehand drills
2. Ball on the rise
3. Mid-court alley (no-man’s land)
4. Close-out volleys
5. Approach and volley
6. Quick doubles
7. Poach and volley
8. Read and direct (calls for an advanced ball machine)
9. Out of the diamond
10. Return of serve (calls for an advanced ball machine)
11. Overhead and volley (calls for an advanced ball machine)
12. Hit deep and close (calls for an advanced ball machine)
13. Retrieve without reprieve (calls for an advanced ball machine).


There is also a second bonus DVD included as part of the purchase that focuses on the use of backboards.

"Backboards" – Three Sections:

1. Off the Wall
2. Bag of Tricks (semi-sales pitch for “Bag of Tricks” teaching aids with drills)
3. Mini Champ (semi-sales pitch for “Mini Champ” miniature, portable, angled backboard with drills, a couple including ball machine coupled with Mini Champ)

Benefits and strategies for using straight and angled backboards as well as dual curved walls are discussed. (Angled and curved backboards are pretty cool. I've never hit on either, but can see their obvious value.)

Material covers:

1. Basic groundstrokes
2. Mobility variations
3. Backboards as used for other sports
4. Racquet controls
5. Drills with more than one player

Volley Wall Skills represents a good set of drills, but some of which must be practiced with an angled wall or angled/curved wall (and how many people have those available?).

Criticisms on Video Production Values:

1. Average production values.
2. Inability to skip around except to the most major sections.
3. Fast forwarding or reversing takes time.
4. It seems more like several VHS sections strung together.
5. There are occasional volume spikes and drops.
6. Many sections are way too short and lack substantial detail.
7. Scripting (writing needs some work) and delivery of lines lacking (Dinoffer's delivery of lines will be too slow and deliberate for some, but that's a bit nitpicky)

Many of the drills are possible only with very high-end ball machines costing several thousand dollars. Modifying those techniques to any ball machine is not necessarily going to be possible without drastic modification that would lose the overall purpose of the drill and in some cases drills will be impossible to modify to accommodate a lesser machine (the kind of machine most individuals will own).

Overall conclusion? Is this DVD set worth the price?

That depends. One of the problems about locating material focusing on ball machine drills is that there’s a lack of such material generally available. From that standpoint, this is nice to have or at least nice to watch. Is it worth close to $35? If you’ve got a ball machine and a bit of extra cash burning a hole in your pocket, perhaps so. Some folks will hate it. Some will get a few valuable items from it, or at least ideas on how to apply the techniques to their own ball machine practice. The inclusion of the second DVD on wall/backboard practice makes a nice little bonus and perhaps pushes the overall value to an “it’s worth it” level. But personally, for what you get, I think you’re paying a lot. If you can share it with friends who also have ball machines, so much the better. Each ball machine owner might get something different of value from this DVD set. And the backboard drills are interesting, too. Not a bad addition.

pmata814
10-10-2006, 05:35 PM
Thanks for the review! I was kind of hoping you would say it was GREAT! This way I would have to buy it. But after reading your review I'm leaning the other way. I've seen the "Millenium Tennis" video on The Tennis Channel (or at least part of it because after commercials it's only about 20 mins worth of material) and I wasn't thrilled with it. I was afraid that the DVD would call for an advanced B-Machine and I was right.

When you mention Forehand drills; Ball on the rise; midcourt alley (the ones that don't require an advanced machine)...are these unique drills that help you develop that stroke or does he basically just tell you "Set up the ball machine so that it feeds to your forehand, now work on your technique or your timing..." Could you provide a little detail about the portions that don't require an advanced machine on the second part of the video?

varuscelli
10-10-2006, 06:14 PM
Thanks for the review! I was kind of hoping you would say it was GREAT! This way I would have to buy it. But after reading your review I'm leaning the other way. I've seen the "Millenium Tennis" video on The Tennis Channel (or at least part of it because after commercials it's only about 20 mins worth of material) and I wasn't thrilled with it. I was afraid that the DVD would call for an advanced B-Machine and I was right.

When you mention Forehand drills; Ball on the rise; midcourt alley (the ones that don't require an advanced machine)...are these unique drills that help you develop that stroke or does he basically just tell you "Set up the ball machine so that it feeds to your forehand, now work on your technique or your timing..." Could you provide a little detail about the portions that don't require an advanced machine on the second part of the video?

Yeah, I wish I could have said it was great, too. It has strengths and weaknesses, but overall is not "great." There are scattered, very useful bits but overall I'd classify it as a useful but not a must-have DVD. (Again, there will be varied opinions on that depending on each person's knowledge and needs.)

The "Millennium Tennis" portion is definitely the weakest part of the DVD. If I had bought that by itself, I would have been deeply disappointed. That part really looks and feels like a sales tool aimed at tennis instructors.

"Ballmachine Breakthrough" is much better, but still seems more oriented toward instructors setting up drills for students and has as many or more multi-player drills as single-player drills. And often, the single-player drills are set up using high-end (expensive) machines with options not available on more basic ball machines.

On the basic stuff, there’s a mix of showing how to set up and rationale for why you set up certain drills. This can be helpful stuff. There's also the use of zones and lines and targets to help work on proper reactions and accuracy. They use ground-level "tape" and hanging "zone" stuff that most people won't have available or likely won't want to drag out to the court when just practicing by themselves (at least, I don't think most folks would want to do that).

For some of the things you're asking, I'll have to watch the DVD again (gotta make time to do so) since I basically tried to already state what I remembered and wrote down. But to go into much more detail on the specific drills, it's almost like I'd need to do a transcript of the entire thing. Most sections are VERY brief in terms of words used, but the visuals from seeing the players go through the moves are often more helpful than the words (or at least as helpful). But in some ways, to explain all those things would be a rather painful exercise in terms of my descriptive abilities. In other words, much of it would need to be seen rather than explained. Putting some sections into words would take more time than the time actually used on the video, if you understand what I mean.

But I will say that generally, it is much better than the "Set up the ball machine so that it feeds to your forehand, now work on your technique or your timing..." you asked about. It's not THAT bad. ;)

And again, I think that most of the drills, instead of being what you or I might practice on the court with our lower-end to midrange machines, are more oriented toward a high-end machine, a coach and a player using one of those machines, or a coach and multiple players doing more complex drills using very high-end machine capabilities.

pmata814
10-11-2006, 06:13 AM
Thanks again. I'm pretty sure I'll end up getting it some time down the road.

BiGGieStuFF
10-11-2006, 06:34 AM
Well copy the DVD and distribute your backups to us so we can store it for you for safe-keeping. Yes i am asian ;)

varuscelli
10-11-2006, 07:17 AM
Well copy the DVD and distribute your backups to us so we can store it for you for safe-keeping. Yes i am asian ;)

Perhaps that could be the answer to my copyright dilemma. Make and extra safety copy for myself and perhaps use it as an evaluation loaner. Then, if someone want's the complete package after viewing, they can buy one for themselves. Hmmm...

varuscelli
10-11-2006, 07:19 AM
Thanks again. I'm pretty sure I'll end up getting it some time down the road.

pmata814...

See reply number 6 to BiGGieStuFF, above.

billyboybeacon
10-11-2006, 07:21 AM
it is legal to make a back-up copy for personal use..that's how they can sell the go-video duplicater

varuscelli
10-11-2006, 07:55 AM
it is legal to make a back-up copy for personal use..that's how they can sell the go-video duplicater

Yes, you're right. Just like making a backup copy of personally purchased software for your own safekeeping. And that would certainly help me to get around the personal dilemma that I expressed once before (related to my occupation). For the DVD I wouldn't be selling, wouldn't be redistributing -- I'd be loaning my own copy for evaluation (if indeed I decided cross into that gray area... ;) )

BiGGieStuFF
10-11-2006, 08:00 AM
I will sign up for an evaluation copy. I'll pickup when your injury passes and we can hit some.

pmata814
10-11-2006, 08:40 AM
pmata814...

See reply number 6 to BiGGieStuFF, above.

Thanks varuscelli. You've done a lot already by taking the time to write this review and asnwering my questions. You shouldn't have to go through the hassle of making backups and mailing things. Besides instead of paying for the back and forth shipping of a loaner I should apply that to the purchase of the original and just order the DVD--$35 isn't that much anyway.

Hey, I think I remember you mentioning you had family in Harlingen. If you ever come down to the Valley, and have some free time, maybe we could get together and play. I don't know how advanced you are but if you don't mind hitting around with a weak 3.5 I'm about an hour and half from Harlingen. :D

varuscelli
10-11-2006, 11:36 AM
I will sign up for an evaluation copy. I'll pickup when your injury passes and we can hit some.

I think we can likely work that out. ;)

varuscelli
10-11-2006, 11:47 AM
Thanks varuscelli. You've done a lot already by taking the time to write this review and asnwering my questions. You shouldn't have to go through the hassle of making backups and mailing things. Besides instead of paying for the back and forth shipping of a loaner I should apply that to the purchase of the original and just order the DVD--$35 isn't that much anyway.

Hey, I think I remember you mentioning you had family in Harlingen. If you ever come down to the Valley, and have some free time, maybe we could get together and play. I don't know how advanced you are but if you don't mind hitting around with a weak 3.5 I'm about an hour and half from Harlingen. :D

You're welcome!

And I do have cousin in Harlingen. She and her husband both play tennis (as well as both of their teenage daughters, one of whom is really advancing in tennis in her age group).

My cousin's pretty seriously into tennis, playing in leagues and traveling for tournaments, etc. I don't think her husband is quite as serious about playing all the time, but he's a solid player (4.5 and a bit better than I am). I'm more in the 4.0 range on average, but like most others at that level can swing 3.5 to 4.5. I wouldn't mind hitting at all if we can make it down there. It's a long drive at about 7 hours, but a short flight at a little over an hour, I think. That's a place that my family has a pretty much open invitation to visit and play, so it's a pretty realistic thing to say that I will likely be down there at some point over the next year.

kaztennis
10-12-2006, 11:23 AM
Thanks for sharing the reviews. I own a Little Prince so I was wondering if this DVD is any good.