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Oxford
04-10-2008, 11:17 AM
Do you use a “target reference” when hitting the ball?

Let’s say you are throwing a football to someone. You see them off at a distance and mentally gauge the distance before and during the throwing process. They represent a visually fixed target to mentally aim at. And you can easily place the ball within their arms reach.

So, can this process be used in tennis? And should it?

While hitting/experimenting on my ball machine the other day I began imagining a box above the net about 4 feet high and the width of the net. As I was setting up for my shot, I would mentally reference the box and aim for it at various areas (left, right, middle). In doing so my consistency and placement improved dramatically. I felt I was now aiming at something, whereas before I was mostly just hitting the ball in a general direction.

That defined mental reference seemed to give my brain something it needed; a target for calibrating distance and positioning. Could I be on to something?

I plan on integrating this into game play and see how it goes but for now it appears to be a great mental tool for increasing my shot consistency and reducing unforced errors.

Anyone else do this?

ox

Geezer Guy
04-10-2008, 12:08 PM
I aim at the spot I want the ball to bounce.

I've heard of hitting through a "window" over the net before, but seems to me you could hit perfectly through the window and the ball could still go out.

Kaptain Karl
04-10-2008, 12:14 PM
I imagine where the ball will bounce and how. My body does the rest.

The "windowing" idea is a teaching tool I've used with good results in the past.

- KK

Doc Hollidae
04-10-2008, 12:14 PM
When someone's at the net I aim at their chest. Gives me an adequate margin of error for the ball to still drop in if they decide to let it go or it passes them.

For everything else it's similar to what the above posters have said. I "visualize" the end result and "shape" it accordingly with my swing.

Bungalo Bill
04-10-2008, 12:52 PM
Do you use a “target reference” when hitting the ball?

Let’s say you are throwing a football to someone. You see them off at a distance and mentally gauge the distance before and during the throwing process. They represent a visually fixed target to mentally aim at. And you can easily place the ball within their arms reach.

So, can this process be used in tennis? And should it?

The answer will be, YES!!!!!

Better still, try using your minds eye to see where you want to hit it in the court for better head control during the swing.

watermantra
04-10-2008, 01:17 PM
Better still, try using your minds eye to see where you want to hit it in the court for better head control during the swing.

I've said it before that I think it is much better to visualize a target, than to think of "aiming" to a target. I think this is what Bungalo Bill is saying here. I fear that the word "aim" has no connection to what you actually do when hitting a tennis ball...it's what you do when you shoot an arrow. What might you "aim"? Your arm? Your eyes? I think thinking in this manner might get you into trouble. Visualization is the key, in my opinion.

user92626
04-10-2008, 01:42 PM
This is an interesting topic to me.

I think aiming at or visualizing the spot in the other court you want the ball to land is an advanced level. For new players trying to hit the ball inside an imaginary box above the net seem to be easier. As I progress I try to create a narrower box. I don't know.

Bungalo Bill
04-10-2008, 02:03 PM
I've said it before that I think it is much better to visualize a target, than to think of "aiming" to a target. I think this is what Bungalo Bill is saying here. I fear that the word "aim" has no connection to what you actually do when hitting a tennis ball...it's what you do when you shoot an arrow. What might you "aim"? Your arm? Your eyes? I think thinking in this manner might get you into trouble. Visualization is the key, in my opinion.

Well without causing a major flare-up between us, I can see your point. However, some people need to aim at targets (cones) in order to develop their senses a bit in order to direct the tennis ball to various places on the court.

When I hit a ball, I know where I want to hit it and I swing to get it there. Some of this knowledge of hitting the ball to a certain place will be based on the ball I receive. Some of it will be from what I want to do with the ball.

So I need to have a good idea on where I want to hit the ball. Is this precise aiming that one would do with a rifle or bow and arrow? No. However, I do feel we aim from a general sense.

Maybe aim isn't a good word, maybe we direct the ball to places on the court.

watermantra
04-10-2008, 02:14 PM
Well without causing a major flare-up between us, I can see your point. However, some people need to aim at targets (cones) in order to develop their senses a bit in order to direct the tennis ball to various places on the court.



Bill, I absolutely respect your teaching knowledge and technique. You sound like my original coach, whom I respect as much as any teacher I've ever had, in any subject. In fact, as a teacher now (I teach in a university art department) my teaching philosophy can be traced directly back to his. I think the problem for me on this issue is purely semantic!

boojay
04-10-2008, 02:23 PM
The answer will be, YES!!!!!

Better still, try using your minds eye to see where you want to hit it in the court for better head control during the swing.

I like that tip. My problem is I need to keep reminding myself to trust in my shot and not look up to see where I want to hit or if it landed in before I finish the hit.

Maybe I should put a brace around my neck? How awesome would that be? Except that it wouldn't be!

Bungalo Bill
04-10-2008, 03:29 PM
I like that tip. My problem is I need to keep reminding myself to trust in my shot and not look up to see where I want to hit or if it landed in before I finish the hit.

Maybe I should put a brace around my neck? How awesome would that be? Except that it wouldn't be!

Incorporate it as a drill at least three times a week were you work on seeing the court while your head is faced toward the contact zone (Federer style) and into followthrough. No cheating!

When you are in the process of recovery, lift your eyes as the ball is going over to your opponents side and start the process over. Do this for at least three sets of 25 balls per practice session until it is automatic.

Oxford
04-10-2008, 04:06 PM
Incorporate it as a drill at least three times a week were you work on seeing the court while your head is faced toward the contact zone (Federer style) and into followthrough. No cheating!

When you are in the process of recovery, lift your eyes as the ball is going over to your opponents side and start the process over. Do this for at least three sets of 25 balls per practice session until it is automatic.

I worked on this with my ball machine the other day. Man it was not easy :oops:... I hit into the net about 85% of the time. Gonna try some more though.

but my "watching the ball to the strings and hitting into the giant invisible box" really worked well... I trust BB's advice so I will add his drill to my protocol.

How did you guys know i was so OCD???:shock:

ox

Bungalo Bill
04-10-2008, 04:21 PM
I worked on this with my ball machine the other day. Man it was not easy :oops:... I hit into the net about 85% of the time. Gonna try some more though.

but my "watching the ball to the strings and hitting into the giant invisible box" really worked well... I trust BB's advice so I will add his drill to my protocol.

How did you guys know i was so OCD???:shock:

ox

I may not have been clear. I do not want you guys putting blindfolds on and trying this drill. :)

Try to use your peripheral vision to see the court. Most people tend to do it off and on depending on how their mind wavers.

Essential Tennis
04-10-2008, 04:42 PM
Having a specific target is absolutely essential no matter what level player you are. This is a topic I've had lined up for my blog and something I think a lot of people don't take advantage of. Without some kind of specific purpose or goal for each individual swing there really isn't much way you can expect good results, unless you're hoping to just get lucky, heh. There isn't a drill or exercise I do on the court without a target being given to my students whether its a 5 year old girl or 5.0 player. What the target is exactly is determined by the level of the player, and exactly what skill or stroke is being learned or improved.

Bill made a very important point, having a target doesn't mean you look at it as you complete the technique of your swing. Focus needs to be maintained on contact with the ball, but the mental effort and awareness of where you're attempting to aim still needs to be there. If you're physical body isn't able to complete the task without looking up and looking at your target, then practice needs to occur, heh.

Djokovicfan4life
04-10-2008, 04:43 PM
Why wouldn't you want to aim your shots? :confused:

Seems obvious to me.

Essential Tennis
04-10-2008, 05:04 PM
Why wouldn't you want to aim your shots? :confused:

Seems obvious to me.

So is "watching the ball", but only a small fraction of recreational players do either, heh. After miss hitting and missing a shot I'll often ask a student "why did you miss that shot?". If I've never taught them before I rarely get back the correct answer, because they're totally unaware that the ball hit their frame.

Similarly, after missing a shot I can often tell that my student didn't really have any purpose for it, and I'll ask "so where were you aiming?". Less skilled players very often admit to me that they didn't have a target in mind, more skilled players will say "over there" and point to a whole half of the court. Is that "aiming"? Technically yes it is. Is aiming for such a general target as the half of the court your opponent isn't on a good way to improve your game in the long run? No, there needs to be a SPECIFIC target in mind or I feel the player is selling themselves sort in terms of present and future outcomes of their strokes.

When I say specific, I'm saying the exact spot where you'd like the ball to touch the court. The old saying goes "aim small, miss small", heh. Are you going to hit that exact target often? No of course not, but depending on your skill level you should expect to miss by a certain amount most of the time, and chose your targets based on that to give yourself enough room for error.

boojay
04-10-2008, 05:42 PM
Incorporate it as a drill at least three times a week were you work on seeing the court while your head is faced toward the contact zone (Federer style) and into followthrough. No cheating!

When you are in the process of recovery, lift your eyes as the ball is going over to your opponents side and start the process over. Do this for at least three sets of 25 balls per practice session until it is automatic.

Thanks Bill. How bout if I hired you to slap me whenever I "didn't" do it? Oh wait, you'd probably do that for free :twisted:.

Anyway, I agree with the previous poster that it's very difficult to do. My problem isn't that I hit into the net or anything like that. On the contrary, I hit very cleanly when I do it properly. Unfortunately, I fall back to bad habits when I have to start chasing after balls.

Luckily, there have been two instances where I regain my ability to execute. 1) I'm playing against a control player who gives me enough pace to do whatever I want with the ball so that I go in auto-mode and only have to focus on watching the ball. 2) I'm having a bad sequence where I'm consecutively shanking against rally balls, thus I remind myself to refocus and start watching the ball knowing full well it will remedy the situation--instead of looking at my racquet and going, WTF?

baek57
04-10-2008, 05:44 PM
aim small enough and you will miss every time.

i choose my target as the ball is coming over the net, then i dont see my target until after i've struck the ball and the ball is half way there. (federer style)

albino smurf
04-10-2008, 05:48 PM
I do not use the technique the OP is asking about. More in line with the picking where it bounces crowd.

Bungalo Bill
04-10-2008, 06:09 PM
Thanks Bill. How bout if I hired you to slap me whenever I "didn't" do it? Oh wait, you'd probably do that for free :twisted:.

I wouldnt charge. It is my pleasure to put people through pain. :)

Anyway, I agree with the previous poster that it's very difficult to do. My problem isn't that I hit into the net or anything like that. On the contrary, I hit very cleanly when I do it properly. Unfortunately, I fall back to bad habits when I have to start chasing after balls.

Yes, I understand. Sometimes though difficulty is measured many times against unrealistic expectations. In this day and age, people simply want things to work - now. Certain things in tennis will come easy and other things more difficult.

Disciplining the mind, the mental game starts at practice.

Something that is difficult to one may not be difficult to another. However, even if we never master it, we will still be able to improve if we are simply willing to put the effort in and practice it.

The problem is people try it once or twice and then move on to something else.

Discipline and an unwavering spirit is what great tennis players have that seperate them from us.

stormholloway
04-10-2008, 11:45 PM
Why wouldn't you want to aim your shots? :confused:

Seems obvious to me.

I don't think that's the point. There's a difference between aiming in the general direction of crosscourt and aiming for the corner. I find that when I have a very specific target in mind the results are always better. Sometimes the ball is coming too fast to be so specific though.

ShooterMcMarco
04-11-2008, 12:24 AM
I like that tip. My problem is I need to keep reminding myself to trust in my shot and not look up to see where I want to hit or if it landed in before I finish the hit.

Maybe I should put a brace around my neck? How awesome would that be? Except that it wouldn't be!

Once you can control your head, you might be able to do shots like this:

http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3110/2360599321_412f74308f_o.jpg

Of course, you need pretty good footwork and an uber fast swing ;)

boojay
04-11-2008, 08:43 AM
Once you can control your head, you might be able to do shots like this:

http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3110/2360599321_412f74308f_o.jpg

Of course, you need pretty good footwork and an uber fast swing ;)

Now that is one talented photo. Props to whoever made it and thanks for sharing. Definitely wallpaper material.

Bungalo Bill
04-11-2008, 09:28 AM
Now that is one talented photo. Props to whoever made it and thanks for sharing. Definitely wallpaper material.

It is amazing how he keeps his eye on the ball with all that dust around him.

skierpaul
04-11-2008, 09:39 AM
So what about when I'm on the receiving end of a blistering serve?

Usually, other than thinking "backhand" or "forehand" all that I can hope to aim for is "over the net" and "in". In these cases should I just visualize and aim for the center of the T to allow for the largest margin of error? (Since we're talking about aiming for a specific spot) Shoot, sometimes all that I can hope for is to just be able to get my racket on the ball.

Bungalo Bill
04-11-2008, 02:05 PM
Bill, I absolutely respect your teaching knowledge and technique. You sound like my original coach, whom I respect as much as any teacher I've ever had, in any subject. In fact, as a teacher now (I teach in a university art department) my teaching philosophy can be traced directly back to his. I think the problem for me on this issue is purely semantic!

Well I appreciate that. I know at times I can be very stubborn and a bit pig-headed, however, I truly desire that good instruction should always sprinkle these boards more then the not-so-good instruction.

I am one that can't ignore mythical teaching, false analysis, bad tips, and other weird ideas that find its way in this forum. Unfortunately, these are the posts that usually cause flaming and stubborn debates.

Although I am not so picky on grammar and spelling (because I also rush through my typing and don't proof read as much as I should), I am picky that posts make sense and the poster is able to back-up what they are saying.

My position is so many people visit these boards and put in a lot of effort to improve their games. Why not try to raise the standards in how we write, coach, play, and understand tennis.

It is a fantastic sport. Enjoy the tips and instruction, just turn your eyes the other way when the debates start. I actually enjoy debating. It keeps me sharp because I always need to double check what I am saying and eventually prove my position. I also don't mind it getting a little personal, I know others do, but hey, nobody is perfect and it reminds me of my more competitive days. :)

Tennisman912
04-12-2008, 07:21 PM
Oxford,

I think you definitely want to be aiming for a specific spot when you are playing, either in practice or a match. How specific a spot is related to your level of play. But as someone above said if you aim very small your misses will be close to where you aimed. As you advance you will know where your shot will land as soon as it leaves your strings and how you should move/react accordingly.

Hitting through a imaginary box (or better yet a string across the net) is a good technique for practicing with a ball machine or just hitting. It can help you improve your depth tremendously. But when you are in a match situation, I think you are better off hitting a particular spot when playing. You mind will make the necessary adjustments to hit that spot when playing matches. At least it will with time and practice. Good Luck.

TM