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laff66
10-02-2007, 11:35 PM
Thats a really dumb question, since it seems like I should just WATCH THE BALL!! But for some reason, I don't watch the ball into the racquet except on rare occasions where I am able to really make that my one and only thought. It produces remarkable improvement when I do it, especially on serve returns. I just feel like I have twice as much time to do more with a return if I really watch the ball. Unfortunately, I can tell myself to watch it, and the moment the serve is hit, I forget it.
Now, if there is someone who has a trick or tip or swing thought that helps them concentrate on doing this, I'd love to hear them.
Again, I know this is kind of a silly question, but thanks in advance!

Photoshop
10-02-2007, 11:53 PM
use your non-dominant hand to "catch" the ball.

Supernatural_Serve
10-03-2007, 12:10 AM
Keep your head steady, especially when swinging the racquet and when you are running.

Resist the temptation to lift your head to follow the future path of the ball upon impact. Keep the head steady and they eyes on the impact point

laff66
10-03-2007, 05:18 AM
how did I know that someone on this board would come through! Thanks a bunch, I'll give those a try.
I'm playing mostly 4.0 doubles right now, and in practice, I play more like 4.5, but during a match, you'd think I'd never hit a volley before as much as I use the frame!

1171
10-03-2007, 05:35 AM
Watch the ball really means WATCH THE BOUNCE.

That is the trick to higher level of play.

Pay attention, "watch the bounce", especially on the return of serve.

WATCH THE BOUNCE, AND MOVE TO THE BOUNCE.

That is waht Agassi's father engrained in Andre early on. So, so, so important.

Chrystal
10-03-2007, 05:40 AM
I'd also think about trying to improve your concentration/attention. If you forget something a second after telling yourself to remember it then it might become a bigger problem in the future.

Otherwise all the other advice given here is sound.

Uthree
10-03-2007, 06:16 AM
It seems that this may be a minority view. The reason it is difficult to watch the ball at contact is because it is not natural. You hit the ball and suddenly its gone. Too quick for the brain. Your head will lift suddenly BECAUSE YOU ARE trying to watch the ball at contact.

nevergiveup
10-03-2007, 06:27 AM
I was thinking to start a new thread but I think this goes as well here.

I have a hard time watching the ball when it lands close to the baseline. When I'm concentrating on hitting I just can't see the ball clear enough, especially when I'm hitting backhand.

I like to play fair game so I never judge the ball out when I'm not 100 % sure. So, I end up continuing the rally even though I wonder was it in or out. Needles to say, this kind of hesitation is not good for my game. Actually when my father was watching one of my matches he saw my opponent's ball going clearly out at least 5 times - and I didn't call it out!

I know this is part of the game especially when selfjudging but I'd appreciate your comments/tips on this issue.

Serve em Up
10-03-2007, 06:32 AM
I have a similar issue. I've not heard the watch the bounce tip. I'll try it. When I play guys that use lots of spin (side or back) I'll get screwed up because I set up too early. I then have to lunge after the ball because of the action. That lunge throws me off balance. I somehow need to learn to set up later, keep my feet moving so I can still adjust to the weird boune.

ubel
10-03-2007, 06:35 AM
I try my best to see the spin of the ball from the moment it leaves my opponent's racquet. It requires pretty extreme concentration at first, but once you start getting in the habit, it becomes second nature :)

10s talk
10-03-2007, 08:04 AM
say bounce the exact moment the ball bounces


say hit the exact moment the ball is hit ( based on sight )

old but effective tip

Tennismastery
10-03-2007, 08:10 AM
Some old tips that can help: Look for the label or the seams on the ball as it bounces towards you. Even as you won't be able to identify them, the act of bringing your eyes to this type of focus will give your eyes a "purpose" for looking at the ball.

Remember a few facts: the eyes can't track a moving object (at most tennis ball speeds) continuously. This phenomenon is called "Saccades" is where the eyes will see a moving object, lose it, jump ahead of its movement to recapter the focus of it for a moment before it loses it again and repeats. This is because the eye (and mind) is trying to keep the object in the center of the retinal focus point, (called the fovea), but can't because of the object's movement.

While trying to maintain focus can help train your eyes (and mind) better in terms of maintaining longer interludes of focus, it is impossible to actually do it continuously. This helps explain why players will seem to be looking intently at the ball only to frame it. The eyes can often be in the mode of losing the ball and trying to get ahead of it (saccading), right at the point of contact...which means the player can't even see the ball at this important point.

You will be wise to look up Scott Ford's excellent research on this in his DVD called "Welcome to the Zone" a in-depth study of "Parallel Mode Processing" and his great techniques of moving from specifically trying to track a ball intently to contact, to focusing only on the contact window. There is much more to it than what I have offered in this short synopsis. However, you can learn more about his work at www.arete-sports.com.

It is well worth your time to learn about Scott's work.

ubel
10-03-2007, 08:51 AM
Some old tips that can help: Look for the label or the seams on the ball as it bounces towards you. Even as you won't be able to identify them, the act of bringing your eyes to this type of focus will give your eyes a "purpose" for looking at the ball.

Remember a few facts: the eyes can't track a moving object (at most tennis ball speeds) continuously. This phenomenon is called "Saccades" is where the eyes will see a moving object, lose it, jump ahead of its movement to recapter the focus of it for a moment before it loses it again and repeats. This is because the eye (and mind) is trying to keep the object in the center of the retinal focus point, (called the fovea), but can't because of the object's movement.

While trying to maintain focus can help train your eyes (and mind) better in terms of maintaining longer interludes of focus, it is impossible to actually do it continuously. This helps explain why players will seem to be looking intently at the ball only to frame it. The eyes can often be in the mode of losing the ball and trying to get ahead of it (saccading), right at the point of contact...which means the player can't even see the ball at this important point.

You will be wise to look up Scott Ford's excellent research on this in his DVD called "Welcome to the Zone" a in-depth study of "Parallel Mode Processing" and his great techniques of moving from specifically trying to track a ball intently to contact, to focusing only on the contact window. There is much more to it than what I have offered in this short synopsis. However, you can learn more about his work at www.arete-sports.com.

It is well worth your time to learn about Scott's work.
You make an interesting point about focusing only on the contact window due to the limitations of our eyesight, but I can't help but express a little concern over how this might be a slightly flawed way of thinking.

When you're new to the game, you're not quite familiar with recognizing all the different spins and speeds of the ball, and your perception of where & how the ball will bounce is often incorrect (getting caught by high bouncing/super topspin balls or not seeing vicious underspin and running to catch the ball). Thus, watching the ball plays a huge part in increasing your predicting abilities of how it will bounce on impact so you can place yourself where the ball will be in your strike zone.

So wouldn't you say focusing on seeing the trajectory of the ball is equally important to focusing on that window of time where you're going to make contact with the ball?

And taking it a bit further, even at the highest levels, being able to predict and react more quickly to the trajectory of a ball is a very desirable trait. If you instantly KNEW where & how the ball was going to bounce the instant it left your opponent's racquet, you'd effectively be given sooo much more time to get to the ball and have your way with it. Getting here, though, obviously requires lots of practice to hone your your reaction time and predicting skills, but only through watching the trajectory of millions of balls. A good example of someone who's done this is Sampras, whose S&V game forced him to recognize if a ball was going out or not, lest he volley a ball that was going out/not volley a ball that might fall in.

callitout
10-03-2007, 09:33 AM
Since you mentioned returning serve was particulary difficult I'll give my 2 cents:
The less your head moves the easier it is for you to see the ball.
The bigger the swing the more likely you are to move your head.
Keep your swing shorter (on serve return), your head steady and it will be much easier to "watch the ball".

1171
10-03-2007, 09:52 AM
Attended one of Michael Chang's tennis clinic in past.

He is one of the best returner in his prime.

He stressed he need to see the bounce well to hit the ball well.

Ever since, I used that trick. See the bounce and move to the bounce.

Move to the bounce part I learned from Agassi's father Michael.

Whenever I am losing my attention, I always come back to the basics.

Watching the ball= see the bounce, move to the bounce.

ipodtennispro
10-03-2007, 10:04 AM
Thats a really dumb question, since it seems like I should just WATCH THE BALL!! But for some reason, I don't watch the ball into the racquet except on rare occasions where I am able to really make that my one and only thought. It produces remarkable improvement when I do it, especially on serve returns. I just feel like I have twice as much time to do more with a return if I really watch the ball. Unfortunately, I can tell myself to watch it, and the moment the serve is hit, I forget it.
Now, if there is someone who has a trick or tip or swing thought that helps them concentrate on doing this, I'd love to hear them.
Again, I know this is kind of a silly question, but thanks in advance!

No, it's not a silly question and it is a huge problem in our profession as it is used as the reason why people are making bad contact. I am gald you posted it here. Ubel makes a great point in that it may be your "Predicting and intercepting" skills that may be the real problem. I would like to add a "First step" to the ball as well.

First things first. Do you have almost perfect vision? I am only saying this as some people have not had their eyes checked. If you have perfect vision than "watching the ball" is not your problem and I would quickly wipe this out of your brain now as it will keep creeping up as the root of your bad playing if you BELIEVE this is why you are not hitting the ball well. Watch frisbee players on the beach catching behind the back. They never watch the frisbee into the hand because it's impossible. You can practice this too. Frisbee catching is great vision training.

Everbody shanks, even all the pros, however, it is so iimportant to keep the head still when running to the ball. Anytime you're off balance and late to the ball you will rush your shot and that is when is becomes a timing issue. Your head can't be bobbing up and down when making contact.

Lastly, you mentioned that you don't do it on the return of serve. Could this be that you know where the ball has to land? (in the service box) Therefore, the prediction component does not need to be factored in as it is one less thing to think about. This game is very fast, don't get too hung up on watching the ball. I would work on your movement and footwork as I have never heard anyone complain that they were too speedy on the tennis court. The faster you get to the ball the less to think about.

I hope this helps.

Tennismastery
10-03-2007, 10:06 AM
You make an interesting point about focusing only on the contact window due to the limitations of our eyesight, but I can't help but express a little concern over how this might be a slightly flawed way of thinking.

When you're new to the game, you're not quite familiar with recognizing all the different spins and speeds of the ball, and your perception of where & how the ball will bounce is often incorrect (getting caught by high bouncing/super topspin balls or not seeing vicious underspin and running to catch the ball). Thus, watching the ball plays a huge part in increasing your predicting abilities of how it will bounce on impact so you can place yourself where the ball will be in your strike zone.

So wouldn't you say focusing on seeing the trajectory of the ball is equally important to focusing on that window of time where you're going to make contact with the ball?

And taking it a bit further, even at the highest levels, being able to predict and react more quickly to the trajectory of a ball is a very desirable trait. If you instantly KNEW where & how the ball was going to bounce the instant it left your opponent's racquet, you'd effectively be given sooo much more time to get to the ball and have your way with it. Getting here, though, obviously requires lots of practice to hone your your reaction time and predicting skills, but only through watching the trajectory of millions of balls. A good example of someone who's done this is Sampras, whose S&V game forced him to recognize if a ball was going out or not, lest he volley a ball that was going out/not volley a ball that might fall in.


You bring up the very same questions I raised when I discussed this concept with Scott.

The reality is, while you mentally are focused on the hitting window, you never lose sight of the ball, nor do you intentionally NOT look at the ball within the ball's flight or movement.

This is why I mentioned the first tip of trying to see the label or the seams of the ball. We still want to develop our ability to judge, anticipate, recognize and move to the moving ball correctly. And your very correct in the developmental stage of a player who is just starting out: they will need to gain experience in judging and recognizing what a ball is going to do...both in the air, as well as after the bounce. (Based on various spins, vectors, and speeds.)

So, yes, we don't ever lose that element of wanting to watch the ball intently. However, I have seen the parallel mode processing in action both in my own students as well as when the practice is demonstrated in workshops. And it is significant for most who practice Scott's techniques.

And perhaps my use of the word, "only" as in only focusing on the contact window was misleading. (I don't claim to know anywhere near as much as Scott and certainly could be guilty of paraphrasing this information in such a way that is could be misconstrued!)

Thanks for the comments!

laff66
10-03-2007, 10:24 AM
Wow, I didn't expect so many replies, thanks! I actually have noticed that I'm actually seeing the bounce when I get such good results on serve returns, so its nice to hear that I wasn't imagining it.
Any advice specific to volleys, where there is no bounce? Again, in practice I can stick volleys pretty well, but in match play it falls apart. I suspect that in practice I'm ONLY focusing on contact, whereas in play, I want to see the great winner I'm about to hit - WRONG. I even do it with serves, practice=watching the ball until its gone, real thing = non-center of racquet contact.

LafayetteHitter
10-03-2007, 03:25 PM
There is an interesting article in this months Tennis Life called "Federer's secret revealed" that I found interesting on this subject. Most people want to be a peeker and see where the ball is going right at contact but it is very important to stabilize the head before, at and just after contact if possible to help with ball control. It's one of the topics that should be discussed more in tennis. It is amazing how many mishits one can witness watching club level players during a match.

LafayetteHitter
10-03-2007, 03:28 PM
Articles on subject as well:
http://www.**************.com/watch-the-ball.html

http://www.revolutionarytennis.com/federervisiontechnique.html

Well the first one got blocked for some reason.

Uthree
10-03-2007, 06:40 PM
There is an interesting article in this months Tennis Life called "Federer's secret revealed" that I found interesting on this subject. Most people want to be a peeker and see where the ball is going right at contact but it is very important to stabilize the head before, at and just after contact if possible to help with ball control. It's one of the topics that should be discussed more in tennis. It is amazing how many mishits one can witness watching club level players during a match.

I not sure if Federer is the ideal model for head position at contact. I agree this topic needs discussion but why not consider all options. Many top players seem to have their head more forward at contact particularly on serve. I find this option is easier for balance and consistency.

LafayetteHitter
10-03-2007, 06:48 PM
I not sure if Federer is the ideal model for head position at contact. I agree this topic needs discussion but why not consider all options. Many top players seem to have their head more forward at contact particularly on serve. I find this option is easier for balance and consistency.

Have you read the article? The article wasn't about using Federer's style or method but about a comment he made.

Uthree
10-03-2007, 06:59 PM
Have you read the article? The article wasn't about using Federer's style or method but about a comment he made.

Fair comment. I'll check it out. I do agree stability is important. I'm not sure what 'take a peek' means exactly but I think using peripheral vision to check out what's happening on the other side if court is a good idea.

Supernatural_Serve
10-04-2007, 03:55 AM
I not sure if Federer is the ideal model for head position at contact. I agree this topic needs discussion but why not consider all options. Many top players seem to have their head more forward at contact particularly on serve. I find this option is easier for balance and consistency.That's an interesting observation. It seems that Federer's head is back so that when he is looking at the impact point/zone (for example on a typical forehand), its *as if* he is looking through his racquet's string bed from behind, whereas when I am looking at the impact point/zone, I am seeing the racquet itself, not looking through the string bed from behind at all, even if I make contact way in front of me.

ipodtennispro
10-04-2007, 10:44 AM
Fair comment. I'll check it out. I do agree stability is important. I'm not sure what 'take a peek' means exactly but I think using peripheral vision to check out what's happening on the other side if court is a good idea.

I may be in the minority here too; I agree with everything that Uthree has said. I did want to address the "peeking" issue. Sorry, I didn't read the article but I may have been guilty of using this phrase with my students who "peek" at where the ball is going and pull up at the last second when they should keep their head still and body down for the shot. I got this expression from football where the wide receivers get caught looking (peeking) down field and don't "look" the ball in completely for grasp and control. (They also are peeking to see who is going to try to take their head off!) Unfortunately, a split second is all it takes to drop the ball.

If you believe that watching the label on the ball helps then, by all means do so. I don't see how anyone can watch a label or the seams when the ball travels over the net in one and a half seconds. Then factor in the spin rate: 3300 rpm's (Sergia Bruguera) The ball is turning itself over 70 to 80 times as it is traveling over the net. Of course, this is pro tennis.

Unless there is concrete evidence to support watching the ball (which we already do naturally) then I don't see why we need to tell anyone to do so. On the other hand, this is an area that needs a lot of research. I am sure if we did research on Laver, Connors, BJ King, Henin, Federer, M Jordan, Bonds, etc etc you would find they all have something in common: exceptional peripheral vision.

Tennismastery
10-04-2007, 11:54 AM
I may be in the minority here too; I agree with everything that Uthree has said. I did want to address the "peeking" issue. Sorry, I didn't read the article but I may have been guilty of using this phrase with my students who "peek" at where the ball is going and pull up at the last second when they should keep their head still and body down for the shot. I got this expression from football where the wide receivers get caught looking (peeking) down field and don't "look" the ball in completely for grasp and control. (They also are peeking to see who is going to try to take their head off!) Unfortunately, a split second is all it takes to drop the ball.

If you believe that watching the label on the ball helps then, by all means do so. I don't see how anyone can watch a label or the seams when the ball travels over the net in one and a half seconds. Then factor in the spin rate: 3300 rpm's (Sergia Bruguera) The ball is turning itself over 70 to 80 times as it is traveling over the net. Of course, this is pro tennis.

Unless there is concrete evidence to support watching the ball (which we already do naturally) then I don't see why we need to tell anyone to do so. On the other hand, this is an area that needs a lot of research. I am sure if we did research on Laver, Connors, BJ King, Henin, Federer, M Jordan, Bonds, etc etc you would find they all have something in common: exceptional peripheral vision.

The concept of "looking for the label" is not an issue of actually identifying the label or the seams at all. It is the act of intent: trying to see the label will give the eyes a 'purpose' which is more or less the concept of focus. There are many realms of "watching" a ball; from peripherial focus to focus on only one minute detail of something.

I agree that everyone is different and that not all sense of foci will equate into each player having more success or less. My experience is to provide ideas that resonate with individuals...and that can trigger optimal experiences in seeing, hitting and executing better shots.

ipodtennispro
10-04-2007, 12:50 PM
Analysis Paralysis?

757tennis
10-04-2007, 12:54 PM
focus on watching the ball when you hit it, it greatly increases your chances of hitting a better shot and you will have more accuracy. plus, when you dont watch the ball you can either mishit the ball or shank it it happens to me all of the time thats why my friends call me "shank" :D

Bundey
10-04-2007, 12:56 PM
Yeah. Definitly keep your eye on the ball. Sometimes people pull their head out to fast, to see the ball fly, and don't watch the contact. I know this one kid who is ********. He always shanks it.

Uthree
10-05-2007, 06:53 AM
The concept of "looking for the label" is not an issue of actually identifying the label or the seams at all. It is the act of intent: trying to see the label will give the eyes a 'purpose' which is more or less the concept of focus. There are many realms of "watching" a ball; from peripherial focus to focus on only one minute detail of something.

I agree that everyone is different and that not all sense of foci will equate into each player having more success or less. My experience is to provide ideas that resonate with individuals...and that can trigger optimal experiences in seeing, hitting and executing better shots.

This may be a different issue but why don't we use our IMAGINATION to judge where the ball will be at contact. I'm talking about the last few moments before contact because everying happens so quickly to see the ball anyway. I think all contributors here would have the co-ordination and experience to use more of their imagination.
Players may having trouble with their head moving because the brain is trying to watch something that's too quick. Watching the ball might even cause some of the shanks players experience.

bdog
10-05-2007, 07:31 AM
Watching the ball might even cause some of the shanks players experience.

You might want to re-word that......

I think what you are getting at is, too much focus on the ball can lead to paralysis. Much like when we teach adult beginners to point at the ball for an overhead....they are so intent on following the ball with their finger, that they forget to move in position.

Otherwise, I am not sure what you are getting at. Are you suggestion watch the ball less?

Ross K
10-06-2007, 01:28 PM
Attended one of Michael Chang's tennis clinic in past.

He is one of the best returner in his prime.

He stressed he need to see the bounce well to hit the ball well.

Ever since, I used that trick. See the bounce and move to the bounce.

Move to the bounce part I learned from Agassi's father Michael.

Whenever I am losing my attention, I always come back to the basics.

Watching the ball= see the bounce, move to the bounce.

I'm liking this, but want to hear a bit more in the way of details, and especially 'see the bounce.' I know this might seem self-explanatory and obvious but could you please detail precisely what you mean by this instruction in relation to the return of serve... I mean, how exactly do you go about 'seeing the bounce well?'

Uthree
10-06-2007, 03:29 PM
You might want to re-word that......

I think what you are getting at is, too much focus on the ball can lead to paralysis. Much like when we teach adult beginners to point at the ball for an overhead....they are so intent on following the ball with their finger, that they forget to move in position.

Otherwise, I am not sure what you are getting at. Are you suggestion watch the ball less?

Yes, exactly. Teaching players to point at the ball in smash is a good example of paranoia about the ball. That's very unnatural to run with arm in that position. I suppose what I'm getting at is over-watching of the ball causes bad technique. Like sticking your left arm up too early or holding your head in an awkward position.
I'm wondering do usta coaches still tell teach players to watch the ball on to the racket?

Tennis_Monk
10-06-2007, 07:30 PM
Whatever it is, i wouldnt recommend BOUNCE HIT. That for me has been the worst ever tip given. May be it works for some people.

For me , i focus on the ball. I dont try reading labels or whatever. Insticntly i follow the ball and I am no Federer /ATP pro but i am generally good at judging.

z-money
10-06-2007, 07:51 PM
buy glasses

Tennismastery
10-06-2007, 07:55 PM
Understand that most posters here (myself included) are offering suggestions that are exactly that.

I am amazed/amused at various individuals who renounce specific tips or suggestions...as if they are foul, insidious methods intended to screw up any player who might actually follow such advice.

The more I glance through these posts, I have come to the conclusion that many people either don't read the posts thoroughly, jump to conclusions after reading only a segment of the posts, or simply are jaded to the point that they can't read the intent of the posts.

Either way, I will mention this once again: the more ideas that you have in your repetoir of teaching methods, the more likely you will be able to reach specific players who DON'T necessarily get it with conventional tips.

I for one have used nearly every method I've found: from "Bounce-Hit" to "Trying to read the label" to "Look for the type of spin the ball has" to using your "hitting window" (parallel mode processing), to "Picturing the trajectory as a yellow-dotted-line"... some methods have helped some players, other methods help others.

I think we all jumped in this thread because the OP had offered a suggested tip (from a Chang Clinic) and we all thought we had poetic license to add our own two cents worth. (Myself included.)

Any, yet, as with all the information on this board, it created some interesting discussions. I just wish more people would be a bit more objective, congenial, respectful, and less opinionated when chiming in with a personal advice.

I will certainly try to accomplish this myself.

Bagumbawalla
10-06-2007, 08:33 PM
The one thing that I would add to the above good suggestions is to KEEP watching the ball- like one of those Japanese haiku, where the moon and the watcher become as one, and don't just watch the ball, but keep constantly adjusting to the flight of the ball and the potential angles of return.

For example-- you have just hit the ball-- Watch the ball as it arcs through the air and across the net. Pay attention to its angle and spin and where it lands in the court.

As the opponent nears the ball and begins his/her stroke, note the most likely directions/placements he/she might return the ball. Make adjustments so you will be ready for these most likely events.

Then watch the ball leaving the opponent's racket. Watch the path it takes as it arcs through the air. Pay attention to any spin/curve/angle the opponent has forced the ball to take. Make further small adjustments. Take little steps, get into position. Watch the ball as it bounces up and into the swing path of your racket. Watch the ball as it travels back across the net..........and so on.

As a personal example, today I played against this guy who hits groundstrokes faster than most people hit serves. If I took my eyes off the ball for even an instant (as it neared me), it would just seem to skip into some a time warp and I would be lucky to make contact..

Ross K
10-06-2007, 10:09 PM
Articles on subject as well:
http://www.**************.com/watch-the-ball.html

http://www.revolutionarytennis.com/federervisiontechnique.html

Well the first one got blocked for some reason.

I know the revolusionary tennis guy was slaughtered recently on a different thread... but what are people's views on his theory ^ here?

Uthree
10-06-2007, 10:27 PM
I know the revolusionary tennis guy was slaughtered recently on a different thread... but what are people's views on his theory ^ here?

Too much complicated analysis for me. Federers forehand is awesome but not because of his head position.

NLBwell
10-07-2007, 09:35 PM
OK -- Actuially doing something about it. I have had a terrible problem looking at the ball since teaching. I trained myself to look at the person I am hitting to to watch and analyze their strokes and never look at the ball while I was grabbing it out of the basket and hitting it. This resulted in an awful case of "peeking" - even pulling my neck muscles on two occasions from snapping my head up so quickly. Often I would not see the ball at any point in its trajectory. Here is what I have done to (most of the time) cure it:

1) Don't look at the ball. -- this sounds strange, but if you are looking at the ball while your opponent is hitting it, it encourages "peeking" -- if you are looking at the ball while you are striking it, you are probably moving your head to keep it in your field of vision. WORK ON NOT MOVING YOUR HEAD!! Use your peripheral vision to see the ball for now. It is amazing how many times I actually did hit the ball while looking completely the opposite direction. Your brain does a good job of predicting the position of the ball without much information (of course clay courts or windy days will cause more problems).

2) Once your head is more steady, then start focusing on seeing the bounce. I would force myself to not even look at the ball until it crossed the net. Don't look at your opponent hitting the ball. The ball will enter your peripheral vision soon enough. There is enough time to hit your shot after the bounce. Make sure after every point that you know the exact spot the ball hit the court - this is a good way to remind yourself.

3) For practice, use a strangely bouncing ball (you can often find them at Wal-Mart for about $1). There is a ball made of colorful rectangular pieces and one that looks more like spaghetti. Toss it against a wall and try to catch it - focusing on keeping your head and upper body very still while making sure you see the bounce. The rectangular one bounces so wildly you can't hit it with a racket, but the other one you can use with a racket hitting softly a few feet from the wall. (I do it in my basement or entry-way - a tennis court or cement tears up the ball very quickly). It also works on your speed and reflexes.

4) Gradually let yourself see more of the trajectory of the ball but make sure you know where it bounces.

5) Gain confidence. One reason for peeking is looking to see if you made your shot. When you are confident in your shots you expect them to go where you plan and there is no reason to look up. In the "fake it until you make it" mode, don't look up - just pretend it is going where you want it to. Sooner or later your confidence will be justified.

LafayetteHitter
10-07-2007, 09:51 PM
Tennismastery, great post! I concur that many ideas should be considered by anyone looking to improve. Some time ago I decided to rework my service motion and made a tough decision. I left a coach that I had spent years with. I was playing a match and a close friend said one of the reasons that my coach (a great player and coach) may not have been able to help with revamping my service motion is that he simply wasn't reaching me. It took a few days to think about what my buddy said (this guy was a former college player and current 5.0) for me to realize he had just pointed out something critical. I went to various different coaches and I ended up with a very technial coach in a lesson that taught went through the service motion backwards and used some lingo that I had not heard before. The next day I was able to apply much of what he said and ended up really making some great gains within the following month with further coaching from the same guy. The end point here is not that he had any great secret to success with my serve or that he was any more or less of a coach than my others. He simply accomplished one of the most difficult tasks, he reached me and it clicked.

Tennismastery
10-08-2007, 07:18 AM
Lafayette,

This is one reason I try to encourage my students to attend camps and/or clinics in other areas. (At least respected camps and clinics!)

Two things I know will occur: my student could understand something being said by someone else. (It might very well be exactly the same thing I have been saying...just having it said by someone else in a different setting surrounded by different students can make the difference in a student 'getting it.')

Second, if the camp or clinic is good, my students will understand that I'm not the only teaching the methods/techniques I want my students to master. They usually come back to me and say something like, "Those guys were talking about the serve/groundies/volley the same way you do." Thus, solidifying the concept as being sound in their mind...not just mine!

Thanks for your input!