PDA

View Full Version : Keeping your eye on the ball


Drewwonu
01-27-2009, 01:03 PM
I have been playing since the summer and consider myself a strong 3.0 player. One thing that i am NOT good at is consistency. I notice myself framing the ball more than i should be. I recently learned that you should watch the ball hit your racquet and keep your chin down until the ball leaves. If course i try this and it works fine for slower paced balls, but how do you watch a heavy face paced ball??? I seem to feel dizzy or find it moving too fast to watch hit my string bed. I know once i master this technique that i can move more into the technical aspect of tennis and improve my game to the next level.

mg.dc
01-27-2009, 01:34 PM
In the first place, you're normal: because it's impossible to watch the ball hit your strings.

So what's the trick?

When you hit the ball, let your gaze linger at the contact point. This prevents the lifting of your head too quickly, which is never a good thing in tennis, golf, or baseball, among other sports. Be patient, though, because this action is not intuitive and thus requires practice, to be sure.

Here's one particular way to practice keeping your gaze at the contact point through the swing. Consider a right-handed player hitting a forehand: at the moment the ball is struck, immediatly stare downward and to your right. If you do this, by the time you look up to see your shot, the stroke is entirely complete -- and your head stayed down through it all.

Federer said that whenever he strikes the ball, he just maintains his stare for a moment. If you watch him closely, notice that right when he smacks the ball (forehand) he simply looks downward and to the right. It's just for a moment.

Drewwonu
01-27-2009, 01:51 PM
In the first place, you're normal: because it's impossible to watch the ball hit your strings.

So what's the trick?

When you hit the ball, let your gaze linger at the contact point. This prevents the lifting of your head too quickly, which is never a good thing in tennis, golf, or baseball, among other sports. Be patient, though, because this action is not intuitive and thus requires practice, to be sure.

Here's one particular way to practice keeping your gaze at the contact point through the swing. Consider a right-handed player hitting a forehand: at the moment the ball is struck, immediatly stare downward and to your right. If you do this, by the time you look up to see your shot, the stroke is entirely complete -- and your head stayed down through it all.

Federer said that whenever he strikes the ball, he just maintains his stare for a moment. If you watch him closely, notice that right when he smacks the ball (forehand) he simply looks downward and to the right. It's just for a moment.


So im not necessarily watching the ball, im using my peripheral vision to estimate my contact point?

lawlaw
01-27-2009, 01:59 PM
"Accept that you will lose sight of the ball". When I was told this the difference in my strokes was like night and day. I went from being forced to go for winners within the first 3 balls due to not trusting myself to build up a point to being able to dictate and construct at will. The "watch the ball" line that too many coaches do not explain properly leads to the early rising of the head as players very literally watch the ball going onto and then off of the racquet.

You watch the ball as it is coming in and accept that you will lose sight of the ball as it goes back out. Assuming the technique is sound, the ball will travel to it's target. It may take a little while to trust yourself to deliver the stroke but this is how it is done.

The head, being the heaviest part of the body, dictates the movement of the body. If you lift your head or drop your head this will effect the equilibrium of the body. The body will adjust accordingly resulting in inconsistency and you don't want any of this happening mid stroke. The same goes for the serve, if you drop your head, the rest of the body will follow and the chances of clearing the net will diminish.

fuzz nation
01-27-2009, 02:18 PM
The longer you attempt to track the ball after it leaves your opponent's racquet, the better you can predict its path and put your strings on it, but a lot of that is about practice, right? Peripheral vision certainly helps to read the flight of an incoming ball, but the actual duration of a ball hitting the strings or even bouncing on the court is too short for our eyes to record. We only see a blur at the spot where the ball makes contact.

You can experiment with a drill for helping to watch the ball by having a hitting partner feed you a few balls that you've numbered with a marker. Try to read the number on the ball as you go to hit it - faster feeds will be tougher, but at least it will push you to try to watch the ball all the way into your hitting area where it's close enough to read your marking. Although a faster ball becomes more of a blur as it gets closer to you, practice will make you more comfortable meeting that blur with your swing.

mg.dc
01-27-2009, 02:27 PM
So im not necessarily watching the ball, im using my peripheral vision to estimate my contact point?

Actually it's easier than this. I think perhaps you're over analyzing the action. No problem, though, let me try to clarify it. (It's so much easier to show in person what's going on here.)

First of all, you're not watching the ball hit your strings. To watch the ball hit your strings you'd have to be Spiderman where everything seemingly slows down. But for the rest of us normal human beings, this is not possible. No problem, though, because it's not necessary to see the ball hit your strings. It's easier than that.

Yes, you are watching the ball as it gets closer to you and the contact point. However, at the moment you hit the ball, you're simply maintaining your gaze in the direction of the contact point. In other words, don't look up too quickly. Forget about where the ball is going -- whether the ball is in or out or in the net (or over the fence) forget about it.

Hit the ball, but don't look up immediately. Keep your head down for a second longer. Act as though you know the ball went where you were aiming. Trust in your stroke.

If you watch Federer do this, he hits the ball like everyone else. He watches the ball come toward him, he swings at the ball out in front, but rather than looking up to see his shot, he looks downward and to the right, and then he looks up. This forces Roger to keep his head down through his stroke.

Note, above, when I said 'at the moment you hit the ball,' don't over analyze my words. Whether it's a micosecond before or after you actually made contact doesn't matter.

Basically, you can probably be very successful at this by just hitting as you normally do: but don't look up to see your shot immediately. Keep your head down for a second. Trust in your shot.

Drewwonu
01-27-2009, 02:34 PM
Actually it's easier than this. I think perhaps you're over analyzing the action. No problem, though, let me try to clarify it. (It's so much easier to show in person what's going on here.)

First of all, you're not watching the ball hit your strings. To watch the ball hit your strings you'd have to be Spiderman where everything seemingly slows down. But for the rest of us normal human beings, this is not possible. No problem, though, because it's not necessary to see the ball hit your strings. It's easier than that.

Yes, you are watching the ball as it gets closer to you and the contact point. However, at the moment you hit the ball, you're simply maintaining your gaze in the direction of the contact point. In other words, don't look up too quickly. Forget about where the ball is going -- whether the ball is in or out or in the net (or over the fence) forget about it.

Hit the ball, but don't look up immediately. Keep your head down for a second longer. Act as though you know the ball went where you were aiming. Trust in your stroke.

If you watch Federer do this, he hits the ball like everyone else. He watches the ball come toward him, he swings at the ball out in front, but rather than looking up to see his shot, he looks downward and to the right, and then he looks up. This forces Roger to keep his head down through his stroke.

Note, above, when I said 'at the moment you hit the ball,' don't over analyze my words. Whether it's a micosecond before or after you actually made contact doesn't matter.

Basically, you can probably be very successful at this by just hitting as you normally do: but don't look up to see your shot immediately. Keep your head down for a second. Trust in your shot.

Thanks! This clears everything up a whole bunch.

mg.dc
01-27-2009, 02:58 PM
Thanks! This clears everything up a whole bunch.

No problem. Just be aware of two things. First, there's the tendency, especially at the beginning, that when you do in fact trust in your stroke by keeping your gaze down through it, that whenever the ball goes into the net, or wide, or long, whatever the error may be, to abandon this and go back rather to looking at your shot right away. Faith is easy when all is well. But when things seemingly get ugly, it's easy to abandon it too.

So realize that regardless of trying to master the sport, yes, you'll still make mistakes. Federer still shanks balls like the best of them. But he's the best precisely because he doesn't let it unnerve him and his entire game. He continues to have trust in the mechanis of his strokes.

The second thing to be aware of is this. You'll see plenty of photos showing as though Federer is actually watching the ball hit his strings. And you might here a commentator possibly remark about how Federer is so good because he watches the ball hit his strings.

This is not the case.

At contact everything is a blur. The human mind cannot visually perceive what's happening at that moment. Federer simply maintains his gaze in the generally direction of the contact point. He actually forces himself to do so by looking a bit downward and to the right. This all happens extremely quickly.

Photos are tricky because we as viewers have all the time in the world to look at and analyze them. What we forget is that the whole thing took a microsecond.

Tennis is nothing more than learning to simplify. Nothing in tennis should be complex.

Headshotterer
01-27-2009, 05:33 PM
I used to have this problem then I tried watching the ball in a similar way. My consistency and power increased alot more, and less framing. After this, I started getting lazy in this so my shots started being less consistent.

GeorgeLucas
01-27-2009, 05:59 PM
I can see the ball on my strings precisely, but I can only keep this up for about 30 minutes before I get crippling pains in my cranium.

AlphaCDjkr
01-27-2009, 07:33 PM
I used to do this thing where my eyes would flit up to the opposing court to see what my opponents were doing while I was swinging; there were pros and cons, but the cons definitely outweighted the pros.

A pro was that I was able to see some last-moment movements from my opponents; I could sometimes manage to send a ball into an opening that wasn't even there a split second beforehand. However, my chance of mishitting/framing rose so drastically, I later forced myself to just figure out a good spot to hit at beforehand... Yeah, it worked much better.

jasoncho92
01-27-2009, 07:39 PM
I can see the ball on my strings precisely, but I can only keep this up for about 30 minutes before I get crippling pains in my cranium.
You are either getting super slow paced balls or you have a genetic mutation that allows you to do so.

jules2
01-28-2009, 02:23 AM
You are either getting super slow paced balls or you have a genetic mutation that allows you to do so.

You can see the ball on the strings (albeit a blur) using a saccade technique. I think it was forum user systemicanomaly that posted an interesting article about this, and it actually works. I forced the technique on myself but I'm sure some people do it naturally without thinking.

SystemicAnomaly
01-28-2009, 03:10 AM
You can see the ball on the strings (albeit a blur) using a saccade technique. I think it was forum user systemicanomaly that posted an interesting article about this, and it actually works. I forced the technique on myself but I'm sure some people do it naturally without thinking.

Yes, I've talked about this quite a bit in several previous threads. If you watch slo-mo videos of Federer hitting a groundstroke, you may notice that his eyes actually get to the expected contact point a split-second sooner than the ball does -- he is employing something called a (jump) saccade. His eyes jump ahead and lay in wait for the ball to come into his strings. I believe that Nadal probably uses the same technique. Linesman also use a similar technique when making line calls -- they stop watching (tracking) the ball and focus on the outside edge of the line.

Using this technique, I will often seen a yellow blur very near the contact (but not necessarily right on the strings). But seeing the blur is not really the most important part of the Federer/Nadal technique. Keeping the eyes & head very still just prior to contact, during contact, and for a little while after contact is really the important part of the technique. If the head (and eyes) are moved during this time, the swing path of the racket is often negatively impacted.

This idea is known as gaze control. Joan Vickers, among others, has been studying gaze control in elite and amatuer athletes for a couple of decades and has gained some valuable insight for competitive athletes in many sports. She has developed something she calls a "Quiet Eye" approach. Try a search (in these forums) on some of these terms for more info about this subject.

anchorage
01-28-2009, 03:37 AM
Of course, your real problem may be different - moving your head. If you watch the pros (true in most ball sports, actually), you'll see how still their heads remain before, at, and after impact. That's a key part of execution.

jasoncho92
01-28-2009, 06:35 AM
You can see the ball on the strings (albeit a blur) using a saccade technique. I think it was forum user systemicanomaly that posted an interesting article about this, and it actually works. I forced the technique on myself but I'm sure some people do it naturally without thinking.
I dont remember the saccade technique and i havent read the post below this one again, but i know what. you are talking about as i can see the blur pretty easily as well. But the guy i quoted said he sees it PRECISELY which says it all

jules2
01-28-2009, 07:22 AM
I dont remember the saccade technique and i havent read the post below this one again, but i know what. you are talking about as i can see the blur pretty easily as well. But the guy i quoted said he sees it PRECISELY which says it all

Maybe he is a mutant with high fps eyesight then 8)

sgrv
04-14-2010, 10:47 PM
I have experienced that keeping the head still during and after contact makes a positive difference to the stroke, resulting in greater consistency and power. However, I still wonder why that is so? If the head is moved, why does it have a negative impact, what is the explanation from physics or technique points of view?

SystemicAnomaly
04-15-2010, 06:25 AM
I have experienced that keeping the head still during and after contact makes a positive difference to the stroke, resulting in greater consistency and power. However, I still wonder why that is so? If the head is moved, why does it have a negative impact, what is the explanation from physics or technique points of view?

Moving the head throws off the swing path of the racket. The same is true for golfers and for baseball batters. Imperative to keep the head still before, during and shortly after impact so that the swing remains true (unaffected).

jb193
04-15-2010, 07:22 AM
Assuming the technique is sound, the ball will travel to it's target. It may take a little while to trust yourself to deliver the stroke but this is how it is done.

The above sums it up a good bit, for me anyways.... When the above is accomplished, then a player can remain calm and trust his mechanics and allow oneself to not "panic" and keep their head still...

My backhand is my superior side and I have utmost confidence in this shot. I am confident that it will have good net clearance and pretty much go wherever I aim it. I have very little trouble keeping a still head, when focused.. My forehand is different though.. My racquet face isn't always square upon impact and because of this, a level of anxiety can set in during different times of a match.. My focus to keep my still head is then completely lost when problems arise with my forehand and there is no mental trick that I have discovered that can prevent this... Calmness is the key..

sgrv
04-15-2010, 09:10 AM
Another interesting observation about keeping the head still to watch the contact point is, the non-dominant arm swings with the body and results in a more solid unit turn.

During my forehand, the non-hitting arm just dangles in front of the body. While the hitting arm takes a long loop with racquet pointing to the back fence. So the two arms are pretty much 180 degrees apart. The moment I keep my head still and watch the contact point, then the arms move in unison, the swing is more compact and thus stroke is more consistent and needs less time for setup. And I can use more leg power and forward momentum to impart power to the ball. This is an interesting realization I had last week. I am still working to make it a habit to keep the head still and working on timing issues due to the change. I have a tendency to watch where the ball goes, unlearning that habit slowly..