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Kostas
12-17-2009, 07:52 AM
I'm a relatively new player to tennis. I started playing when I was about 30 and am now 32 and just got bumped to 3.5. I was likely going to get bumped prior to the massive sweep that USTA did this year anyways so I've made some progress.

I've worked with about half a dozen different "coaches" over the past two years or so - usually just one-off lessons but I've worked with the same coach repeatedly on a few occassions as well.

I've also seen these guys coach other players and groups and something seems to stick out to me. There's almost ZERO instruction on fundatmentals for the older students.

For the past two years developing fundamentals has been extremely important to me. Proper setup, stroke and follow-through. Now while I'm not an expert in technique I'm making improvements every time I go on the court and I feel that when I do everything properly I can look like a much better player that a lot of my 3.5 peers because the fundamentals are there. Again - this isn't always the case as I'm still inconsistent.

But my point is, for older people that are just starting out - why don't more coaches/instructors spend time trying to teach them some of the fundamental things like footwork, positioning and a decent takeback/swing/followthrough technique? All they basically do is feed balls and give them general 'tips'. It's like they are completely content allowing the students to develop their own level of consistency through strokes that just seem easiest to them.

I've spent a good deal of time on FYB (thanks Wil!) and shadow swinging in my house to practice what I feel is proper technique but these people are out there hacking at the ball and the instructors are perfectly fine with that.

Most of these students, regardless of age, are paying a decent amount of money for these "lessons" but aren't getting anywhere near their money's worth. Does anyone else have thoughts on this?

sureshs
12-17-2009, 08:25 AM
Very true. Many coaches and coaching facilities have the explicit philosophy (I have heard them say it on the Tennis Channel) that they prefer to "work with what you have" than change you. I once posted here that it is absurd when a lady is using the wrong grip on her strokes and the coach tell her about doubles court positioning strategies. Coaches have decided that statistically the older players will not practise and change their fundamentals. All they are looking for is a good exercise and some "tips." They also don't want to turn them off so they will find another coach. As adult to adult, the coaches feel uncomfortable pointing out glaring technical problems, as it might be taken the wrong way.

Ripper014
12-17-2009, 11:43 AM
From what I have seen... coaches are lazy in general and like most people they will do what is easy for them. Most older players are looking for a quick fix... immediate gradification... and so they will cater to that. The quickest way is to do that is to modify (not fix) what they have and improve it with repetition. As long as they see improvement they feel they got their monies worth.

With younger players they have a long future ahead of them so coaches are more apt to help them develope their strokes for the long run.

But I think if you were to convey the fact that you wanted to work on technique they would be more than happy to provide you with what you want.

papa
12-17-2009, 12:51 PM
Well, before this get out of hand, there are many of us that provide stroke clinics where we go over every stroke, positioning, equipment, the rules, etc. I will be the first to admit that there should be more of it but most clubs have these programs, at least to some degree anyway.

SystemicAnomaly
12-17-2009, 01:54 PM
Well, before this get out of hand, there are many of us that provide stroke clinics where we go over every stroke, positioning, equipment, the rules, etc. I will be the first to admit that there should be more of it but most clubs have these programs, at least to some degree anyway.

I'm with papa on this. I teach primarily private lessons (no club affiliations). My primary emphasis is (proper) stroke mechanics, footwork and visual tracking skills. I do try to tailor the mechanics to the abilities & limitations of the individual. Court positioning, doubles strategy, etc comes later -- when the student has masterd the fundamentals to a reasonable degree.

aimr75
12-17-2009, 02:13 PM
I'm with papa on this. I teach primarily private lessons (no club affiliations). My primary emphasis is (proper) stroke mechanics, footwork and visual tracking skills. I do try to tailor the mechanics to the abilities & limitations of the individual. Court positioning, doubles strategy, etc comes later -- when the student has masterd the fundamentals to a reasonable degree.

I think you are not the norm.. ive seen it many times at my club, coaches simply feeding balls and not providing any instruction on technique.. i specifically sat and watched some coaching sessions while waiting to get on a court or for my hitting partner to arrive, and from my understanding of stroke mechanics with everything ive read (mostly via the net).. i can even see glaring issues with the students strokes, but the coach simply plugs away with the feeds while providing the odd tip..

I think however, for a student to get the most out of these coaches, they have to be proactive and not just sit and wait to be instructed.. i know it simply should happen by default, but given this isnt often the case, i think students need to keep asking questions and asking for feedback on what they are doing.. If possible even bringing a video camera every so often and filming some rallies and then spending some time analysing the stroke then and there with the coach... he is more likely to start pointing out things that need to be corrected.. then try it and then analyse the footage again..

Im obviously not a coach, so i dont know if its the norm to use a video camera during a session, but if i were being coached and wanted something specific out of it, i would be pushing the coach to provide what i want.. If i got lessons i would probably use the camera so that it forces the coach to provide a more critical eye on my mechanics.. if that was something i wanted to focus on

wihamilton
12-17-2009, 02:18 PM
Thanks Kostas, happy to help!

There are lots of great coaches out there who understand the importance of fundamentals / have a pedagogically-sound method of instruction.

In fact, there a # of them on this board, like SystemicAnomaly / Bungalo Bill / TennisMastery / etc.

As sureshs observed, many coaches prefer to "work with what you have," which isn't necessarily a bad thing. It all has to do with what the student wants. If someone takes a tennis lesson once a week @ the country club and tennis is a means of getting exercise / socializing, it might not make sense for the pro to try and completely overhaul that person's game. An hour lesson once a week isn't anywhere close to enough time to teach the game comprehensively to someone. It is, however, enough time to make small improvements to that person's game.

user92626
12-17-2009, 02:20 PM
I've spent a good deal of time on FYB (thanks Wil!) and shadow swinging in my house to practice what I feel is proper technique but these people are out there hacking at the ball and the instructors are perfectly fine with that.



It's funny. I'm doing and seeing the same thing. I learn thru the Internet and do some shadow swinging inside. I focus only on the fundamentals and left the details to be discovered at time of hitting. Everything has to be in synch and makes sense. At the court I saw these two people around the same age coached by a family member who told me that he knows coaching and knowledgeable about the sport. He actually hits quite well. Well, his two students exhibit many flaws. They do not use the non-hitting arm, have a horizontal chest-leveld takeback and a near fry-pan serve. Needless to say, their groundstrokes were inconsistent and serve has low percentage. I figure to each his own.

Geezer Guy
12-17-2009, 03:36 PM
I've noticed that in group lessons (clinics, drills, call 'em what you like) the instructor does mostly feeding and calling out tips from time to time - especially if it's something that will help everyone. They can't give too much one-on-one instruction or it will slow down the whole class. If you want some real instruction on stroke production you need to set up a private lesson. Private - or maybe semi-private if both players want to work on the same thing - instruction is about the only way to get meaningful one-on-one stroke instruction, and that's expensive.

aimr75
12-17-2009, 03:49 PM
^^ I have seen many one-on-one lessons boil down to feeds and the odd tip

mawashi
12-17-2009, 04:18 PM
I'm a relatively new player to tennis. I started playing when I was about 30 and am now 32 and just got bumped to 3.5. I was likely going to get bumped prior to the massive sweep that USTA did this year anyways so I've made some progress.

I've worked with about half a dozen different "coaches" over the past two years or so - usually just one-off lessons but I've worked with the same coach repeatedly on a few occassions as well.

I've also seen these guys coach other players and groups and something seems to stick out to me. There's almost ZERO instruction on fundatmentals for the older students.

For the past two years developing fundamentals has been extremely important to me. Proper setup, stroke and follow-through. Now while I'm not an expert in technique I'm making improvements every time I go on the court and I feel that when I do everything properly I can look like a much better player that a lot of my 3.5 peers because the fundamentals are there. Again - this isn't always the case as I'm still inconsistent.

But my point is, for older people that are just starting out - why don't more coaches/instructors spend time trying to teach them some of the fundamental things like footwork, positioning and a decent takeback/swing/followthrough technique? All they basically do is feed balls and give them general 'tips'. It's like they are completely content allowing the students to develop their own level of consistency through strokes that just seem easiest to them.

I've spent a good deal of time on FYB (thanks Wil!) and shadow swinging in my house to practice what I feel is proper technique but these people are out there hacking at the ball and the instructors are perfectly fine with that.

Most of these students, regardless of age, are paying a decent amount of money for these "lessons" but aren't getting anywhere near their money's worth. Does anyone else have thoughts on this?

It's called the easy way out. A lot of coaches don't have students who seriously want to learn. Most of them just want to get good enough to play a bit or want to learn as much as possible as soon as possible.

A lot of students lose patience with the coach if he/she keeps on trying to improve the fundamentals rather than teaching fun or new stuff like serves.

I too have gone through several coaches that I know which ones are serious to help you lean n improve not just feed you balls n make you feel good.

If you are interested in getting a good coach, email and tell them what you want, ask for a training plan and work. The good ones will work to your strengths/weakness the bad ones just do things that they're used to.

mawashi

Cindysphinx
12-17-2009, 07:59 PM
I've been working with a pro for a few years, so these issues have come up. I've read these boards, and I've watched other pros giving lessons. Here's my take on it:

1. A lot of people take tennis lessons for reasons other than stroke improvement. Some want companionship. Some want a work-out. Others enjoy being made to look good because the pro feeds right to their racket and blows sunshine up their skirt. So why teach stroke improvement? That stuff is hard!

2. A lot of people will argue with a pro who suggests a change in technique. Suggest a grip change to Continental for serving, and you'll get nothing but an argument about how the student's way is better. Who needs it?

3. If the student isn't highly motivated to change, he will revert back to his old habits in a match, which undermines anything taught in the lesson.

4. This is a tough economy. A pro who "challenges" a student too much will find his bank balance will suffer.

Bungalo Bill
12-17-2009, 10:10 PM
I've been working with a pro for a few years, so these issues have come up. I've read these boards, and I've watched other pros giving lessons. Here's my take on it:

1. A lot of people take tennis lessons for reasons other than stroke improvement. Some want companionship. Some want a work-out. Others enjoy being made to look good because the pro feeds right to their racket and blows sunshine up their skirt. So why teach stroke improvement? That stuff is hard!

True. Which one are you? :)

2. A lot of people will argue with a pro who suggests a change in technique. Suggest a grip change to Continental for serving, and you'll get nothing but an argument about how the student's way is better. Who needs it?

{cough, cough} Preaching to the choir girl!

3. If the student isn't highly motivated to change, he will revert back to his old habits in a match, which undermines anything taught in the lesson.

This happens all the time. This one area annoys me the most especially when people start saying that coaches and lessons are worthless. Or the people that come in here and gripe about what their coach is drilling them on.

4. This is a tough economy. A pro who "challenges" a student too much will find his bank balance will suffer.

Ahhhh, now that is something I don't do. I actually do the opposite, however, it takes some risk to do it. You have to teach yourself out of a job. That way you take in the next person. If I help a player greatly improve in a reasonable amount of time, believe me, I will want to coach myself out of a job just because I will get more students. Plus, it is a great way to get taken out to dinner! lol

athiker
12-18-2009, 06:18 AM
Agree with most of what has been said. We have a couple of neighborhood USTA teams and I started playing with them about a year and a half ago. Most are late 30's up to 50's and 3.5s or 4.0s. One of the captains takes private lessons and is really intent on improving his game and has tried to get players out to some clinics he has set up. The first one was well attended and then attendence fell off a cliff.

It was interesting watching and listening to comments during the clinic. If a serious change was suggested and the player flubbed the next shot there was head shaking and disbelief...as in "I can return that shot all day long, and now I can't hit it!...This change can't be good." That is not verbatim but from comments and facial expressions that's what was going on. Those most willing to change typically were the weakest players or those fairly new to the game; most of the better players were set in their ways and didn't want to mess with any major changes.

It reminded me of my Dad who has played golf for decades and is decent, can still shoot in the low 80's at 70 years old, more typically upper 80's very low 90's, but I don't know if he's ever broken 80 in his life, maybe a few times on an easier course. He has tried lessons a few times, but many, many years after he first took up the game, and it always "ruins" his game! He is unwilling to take a short-term setback in his game for long-term improvement. This is a game he plays several times per week year-round. He will incorporate a tip or two, but his basic swing mechanics and grip are way out there. He can beat most of his friends and that's what really matters. Don't even get me started on my FIL. He plays golf frequently spending a bunch of money on green fees and carts, is basically terrible and will not take lessons.

Speaking of lessons, I had to laugh about the shadow swinging in the living room. I just started playing again within the last 2 years after not playing for a good 10+ years. FYB and a few other sites have truly changed my game, amazing resource. The recent forehand series helped my consistancy tremendously. Not a real match, but I hit with a neighbor 2 days ago who is a half level up from me and we played a set after hitting around. I actually won the set. I was not even close to being able to do that against this guy not that long ago. Now 3 months ago I was ready to quit the game, b/c I was struggling with trying to hit a more "modern" top spin ball. Point is its taken some time and frustration to change my game. Anyway, I've run into my family room with my racquet after watching a video so many times that I've learned to move the couch now after whacking it too many times while swinging my racquet!

Bottom line is I think many players are looking for just what coaches are giving them "tips". If a player is really motivated to change his game he/she needs to make that clear to the coach and I'm sure they would be thrilled to go to work on it. Oh, and Kostas..."old dog" at 32?...hardly...take it from a 46 year old...you're just gettng started in your "adult" sporting life!

mike53
12-18-2009, 06:50 AM
I think however, for a student to get the most out of these coaches, they have to be proactive and not just sit and wait to be instructed.. i know it simply should happen by default, but given this isnt often the case, i think students need to keep asking questions and asking for feedback on what they are doing..


This was my wife's experience and I think that doing what you have said worked for her to some extent. A lot of factors make it difficult for an adult to learn tennis as a complete beginner. Technique instruction is only one of them.

Kostas
12-18-2009, 06:51 AM
I just fail to understand how a coach/instructor can see the first few "hack" strokes of a really bad player in their first lesson and not stop the lesson - especially if it's a one-on-one lesson - to work on the basics. This would not only be most beneficial to the player but would also likely increase the probability that the student would return to work on the "new" skills as opposed to just paying someone to feed more balls to you.

My best lesson I got (far from my first one) didn't even involve the racquet. It was from a nationally ranked Junior who was working with a local pro in Vegas. We went out to the courts for some one-on-one and after hitting a few fed balls he stopped the work-out and told me to put my racquet down.

Then he did some soft toss drills that were designed to focus on my footwork and non-dominant hand in setting up for my forehand. He basically one bounced the ball and I was to catch it in my left hand out in front of me. We did this about 50 times.

Then he had me 'hitting' the bounced ball with my left thigh to get me to transfer my weight into the incoming ball.

I'll never forget this as I feel it was one of the most important things I've been taught in tennis and it has fundamentally changed the way I approach not only the game but how I feel I need to learn it.

I know I'm probably not the typical student but perhaps more headway would be made and possibly more money made if coaches took a more focused approach to players who lack basic techniques.

athiker - lol @ the 32 because I have more body aches than I care to admit these days - especially after playing singles. I meant old dogs as like 32+. I started thinking about this two days ago when I was witnessing one of the local pros give a one-on-one lesson to an older lady from the area that was basically a 2.5 with no predisposition on how she should be swinging her racquet. He just blindly fed her forhands, backhands, volleys and overheads and not only didn't offer her any actual instruction but actually complimented her when she got the shot in - even though it was more luck than anything else and probably some of the ugliest technique you will ever see.

sureshs
12-18-2009, 06:55 AM
Others enjoy being made to look good because the pro feeds right to their racket and blows sunshine up their skirt.

hehehe............

athiker
12-18-2009, 07:26 AM
athiker - lol @ the 32 because I have more body aches than I care to admit these days - especially after playing singles. I meant old dogs as like 32+..

Yeah, the aches and pains after hard workouts and play pretty much started in my early 30's. I don't have much good news for you there going forward! :) Just keep the body moving as much and often as possible and keep as much weight off as possible. Try picking up even a 10lb bag of something and running around with it...much less 20+ lbs...much easier on the joints and tendons if one can keep the pounds off...not easy and gets harder every year but worth it. I also see a big difference in court movement in almost all of the older guys I play with based on waistline alone.

chico9166
12-18-2009, 08:28 AM
[QUOTE=athiker;4205262]Agree with most of what has been said. We have a couple of neighborhood USTA teams and I started playing with them about a year and a half ago. Most are late 30's up to 50's and 3.5s or 4.0s. One of the captains takes private lessons and is really intent on improving his game and has tried to get players out to some clinics he has set up. The first one was well attended and then attendence fell off a cliff.

It was interesting watching and listening to comments during the clinic. If a serious change was suggested and the player flubbed the next shot there was head shaking and disbelief...as in "I can return that shot all day long, and now I can't hit it!...This change can't be good." That is not verbatim but from comments and facial expressions that's what was going on. Those most willing to change typically were the weakest players or those fairly new to the game; most of the better players were set in their ways and didn't want to mess with any major changes.

It reminded me of my Dad who has played golf for decades and is decent, can still shoot in the low 80's at 70 years old, more typically upper 80's very low 90's, but I don't know if he's ever broken 80 in his life, maybe a few times on an easier course. He has tried lessons a few times, but many, many years after he first took up the game, and it always "ruins" his game! He is unwilling to take a short-term setback in his game for long-term improvement. This is a game he plays several times per week year-round. He will incorporate a tip or two, but his basic swing mechanics and grip are way out there. He can beat most of his friends and that's what really matters. Don't even get me started on my FIL. He plays golf frequently spending a bunch of money on green fees and carts, is basically terrible and will not take lessons.

Speaking of lessons, I had to laugh about the shadow swinging in the living room. I just started playing again within the last 2 years after not playing for a good 10+ years. FYB and a few other sites have truly changed my game, amazing resource. The recent forehand series helped my consistancy tremendously. Not a real match, but I hit with a neighbor 2 days ago who is a half level up from me and we played a set after hitting around. I actually won the set. I was not even close to being able to do that against this guy not that long ago. Now 3 months ago I was ready to quit the game, b/c I was struggling with trying to hit a more "modern" top spin ball. Point is its taken some time and frustration to change my game. Anyway, I've run into my family room with my racquet after watching a video so many times that I've learned to move the couch now after whacking it too many times while swinging my racquet!

Bottom line is I think many players are looking for just what coaches are giving them "tips". If a player is really motivated to change his game he/she needs to make that clear to the coach and I'm sure they would be thrilled to go to work on it. Oh, and Kostas..."old dog" at 32?...hardly...take it from a 46 year old...you're just gettng started in your "adult" sporting life![/Q

This is so on the money.

Bungalo Bill
12-18-2009, 09:07 AM
I'm a relatively new player to tennis. I started playing when I was about 30 and am now 32 and just got bumped to 3.5. I was likely going to get bumped prior to the massive sweep that USTA did this year anyways so I've made some progress.

Yeah, you did. Good job!

I've worked with about half a dozen different "coaches" over the past two years or so - usually just one-off lessons but I've worked with the same coach repeatedly on a few occassions as well.

I've also seen these guys coach other players and groups and something seems to stick out to me. There's almost ZERO instruction on fundatmentals for the older students.

Hmmmm....

For the past two years developing fundamentals has been extremely important to me. Proper setup, stroke and follow-through. Now while I'm not an expert in technique I'm making improvements every time I go on the court and I feel that when I do everything properly I can look like a much better player that a lot of my 3.5 peers because the fundamentals are there. Again - this isn't always the case as I'm still inconsistent.

Fundamentals are key. They are easy to learn and practice. Repetition engrains the fundamentals and soon they become part of you. The important thing is to balance your understanding that the game of tennis is not about technique alone but using your technique to execute your game plan.

But my point is, for older people that are just starting out - why don't more coaches/instructors spend time trying to teach them some of the fundamental things like footwork, positioning and a decent takeback/swing/followthrough technique? All they basically do is feed balls and give them general 'tips'. It's like they are completely content allowing the students to develop their own level of consistency through strokes that just seem easiest to them.

Partly because they don't know how. Partly because that is what students want. Partly because it requires effort on the students part after the lesson to practice what has been taught. When the student doesn't, the instructor finds himself repeating the same things and the development of a player sort of stalls. It is a mixture of a lot of things.

I've spent a good deal of time on FYB (thanks Wil!) and shadow swinging in my house to practice what I feel is proper technique but these people are out there hacking at the ball and the instructors are perfectly fine with that.

Most of these students, regardless of age, are paying a decent amount of money for these "lessons" but aren't getting anywhere near their money's worth. Does anyone else have thoughts on this?

Yes, coaches need to coach themselves out of a job. They need to hold students accountable to working on the things they learn in practice. When you take skiing lessons, does it end there? No. You have to get out on the hill and practice what you learned.

Tennis is a sport where all players need to practice. Many things have to be relearned and retrained for the movements and demands of playing tennis. A lot of people get lazy, instuctors get lazy, and they fail to teach proper fundamentals on a consistent basis.

Fundamentals are easy to learn. Footwork patterns are easy to learn. Understanding how your racquet moves through the forehand is easy to learn. What takes work is learning how to put it all together and winning match with your strengths and weaknesses.

When you read information on these boards, even though they may make sense from a cognitive perspective and you understand what to do, you still have to go out on the court and practice it. You might need other information to broaden your knowledge as well. Experience is the greatest teacher of all. As the saying goes, "experience is simply the name we give our mistakes, errors, trials, and failures."

Players have to expect that practice is really about gaining experience. It is about testing what you know and growing through the process of learning.

Concerning fundamentals for older people (which if you are 32, you are not old), we have plenty of information on that here. I and others have provided a ton of information on strokes, conditioning, footwork, mental strength development, match planning, etc...in both doubles and singles.

Many of us will debate our angles on things which I think is healthy. However, many of us, try to keep it simple and add our insight to questions that are asked. If you have specific questions regarding your technique or other things, you can post a video and many of us will provide an analysis for you. That seems to be a popular thing to do on these boards.

Camilio Pascual
12-18-2009, 09:14 AM
Most are late 30's up to 50's and 3.5s or 4.0s.
Those most willing to change typically were the weakest players or those fairly new to the game; most of the better players were set in their ways and didn't want to mess with any major changes.
As a 59 year old this makes sense, I think many of the players are behaving rationally given their situations, especially the ones over ~40 and who may have physical reasons for not wanting to change.
I'm a 4.0 with unbalanced skills, almost always the best baseliner and worst net player in any drill group of 4.0's I'm in.
Now, the answer would seem to be for me to concentrate on my net skills, no? And, I've done exactly that for large periods of time since the 1950's. I'm really not going to improve from more net drills. Because of a knee problem that developed about 8 years ago, I'm totally unwilling to do the sudden shift of weight to volley a backhand I can't reach, that's all there is to it. Fortunately, tennis allows for the use of different strategies according to one's strengths and weaknesses. Better for me to adhere to my strategy of net avoidance and working on my strengths.
At my age, if the goal is to win matches, my time and money is much better spent on my conditioning and baseline game than on a vain attempt to "improve" my net skills. An idiot keeps doing the same thing over and over endlessly expecting a different result.

killertubbie
12-18-2009, 05:15 PM
Camilio, even though you have problems with your knees, you should get surgery and then go back and learn how to volleys. It's going to to be really hard for you to win with only baseline games.

If I was playing you, I just have to make you moves to the net and you're done for good, I think you should learn to volleys...

tyro
12-18-2009, 06:39 PM
Interesting thread. It touches on an idea I've been mulling lately, namely that there are two broad categories of players.

The first group is concerned primarily with learning enough tennis to play a competitive match. These players have little interest in developing technique that can take them to the highest levels of recreational play. They simply want to make the most of their natural athletic abilities, technique be damned. Such players can perform well at 3.5 and even 4.0.

Players in the second group consider themselves students of the game, acolytes dedicated to developing proper technique and understanding the distinctions between a semi-western and a western forehand. These players can go far, but their satisfactions come as much from the mastery of technique as from beating their neighbor in a Saturday morning league match.

In order to earn a living, pros must cater to the first group, which is much larger. But pros find it much more rewarding to work with the second group.

-- Tyro

http://tenniswire.wordpress.com

papa
12-19-2009, 04:53 AM
I've noticed that in group lessons (clinics, drills, call 'em what you like) the instructor does mostly feeding and calling out tips from time to time - especially if it's something that will help everyone. They can't give too much one-on-one instruction or it will slow down the whole class. If you want some real instruction on stroke production you need to set up a private lesson. Private - or maybe semi-private if both players want to work on the same thing - instruction is about the only way to get meaningful one-on-one stroke instruction, and that's expensive.

Well, as you know, there are some differences between drills and clinics. In clinics, strokes are primarily emphasized whereas in drills its getting players to go over repetitive different strokes with movement involved - in drills you kind of assume they have the mechanics fairly solid. In other words strokes are more basic.

Cindysphinx
12-19-2009, 07:42 AM
I just fail to understand how a coach/instructor can see the first few "hack" strokes of a really bad player in their first lesson and not stop the lesson - especially if it's a one-on-one lesson - to work on the basics. This would not only be most beneficial to the player but would also likely increase the probability that the student would return to work on the "new" skills as opposed to just paying someone to feed more balls to you.

Ah, but you cannot assume from the fact that the student is "hacking" that the instructor isn't addressing it.

I took my first lesson with my current pro when I was a 2.5. Really. I had taken bad group clinics for a few months. Boy, I had it all. No footwork. Poor ball recognition. No knee bend. No loop. No finish. No shoulder turn. And a giant racket -- the better to push with, my dear.

There were countless hours spent in lessons trying to fix these things. A spectator probably would have thought, "Jesus, Mary and Joseph! Look at that hideous FH! Why isn't that pro stopping the lesson and fixing things?"

Well, he was fixing things. We worked on 1-2 things at a time, so he had to ignore some gawdawful stuff until the basics were under control. It took a very long time, but that surely was related to the fact that I never ever practiced. :)

What would have happened if the pro had wanted me to put down my racket and do some sort of drill or exercise or whatnot? I would like to say I would have been all for it. In truth, I might have decided he wasn't the pro for me.

See, I also took a few lessons with another pro I ultimately decided not to use. One of his drills was that he stood right next to me and held his own racket at knee level. He then hand-fed a ball, and I was supposed to swing my own racket under his and then make contact with the ball. I have to say, I thought this was the dumbest thing ever. I couldn't do it, and I didn't grasp the idea of swinging low to high. A pro who does something radical like that might find the student just doesn't grasp/appreciate it.

A lot of people (myself included, back when I started taking lessons) think tennis lessons are for hitting tennis balls, and they are suspicious that their time and money are being wasted if they aren't doing that. It takes *trust* to set those expectations aside, and there isn't much trust early in a coaching relationship.

One more impediment I will mention is that some students seem to have Tennis Attention Deficit Disorder. I have witnessed this in semi-private lessons. My lesson partner will want to use the time to get a "tip" or diagnosis of all of her strokes rather than focus on learning/correcting one thing at a time. "Can you take a look at my serve and see what I'm doing wrong? Thanks. OK, now I'm finding my BH is going long. How about that?" Even if the pro can identify all that ails a stroke in 1 minute, that is a far cry from fixing anything.

I think the default setting of most teaching pros at clubs is that the student is not serious and won't practice and isn't willing to change. It is incumbent on the student to convince the pro that she is serious and will work hard, by being serious and by working hard. Sad, but true.

Camilio Pascual
12-19-2009, 09:54 AM
Camilio, even though you have problems with your knees, you should get surgery and then go back and learn how to volleys. It's going to to be really hard for you to win with only baseline games.
If I was playing you, I just have to make you moves to the net and you're done for good, I think you should learn to volleys...
I did have surgery to the bad knee, the recovery is almost 100%, but at my age I'm going to baby it and not risk reinjury. It's fine running in a straight line, but vulnerable to side movement and when I do a crossover step at the net.
That would be a good strategy to play against me. Fortunately, the attempted drop shots to draw me to the net fail enough that a lot of players quit doing it, though I think some of them should keep persisting. I'm also fast and the first shot against a drop shot is not a volley, so I do reasonably well there.
Many of the 4.0 players have a disdain for using drop shots, so I'm glad they prefer losing pretty to winning ugly. But, yeah, once I'm stuck up there, I'm pretty defenseless against the passing shots to my backhand and just a little better with my forehand.