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oumpapa
06-02-2005, 03:40 AM
I don't know if this is new at all - I'm not a coach just an inexperienced low level player - but it seems to me that the way people usually practice tennis is wrong.
Very often two players will spend a lot of time hitting groundstrokes to each other. But the purpose of tennis is to try to pass your opponent - not to play the ball to him. In most sports it's generally agreed that it's very important to train in a way that best prepares you for match play. The habits that you get from training is very difficult to break. Because playing longer rallies is more fun for beginners they of course tend to hold back a little so that they don't make too many errors. But the right way to do it is to play the percentage. It doesn't really matter if you make 100 errors as long as you hit 101 winners.
As an added benifit - if you go 100 pct. for each shot you get used to making errors and after a while they don't upset you any more.

For many years this philosophy has given the chinese table tennis players an edge. While europeans mainly try to avoid making too many errors the chinese simplye don't count them. The errors don't matter if they are fewer than the winners.

My 4-year old daughter is good at tennis - she hits the ball like a pro. The problem is that she hits it as hard as a pro and thus it's very difficult to keep the rallies going. I've tried a couple of times to ask her to shoot a little softer, but then her natural motion disappears.

What do you think. Is it better to teach children to hold back and keep the ball in play or is it better to let them bash away. I'm surely for the latter.

Marius_Hancu
06-02-2005, 04:00 AM
What do you think. Is it better to teach children to hold back and keep the ball in play or is it better to let them bash away. I'm surely for the latter.

Seems to me you only see a part of tennis.

Rally shots are extremely important and first your daughter must be able to keep the ball in play or otherwise she would not get to her winning shots. This doesn't mean playing back to the opponent, but placing the ball where you want it to be.

oumpapa
06-02-2005, 04:17 AM
Marius reply is I guess a good example of the general view that I oppose.
Firstly tennis is not about rallying - it's about winning.
Secondly it's wrong to hold back. Because when you hold back your motion will not be fluent - and worse yet you will make a habit out of it. A habit that it's going to be difficult to deal with later on.
As I said - I'm an inexperienced tennis player, but I've coached in a lot of different sports and in general I think that teaching children - or any one - to hold back is wrong.
In billiards - trust me I know this game - holding back is a deadly sin. By holding back I mean stopping your motion short. Because the mere thougth that you have to do it will stiffle your motion. I think the same applies to tennis.

Marius_Hancu
06-02-2005, 04:49 AM
Seems to me your mind is set.

Why ask then?
Go away and bash the ball.
Register at any Williams camp, they advise this school of training and have had some good results.

As a result, your daugher might reach 20 and might not be able (just like Roddick) to keep an intelligent rally on any surface, with difficult players. Let's pray she will reach that high threshold of incompetence of his.

Winners have their place in the game, but only after intelligent preparation.

oumpapa
06-02-2005, 04:59 AM
Marius - my mind is not set - I would love it if you would argue your case. The maybe I would learn something.

I'm not really advocating a certain type of playing. I'm just talking about how to best teach children the right way to move. Children are in general very good at copying what they see on television. A 2 year old will stand just like Tiger Woods. But then they miss the ball a couple of times and a grown up will teach them to hold back to make sure the hit it. At 4 most children have already lost the ability to move naturally - for instance the follow through in a tennis stroke is the natural thing to do - but if the aim is to hit the ball - and not to move correctly - then children will lose that ability.
I certainly don't want to create another Williams-basher - that's not my point at all.

oumpapa
06-02-2005, 05:02 AM
Also - I realize that it's very important - actually the most important - that tennis is fun. So it will always be a balance. It's more fun when the ball is in play.

Marius_Hancu
06-02-2005, 05:06 AM
Read Bungalo Bill on rally pace here:
http://tt.tennis-warehouse.com/showthread.php?t=49548

Marius_Hancu
06-02-2005, 05:07 AM
I'm just talking about how to best teach children the right way to move. Children are in general very good at copying what they see on television. .

Watch Federer and Henin, they are the greatest movers in the game now. And they prepare.

papa
06-02-2005, 05:11 AM
Seems to me your mind is set.

Why ask then?
Go away and bash the ball.
Register at any Williams camp, they advise this school of training and have had some good results.

As a result, your daugher might reach 20 and might not be able (just like Roddick) to keep an intelligent rally on any surface, with difficult players. Let's pray she will reach that high threshold of incompetence of his.

Winners have their place in the game, but only after intelligent preparation.

Completely with you on this as I'm sure most others are. Untill one is able to control the ball its crazy to think about just hitting winners. Although I'm not familiar with whats going with China ping-pong, I doubt they teach them to just whack the heck out of every ball.

I've deal with this approach to tennis, especially with some teens (boys) who are more interested in seeing how hard they can hit as compared with anything else - especially when you get a couple of them at the same time. They don't hang around long because their approach doesn't work very well.

oumpapa
06-02-2005, 05:23 AM
unfortunately I mixed things up a little too much by talking about winners and chinese table tennis.
Let me specify.
The dilemma is: If you teach children to hold back theres a great risk of ruining their natural fluent motion. The simple question is what's the fastest and best way to great control. Do you first teach them to keep the ball in play and then the next 15 years try to reteach them that beautiful natural motion they had from the very beginning. Or do you let the swing away and then slowly gain control.
My experience from other sports is that the latter approach is the best. But it's evident that the majority of tennis coaches are not with me on this one.

icklemoley
06-02-2005, 06:47 AM
But you state that you are not a tennis coach, so perhaps, just perhaps, they know a little more than you. Keeping the ball in play shows control. Without control you have nothing. Tennis (when it is broken down to its bare essentials) is about keeping the ball in play one stoke more than your opponent! And that takes control.

stc9357
06-02-2005, 07:01 AM
Your daughter should first learn how to rally with a opponenet going for a winner all the time is not going to help your daughter it will hurt her. She needs to learn to work a point before ging for a winner. Opening up the court and learning how to work a point will help her in the long run.

Kana Himezaki
06-02-2005, 07:13 AM
I'd agree with everyone else. The natural ability to hit hard is a plus, but she must construct a point for the highest efficiency and to be able to play on higher levels.

I believe she's trying too much to slow it down, ruining the rhythm. Maybe she's doing her normal windup, starting her normal, hard swing -and then she slows it down suddenly because she remembers she wants to hit softer.

At four years old, I doubt your daughter is too consistent. It's extremely hard for ANYONE at that age. But it'll be highly beneficial to slow the ENTIRE motion a little bit. Work on it with her. Lower the pace to just the point where she can easily keep the ball in.

oumpapa
06-02-2005, 07:17 AM
Forget about the winners - it was a stupid mix up. I wanted to discuss learning. And I I'm not really sure you get my point. Control is absolutely essential - no doubt about it. The question is how to get there.
Do you stress the fluent motion as most important or keeping the ball in play.
Because at early ages you cannot really have both. Either the strokes look perfect - but the control is lacking - or the control is there and the motion is not.
My concern is that by teaching small children that the most important thing is keeping the ball in play - you risk ruining their natural ability when it comes to the stroking motion.
Any coach or parent got some experience in this?

Kana Himezaki
06-02-2005, 07:26 AM
Actually, I believe Agassi was taught with the same focus your daughter has. Take the biggest cut at the ball possible.

When looking at it closely, keep everything and learning FUN for your daughter. Burning out is the worst possible thing that can happen. Just play games. Like set up a cone or something somewhere on the court you want her to hit to, and offer "prizes" whenever she hits it. In many cases, it's ideal to place multiple cones around each other to expand the area.

Using this idea, it's possible to allow her to keep her fluid swing but STILL aim for placement. Focus on hitting crosscourt for now. Not only will hitting crosscourt give her a much better chance of keeping the ball in (which means much better confidence at this stage), it's essential to staying in and constructing points.

I definitely wouldn't tell her to slow down too much -but oh well.

You've said your daughter cannot keep the ball in play. However, for most young children, it's extremely hard to clear the net. Is your daughter hitting long most of the time? If so, something in her motion may be wrong. She might be using too much wrist or something, at that age hitting close to the baseline should be hard to do. Examine her stroke, or have someone watch, and correct it over a period of time. ALWAYS try to keep things fun at that age, and just make short, joking phrases to get your point across.

tom-selleck
06-02-2005, 07:30 AM
can your 4 year old daughter really hit it as hard as a pro??? :confused: :confused: or am i missing something?? ... or does she go after it hard like a pro?? that makes more sense.

haven't read entire thread, but i think it needs to be a mix of both.... i think kids that play complete rallying game will eventually get passed... i think it's better to start attacking game early even if you lose more than you would rallying.... FWIW, in golf greg norman says to go after the ball hard from a young age and learn the fine-tuned control later.

oumpapa, i started a somewhat similar thread about how most people practice by hitting the ball right at the other person. and when you are "rallying", it seems like "bad form" to constantly go for winners.

play the game where people start rallying but then point starts on third hit. takes serve out of equation.... and you could even make it that you have to hit a winner to get a point.

Kana Himezaki
06-02-2005, 07:37 AM
You should be able to hit the ball hard, but you should NOT be aiming for a winner every point. Not only will the frequent change of directions and low percentage shots be torn apart by any experienced players. His daughter is at a young age, and is this very impressionable and easy to touch -doing so would affect her game for the rest of her life.

However, the game you mentioned would be fine. Keep the balls at rally pace for two or three shots, and then free the point up for winners. Or hit the ball crosscourt two or three times, then free the point up for winners.

At this age though, I'd only focus on basic directional control and keeping it in. Maybe fixing up the kid's swing gradually. This drill may have to wait until she's older.

tom-selleck
06-02-2005, 08:04 AM
At this age though, I'd only focus on basic directional control and keeping it in. Maybe fixing up the kid's swing gradually. This drill may have to wait until she's older.

kana, good points!.. i think i disregarded that this girl is 4 years old

but i do not like see 10-12 year olds playing a complete control, topspin game.

montx
06-02-2005, 08:22 AM
A couple of things come to mind.

Firstly she is four, if she is hitting the ball already, you know she has or is developing hand eye coordination. That is a positive start. She is still learning surely how to talk, how to read and write as well as basic math.

If I ever was graced to have kids and could teach them tennis, i would use a gradual but discipline approach; that is, mini court tennis. Where they have to play the ball into the service line.

When they age, then, I would start bringing them back, working with them the stroke mechanics and more control.

I would rather teach them control over power that way they know how to return a ball. If they would decide to take it seriously, I would then suggest that they learn to hit with more power.

That is my personal view. I don't know much else. If your daughter has this ability to hit hard, don't fix what isn't broken. And then with time, as she develops, give her the opportunity to learn stroke mechanics, more control and power.

papa
06-02-2005, 01:25 PM
Well, as everyone knows, hitting hard or not stoping the swing and just whacking the h--- out of the ball are two different things. I've never heard of anyone, anyone who knows what their talking about anyway, says one should stop the swing after making contact with the ball on groundstrokes. Sure, this is wrong and can certainly lead to injury not only in young children but at any age.

One of the best things for kids, in my opionion, is just to let them see someone hit the ball correctly without giving any direction. After they see it dozen or two times, they start to mimic the motion. Now the catch here is that they have to watch someone who knows what their doing - not someone who reads it in a book/sees a picture or video and without any other training, is going to go out and show someone else. These arrangements, and you see them everywhere (husband coaching wife, parent coaching kid, etc) NEVER work - those that think they do, just don't get it.

Can a husband, parent, etc. be a coach? Sure, but that parent or husband has to have some (hopefully a lot) background in the sport and understands the mechanics, rules, equipment, etc.

It kinda gets me upset when I see an "instructor" (anyone trying to teach someone else) who couldn't hit the broad side of a barn door with a beach ball at five feet out acting like a "pro" showing someone how to play tennis. In my opinion, this is probably the best way to insure that the "student" will have absolutely no interest in the sport.

donnyz89
06-02-2005, 02:02 PM
I don't know if this is new at all - I'm not a coach just an inexperienced low level player - but it seems to me that the way people usually practice tennis is wrong.
Very often two players will spend a lot of time hitting groundstrokes to each other. But the purpose of tennis is to try to pass your opponent - not to play the ball to him. In most sports it's generally agreed that it's very important to train in a way that best prepares you for match play. The habits that you get from training is very difficult to break. Because playing longer rallies is more fun for beginners they of course tend to hold back a little so that they don't make too many errors. But the right way to do it is to play the percentage. It doesn't really matter if you make 100 errors as long as you hit 101 winners.
As an added benifit - if you go 100 pct. for each shot you get used to making errors and after a while they don't upset you any more.

For many years this philosophy has given the chinese table tennis players an edge. While europeans mainly try to avoid making too many errors the chinese simplye don't count them. The errors don't matter if they are fewer than the winners.

My 4-year old daughter is good at tennis - she hits the ball like a pro. The problem is that she hits it as hard as a pro and thus it's very difficult to keep the rallies going. I've tried a couple of times to ask her to shoot a little softer, but then her natural motion disappears.

What do you think. Is it better to teach children to hold back and keep the ball in play or is it better to let them bash away. I'm surely for the latter.

i didnt join this thread soon enough... but this is a very interesting topic as far as playing tennis. I might not be the best player around but i read up and really listen to what other ppl such as commentators and coachs say.

Your table tennis analogy is great. I am chinese, i've been playing table tennis since i was like 6. all the time, after all, in china ppl can just make a dozen cheap cement tennis tables and kids play during passing time all the time. then i moved here and HAD to get a table so i can play everyday. which i almost do, 4-5 times per week, usually 30 minutes each session with my dad. I do agree, tennis is an aggresive game. its possible to hit hard from almost any position, even below the table level because the extreme spin it is able to create. you play defense, you wont win often unless u play really good at it. So my style was natrually, any shot that i can touch, i hit with as much spin and power as possible.

Now translating to tennis, which i started way after table tennis. I did pick up top spin quite easily comparing to most other players who. my natrual grip was semi-western because like pingpong, thats the angle of the paddle used to brush over the ball. Now im prolly the fastest swinging player and the player with the most top spin on my team, all traces of table tennis from a young age. I hope you are not getting bored :) ... Anyways, I was able to have fantastic looking shots that are just unreal. I thought, who could beat me? my shots are unstoppable. Of course they are, but when i started to face more consistant players, I never learned to pick my shots, every shot was 100% and with a couple defensive blocks from my opponent, i would miss a shot. Then I played a good pusher for the first time, boy that was painful. I ended up loosing in a tiebreaker.

My coach told me, that I dont have to hit hard every match. Yes, you need to learn how to hit hard but, the chance of making an error is a lot higher and if you hit as hard as you can every shot, it wont take long for your opponent to break you down. No offense to you, but inexperienced tennis players always think about speed and power first. There is A LOT more to tennis than that. even table tennis, its looks easier than it is. Its not just find the ball and bash away, the spin, preparation for the return, height, angle all plays a great role. Tennis is even more complicated. You really oughtta get a book that will at least further heighten your knowledge. How many pros do you see bash away everyshot? Especially girls tennis where consistancy is even More important, your daughter wont stand a chance if she is needed to hit 5 or 6 shots. thats what happened to me, so now im still hitting hard but instead of going for everyshot, i would hit a lot more neutrual shots or building shots then when the times is right, i finisht he point.

Bungalo Bill
06-02-2005, 03:30 PM
unfortunately I mixed things up a little too much by talking about winners and chinese table tennis.
Let me specify.
The dilemma is: If you teach children to hold back theres a great risk of ruining their natural fluent motion. The simple question is what's the fastest and best way to great control. Do you first teach them to keep the ball in play and then the next 15 years try to reteach them that beautiful natural motion they had from the very beginning. Or do you let the swing away and then slowly gain control.
My experience from other sports is that the latter approach is the best. But it's evident that the majority of tennis coaches are not with me on this one.

Never in tennis training do you hold someone back. Never.

However, the human brain in order to coordinate and help fire the right muscles consistently needs to have things happen in building blocks. I wouldnt expect you to take on Federer and win, nor take off and surf a 10 ft. wave at Pipeline and get tubed, or run the mile in less then 5 minutes, nor lift 500 lbs. when you never lifted in your life.

I am sure you have heard that tennis is a game of errors not winners. The faster you swing the higher the chance for a mistake in timing and keeping the ball in play.

It is important for growing tennis players to learn they can beat a ton of players by just keep the ball in play. Consistency does not mean hit it slow and be timid. It means staying within your limits so you can have a chance to win the point. It means being able to execute your game plan because the ball is still in play and you havent made an error.

However, just keeping the ball in play as a player ends up playing better players will not be enough. Placement then becomes an almost equal concern for the growing player who finds out they need to be able to move the ball around on the run while keeping the ball in play.

A good player can make this happen with controlled pace. Good ball pace comes from swinging the racquet in such a way that you stay in control (head stays still, can make clean contact with the ball, you achieve the desired spin, you achieve the desired placement, and can support your game plan while mixing in different shots). Players like these are likely to do very well in tennis.

If you place emphasis on hitting the ball at one speed this is what you will have to do to overcome difficulty later as the quality of players your children face improve:

1. Speed kills: Yes, a power game can be very disruptive to an opponent no doubt. I base my game largely around power. But having only power can backfire as well. What happens when you run into a player or players that can handle the power? First, you will have to be in excellent shape because as fast as you are hitting the ball, your opponent is hitting it back faster - 1.5 times faster! Second, most players that play tennis at one-speed have trouble against the counter-puncher or junk-baller of which there are plenty. The counter-puncher simply exhausts an opponent and the junk-baller throws off everyones timing. Especially players that hit only at one speed.

2. Tennis can be an exhausting sport: The better you are able to control and harness your power, the better you are able to manage your energy supplies. Most of the best tennis players in the world are master craftsmen. They have power but use it when they know they should. Power is used as a weapon - not the only weapon.

3. Mixing the ball up: This is a far better way to help young players grow then just pounding away. Developing touch is so important. Hitting the ball as hard as you can may have worked for Agassi but everyone forgets what happened when he got to Bolleterri's camp and when Brad Gilbert got a hold of him. Becoming an all court player is what is happening today. Becoming an intelligent player is what is happening today. Players are now developing a complete game based on Federers influence. Players will be able to hit softly and put pace on the ball. They will be able to volley and perform a drop shot from behind the baseline. More and more players will realize that rally pace is 80% of your power. Rally pace is the key to being able to win with consistent tennis. Think about it - 80%. That is plenty of power. Mix that with consistency, placement, spin, game strategy, physical conditioning, shot selection smarts, etc. and you have one hell of a player.

4. Are you really holding back???? If I taught a player to take their normal swing WHILE maintaining their balance in the shot, that is about the rally speed I am looking for. A complete followthrough and good depth on the ball. I will work on rally speed over and over again - to engrain it in their brains. Why? Because when things go astray a player needs to stay in the game to figure things out. Being able to move the ball around with good pace while he is thinking and searching for the key to unravel his opponents game is simply smart tennis.

If you are going to teach them how to blast the ball, no matter what speed they swing the racquet at several things must be present before a player can increase their rally swing speed:

1. They need to maintain their balance.

2. They need to keep integrity in their swing (still head, followthrough, smoothness, balance, recovery)

3. They need to be able to hit to the desired target over and over again.

4. They need to make clean contact on almost every ball

5. They need to look relaxed and in control - light on their feet.

6. Their timing needs to be right on and rarely are they late or too early.

When they can do this the bar is raised. They can swing faster until they reach their new limit.

So while you have your kids swing away, dont forget you are taking a huge chance in quenching their development as a complete tennis player. You risk seeing them pick up some bad habits due to poor technique that will be difficult to untrain or eliminate later, injuries, and only being a one dimensional player which will be a downfall later.

Plus, when you finally try and teach them to play a more "in" control game, it will be very hard for them to retrain their body to not swing for the fences all the time. They will be far removed from being able to adjust their game to be a well-rounded smart tennis player. That would be a crying shame and only one person to blame.

Watch the pros, they hit hard because they went through the building blocks of learning and growing. They have awesome swing speeds but can nail the ball with consistency, placement, spin, and pace. Almost always they hit within their own limits and when they step out of that - they almost always get burned or burn themselves. One only needs to look at Marty Fish at the Olympics.

Rodger Federer is one of the best players I have ever seen. When he hits with pace he hits so cleanly and so on time the ball just pops off his racquet. That my friend is learned not by hitting as hard as you can but by steady rally pace training. The key to tennis is to develop a clean contact with the ball and your timing. This needs to happen while you maintain your balance and swing integrity. There is no question that a player has to slow down in order to accomplish this.

tricky nicky
06-02-2005, 05:53 PM
Hey Bill,

Where ya been hiding?

Great Post.

Do you mind if I cut and paste it and use it in my kids training.

I already credited you one post from a couple of months back

I never plagiarise a source.

regards,

tricky.

Bungalo Bill
06-02-2005, 06:38 PM
Hey Bill,

Where ya been hiding?

Great Post.

Do you mind if I cut and paste it and use it in my kids training.

I already credited you one post from a couple of months back

I never plagiarise a source.

regards,

tricky.

With three kids, soccer practice, baseball practice, tennis practice, plays, parent meetings, need I say more???? Hehehe, I have been busy. :)

Dont mind you copying and proofing this at all. I am sure I have some grammar and sentence structure issues. I just dont have time to always correct it.

Thanatos
06-02-2005, 07:47 PM
With three kids, soccer practice, baseball practice, tennis practice, plays, parent meetings, need I say more???? Hehehe, I have been busy. :)

Dont mind you copying and proofing this at all. I am sure I have some grammar and sentece structure issues. I just dont have time to always correct it.

The board has been lacking in knowledge and expertise since your absence. Welcome back BB, your input is always appreiciated.

Bungalo Bill
06-03-2005, 08:19 AM
The board has been lacking in knowledge and expertise since your absence. Welcome back BB, your input is always appreiciated.

Thanks, hope your tennis is going well.

kevhen
06-03-2005, 08:58 AM
Good stuff Bill.

oumpapa
06-03-2005, 01:13 PM
Thanks everyone for your comments.
Actually I should have split the post up in two.
1) The part about always going for a winner
2) The part about how to best practice with very young children.
I'll leave the first part for now - though I find it interesting.
Regarding the second:
Firstly it's important to stress that I'm talking about very young children. My daughter is 4 and cannot really be instructed - at least I'm not trying to - I think it's too early. She has great motor skills and can actually hit the ball - if she holds back - plays very softly - whe can hit back and forth. The problem is that when she's not holding back she moves much more naturally than she does when holding back. I cannot really tell her: You have to make a full swing only slower - that's way too complicated for her to comprehend. I can only instruct her to hit the ball softer.

I think that children in general have a great ability to mimic what they see grown ups do. Most grown up completely looses this ability, but actually my point is well illustrated if you watch a couple of 30 year olds trying to learn the game. They face the same dilemma. Should they emulate Federer. Try to move like him, swing like him. Or should they focus on keeping the ball in play.
My experience as a pool and billiards instructor is that it's better to try to mimic the great players even if that means that it will take a longer time before you're able to pocket a ball. It's about "muscle memory" really. It's extremely difficult to get rid of bad habits. In other words - learning to play pool is not about pocketing the balls - it's about getting the fundamentals right. the same applies to tennis I think.
But most beginners will try to keep the ball in play because that's more fun.
For instance - when I started playing tennis I was a grown up already and it was difficult for me to learn to serve well. Then I realized that the problem was that I held back - especially on my second serve. Instead I made a habit out of visualizing a good players serve and then try to emulate it. This meant that I made tons of doubble faults in the beginning, but it also meant that I eventually got a much better grasp on my serve.

Kana Himezaki
06-03-2005, 03:09 PM
Exactly. With young children, you want to build coordination and the ability to hit the ball. As you said, emulating pros is fine. However, they DO try to keep the ball in. None of them hit at one single pace. I don't really have anything to say, Bungalo Bill has the most informative post here.

Once you can, I'd just have your daughter try to hit at a gear she can get most balls in at. This DOESN'T mean slowing it down and destroying her, it means letting her find a comfortable pace she can be consistent with.

As Bill said so well, have her develop a comfortable pace. Then have her develop placement.

In your last few sentences, you've said you were holding back. ALWAYS let loose. That doesn't mean simply whacking the ball as hard as you can though.

For now, let your daughter keep doing what she's doing. Let her find a set of strokes, paces, whatever she's comfortable for a bit, maybe even years. Be prepared to introduce consistency and placement when you think she's ready. Make sure she at least knows what she's aiming for. I've seen four and five year olds just starting that are congratulated every shot, and thus believe the entire objective of the game is to whack it over the fence.

That doesn't mean your daughter does, but make sure she knows what she's aiming for. You shouldn't interfere too much right now with development, but maybe have her watch some advanced players and let her find whatever she's comfortable with.

Bungalo Bill
06-03-2005, 03:43 PM
Thanks everyone for your comments.
Actually I should have split the post up in two.
1) The part about always going for a winner
2) The part about how to best practice with very young children.
I'll leave the first part for now - though I find it interesting.
Regarding the second:
Firstly it's important to stress that I'm talking about very young children. My daughter is 4 and cannot really be instructed - at least I'm not trying to - I think it's too early. She has great motor skills and can actually hit the ball - if she holds back - plays very softly - whe can hit back and forth. The problem is that when she's not holding back she moves much more naturally than she does when holding back. I cannot really tell her: You have to make a full swing only slower - that's way too complicated for her to comprehend. I can only instruct her to hit the ball softer.

My 6 year old son loves to slam the ball. He swings so hard sometimes he spins around a falls. This is not what I want the little man to learn. What I want my son to learn is how to control his body and hit consistently. I want him to followthrough and stay in balance. Teaching a followthrough out towards the target is one of the best ways to teach a young child to have a decent swing speed without losing control. In fact, I have them hold the the followthrough position with the racquet ppointed toward the target for 7 seconds. They cant wobble or lose their balance. With a followthrough it is very hard to check the swing - which you dont want. A checked swing means the racquet was slowing down BEFORE contact. Pace will follow as he learns how to stay in balance and swing properly.

I think that children in general have a great ability to mimic what they see grown ups do. Most grown up completely looses this ability, but actually my point is well illustrated if you watch a couple of 30 year olds trying to learn the game. They face the same dilemma. Should they emulate Federer. Try to move like him, swing like him. Or should they focus on keeping the ball in play.
My experience as a pool and billiards instructor is that it's better to try to mimic the great players even if that means that it will take a longer time before you're able to pocket a ball. It's about "muscle memory" really. It's extremely difficult to get rid of bad habits. In other words - learning to play pool is not about pocketing the balls - it's about getting the fundamentals right. the same applies to tennis I think.
But most beginners will try to keep the ball in play because that's more fun.
For instance - when I started playing tennis I was a grown up already and it was difficult for me to learn to serve well. Then I realized that the problem was that I held back - especially on my second serve. Instead I made a habit out of visualizing a good players serve and then try to emulate it. This meant that I made tons of doubble faults in the beginning, but it also meant that I eventually got a much better grasp on my serve.

Mimicing the great players is great. But you should mimic what they have mastered from a fundamental perspective. Low to high swing, head still at contact, followthrough out towards the target, bent knees, etc. The swing speed will come as the player gets stronger and becomes more athletic.

One drill I do with my kids is simply to drop the ball in front of them and have them hit the ball. Or I have them side shuffle step toward me, then I drop the ball and they hit it. I place targets on the court so they learn how much swing speed they need to hit the ball consistently to an area. They will make the adjustments - your job is to make sure they are incorporating good fundamentals into their strokes to build form and balance.

tricky nicky
06-03-2005, 03:44 PM
Bill is the main man on technical.

thanks for the ok.

regards,

tricky.

Jonnyf
06-03-2005, 03:50 PM
Welcome back bill thx for the info