View Full Version : Flattening out a serve a bit??

01-29-2012, 06:25 AM
Here's the deal, I coach HS tennis. I am a 4.5 experienced player, but not a teaching pro.

SERVING - it's great when I teach the kids to serve with a continental grip, but then how do you teach them to flatten it out once they adopt this grip Once they switch to continental, they always have trouble hitting anything but a weak spinny slice. Any tips to correct this??


01-29-2012, 07:41 AM
Throwing it further into the court works wonders for me

01-29-2012, 08:19 AM
Hit a ball with bend elbow, see please http://tt.tennis-warehouse.com/showthread.php?p=5276723#post5276723.

Use actively the wrist flexion - http://tt.tennis-warehouse.com/showthread.php?p=6238642#post6238642.

01-29-2012, 08:44 AM
I always thought pronation with a lively arm made the pace pretty decent, and extra oomph is available by properly using your body. To get the most out of pronation, toss it further into the court as Ballinbob mentioned.

01-29-2012, 09:14 AM
Getting kids used to serving with a continental (and undoing the pancake grip habit) takes a little while. When I used to teach, I liked to use the 'spike' drill where you have them stand close to the net and have them try to bounce a ball over the back fence to get them used to the motion. When you bring them back to the baseline, might want to follow it up with the serving from one knee drill to make sure they are still hitting up and out on the ball.

01-29-2012, 11:30 AM
Here's the deal, I coach HS tennis. I am a 4.5 experienced player, but not a teaching pro.

SERVING - it's great when I teach the kids to serve with a continental grip, but then how do you teach them to flatten it out once they adopt this grip Once they switch to continental, they always have trouble hitting anything but a weak spinny slice. Any tips to correct this??


Are you teaching just the grip or are you teaching the whole swing path and body position? If you take someone who is used to hitting with an E. fh grip for serve and change them to a continental, but don't change the position of their bodies relative to the court and how to swing the the racquet into the ball with a continental grip, then it's going to be really awkward and they're serves are going to be weak and spinny (like you're seeing).

It's hard to say without seeing, but I'd guess that you're going to need to show them all parts of hitting a serve correctly, not just the grip. Fundamentally to hit flat(ish) with a continental one needs to pronate their wrist, not flex it (like with an E. fh grip). To pronate the wrist ones shoulders are in a different position than if you are flexing your wrist. This differences are huge and takes a while to get used to.

There's lots of good videos on youtube on serving.

01-30-2012, 10:38 AM
A switch from efh to conti, and not serving flat, is the sign of a 3.5 player.
Make them watch vids of PROFESSIONAL players. They all hold conti, most taller ones serve very flat.

01-30-2012, 10:52 AM
First, kudos to you for trying to teach stroke mechanics to your kids. Too few high school coaches work with their players. Thus, those without private lessons keep on with their pushing ways that served them reasonably well when they were younger.

Check out the following video of Soderling serving and you can see how he uses the powerful muscles in his whole body, from his powerful leg push off to the incredible sideways forming a bow, then reversing the bow, to power his serve with his core muscles: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a56pvP1i6x8

This is a video worth replaying many times, stopping it every time a teaching point is made to fully understand all of the great points:
- ball tossed with a straight arm, moving only at the shoulder, with no hand or elbow flip
- holding the ball like an ice cream cone
- ball release is just after raising it past the shoulder to get it to come back to the contact point in an upside down J shaped parabola
- the tossing arm keeps going up and up and up until the tossing arm is straight up, and held there to balance the server in the trophy pose.
- having the tossing arm straight up means the hitting shoulder is very low and the tossing shoulder is very high.
- the three sources of power are the leg drive, uncoiling of the shoulders and hips, and the powerful reversal of the bow shape as the shoulders "cartwheel" [quickly vertically reverse so that the back shoulder goes straight up while the front shoulder goes straight down] - the shoulders should not just be swung around from right to left.
- the bow shape at the trophy pose [the player is in the shape of a bow when viewed from the side] involves getting the front hip forward to counterbalance the sideward lean of the upper body.
- the trophy pose is point where the player is fully loaded with all three body parts - full coil, full bow shape, and full leg bend.
- the power in the serve comes from quickly and forcefully reversing all the pent up sources of power - first the powerfull leg push off, followed by the powerfull uncoiling of the shoulders/hips and the powerful reverse of the bow shape with the vertical shoulder over shoulder cartwheeling.
- the leg pushoff is virtually straight up, with only the slightest push forward into the court
- the deep racquet drop only possible by getting elbow pointed straight up
- the importance of PRONATION
- the body stays sideways at contact
- land on the left leg, with the right leg going directly backward [a sign your players have too much uncoiling and not enough unbowing/vertical shoulder over shoulder cartwheeling is if they swing their right leg around to the right, rather than push it straight back.]

Really, watch the video again and again. It shows you the sources of power your players are lacking, but it also demonstrates the fine points of the ball toss, keeping the tossing arm straight up for balance and proper deep shoulder angle, and the proper way to land on the front leg with the back leg kicking back.

Virtually the same points are made in Nick Bolletieri's sonic serve video:
Nick Bollettieri-Sonic Serve.wmv http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ajoZ0f7hw-A

But here are the videos that emphasize each of the components, and give a better feel and understanding of each one:

Tennis Serve Toss - How to Hold the Ball like an ice cream cone to avoid having to turn the wrist outward as you get the ball higher in the more commonly used hand toss http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M8kynEzufNE&feature=related

Tennis Serve Tossing Motion Tempo: how to start to coil away from the ball with your body as you bring your arm up and up and up, releasing the ball just past your your shoulder height and continuing to bring it up and up and up at the same pace as before release until your tossing arm is straight up to help balance you into a hip out trophy pose http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CeZp90h-Ar8&feature=relmfu

Watch how Federer, Murray, Hass, Hewitt, Davydenko, Safin, Tsonga all make the same move when tossing the ball, keeping their tossing arm parallel to the baseline while they coil their shoulders and hips back (and also bending their knees to allow that coiling) at the same time they keep bringing their arms up. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lIF-UaRUd6k&feature=related

Tennis Lesson: Serve Tips: Lead with the Hip to get into that powerful bow shape http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HgeYmEScfgQ

Coach McCraw explaining a serve pronation exercise to get that powerful slap at the ball that will result in real "pop": http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iONY6fcqZGg

Getting the proper vertical shoulder over shoulder cartwheel action is important not only to get pop and spin on the ball, but is important to prevent rotator cuff shoulder injuries: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lTRvxaBMh8s

Your serve technique doing more harm than good? "Aiming your chest up at the ball" while leaning back from the knees [not by arching the back] by getting the heels way off the court, lets the arm swing up and over the ball to get that topspin needed to bring a powerful serve in (while sparing the shoulder from abnormal stress).

How to land on your front leg and kick back with your back leg, so you land balanced and can quickly split step and be ready for the return: http://blip.tv/fuzzy-yellow-balls/leg-kick-on-tennis-serve-1190196

I don't have a video on this, so my explanation will have to do.
It concerns of when to get in the bow shape during the "toss into the trophy pose" sequence.
In the photos below, notice that as Pete Sampras is bringing his arm up and up and up, he is coiling with his shoulders and hips (with the necessary knee bend to allow himself to do this (pics 1-6 below). While there is a little bow shape present, most of it occurs late as he allows his front hip to swing out counterbalance the greater sideways lean with his upper body late and gets a much deeper knee bend very late going into his trophy pose (picks 7-9 below). Getting into this deep a bow shape challenges a players balance, so that sinking (squatting) ever lower helps to really maintain the balance. Doing that accentuated bow shape/knee bending/squatting late means the balance only has to be held for a fraction of second into the powerful leg push off (pics 10-12).


[While those pics are up there it might be good to re-emphasize some of the previously made points:

Pic 9. Great trophy pose, with chest pointed up at the ball, heels off the ground to "bend from the knees", not by arching the back, and front hip out. Tossing arm still straight up to get that steep shoulder angle. Hips and shoulders fully coiled.

Pic 12. Deep racquet drop with the high elbow (elbow pointed straight up) to achieve that deep racquet drop

Pic 13. Side of racquet still largely pointed at the ball, with most or the powerful pronation movement to occur in the last split second up to, through and past contact. Notice the hitting shoulder straight up now and the tossing shoulder straight down. The side of his body (not the front) is directed at the deuce court as he powerfully cartwheels sideways in the direction of his serve.

Pic 14. His pronation movement is so powerful, that the follow through has his racquet pointing down even as his elbow appears straight in his rapid pronation follow through. He is going to land on his left leg, with his right leg kicking straight back, so that he will land balanced and can go into a split step to get ready for a return (although in Pete's case, he often kept charging right in for a serve and volley.)

Since your kids are going to have to practice a lot to get a good serve down, they better be strengthening their shoulder area and arms with these simple exercises to avoid an overuse rotator cuff or elbow problem.
Thrower's ten exercise program: http://www.muhlenberg.edu/pdf/main/athletics/athletic_training/throwers10.pdf

Some of your kids will easily be strong enough and have enough balance to work on their serves, especially if they have had either specific tennis conditioning or are coming to spring tennis after fall and winter football, wrestling or basketball programs. Others will need to do at leas body squats and burpees to build up the strength and balance to get into an agressive trophy position and hit out of it.
Your most ambitious junior tennis players may even want to work out in routines found in Sports Fitness Advisor: Tennis Training Section http://www.sport-fitness-advisor.com/tennis-training.html not only for this season, but to get ready for next season as well.

I spent a little time in this post because you are a teacher, and easily can absorb the info. Also, you will have an influence over multiple players under your care.

As a teacher you understand that they can't incorporate all of the aspects at once, anymore than you wouldn't assign them a whole year's material on day one.

Perhaps at first how to toss into an aggressive, but balanced, trophy pose could be a first goal.

At the same time, doing Coach McCraw's pronation exercise could get them the proper swing path to really put "pop" on the ball.

Putting it all together with the right mechanics will be a challenge for them not only this tennis season, but beyond. But at least you'll have pointed them in the right direction.

Don't underestimate your students penchant for learning from video. (My daughter's fifth grade basketball coach gave them all a video cd of plays/defenses; it was amazing to see the result.) You potentially could forward to them any of the video links above you might think appropriate.

Good luck, coach!

01-30-2012, 11:43 AM
I'm not disagreeing with what these guys are saying, but I'd caution against getting too technical with a group of high school kids who are just learning the game.

01-30-2012, 12:41 PM
A coach in HS is not teaching beginner tennis. He is trying to fine turn 3.5 thru 4.5 level tennis. As such, players switching from efh to conti are very behind the best on the team.
Kids learn from vids. Show them vids of pros using conti grip, then hitting flat serves.
But when they play matches, unless they're practiced and/or tall, make them hit higher percentage top/slice serves for first serves.

01-30-2012, 03:23 PM
I'm not disagreeing with what these guys are saying, but I'd caution against getting too technical with a group of high school kids who are just learning the game.

The coach doesn't and shouldn't have to get too technical.

But he is going to be with his players serving five days a week for the next couple of months.

As a 4.5 level player himself, he could help:
- get a proper toss
- get into a trophy pose
- achieve a deep racquet drop
- use an exercise to get the player's pronating
- get vertical shoulder over shoulder action to help prevent a rotator cuff problem
- get the chest "pointed at the ball" to help prevent a rotator cuff problem
- get them doing the thrower's ten to prevent injury

01-30-2012, 04:37 PM
I want to reiterate that I'm not arguing with you guys about whether or not to teach them good technique. We're on the same side here. What I am saying is to keep it simple, don't try to work on too many things at once, and try not to use a lot of technical language. From my experience as a coach, words like 'pronation' are lost on a lot of kids - and even adults (which is why, to the chagrin of some people, the term wrist snap is still so commonly used).

That's why in my earlier post I said I like to use the spike drill to teach them how to pronate the wrist without going into a lengthy discussion about it. Moreover, that's a fun drill for them. The high school season goes by faster than you think and there's not a lot of time to develop players in-season. I wouldn't recommend incorporating watching videos in practice, make that homework for them. You really have to get the most out of your practice sessions and use those minutes efficiently, particularly early in the season. So while you do want to work on serves everyday, you do want to get them rallying and playing points as much as possible. It's already easy enough to fall behind schedule and have to call ball pick before dismissal with items left on your lesson plan for the day.

01-30-2012, 06:56 PM
I'd like to also say to the OP good job for teaching your players. I've seen my kids on high school teams and the coaches generally don't teach anything. And in most cases the coaches could play. One guy was even a touring pro back in the day. But no one every seems to say anything to the kids about their E. fh serves or their messed-up volleys.

The high school season is really short and it's difficult to teach anything, but it's great that someone cares enough to try.

02-01-2012, 06:36 AM
I like to call the secret to serving the swingularity. It's basically the point in the serve where all the magic happens. The first thing you have to understand is pronation (or arm rotation from the shoulder). It's a strange thing for most people to grasp, but once you get it, you get it.

If you hold your arm straight out in front of you with your thumb pointing up toward the ceiling and then rotate your arm so your thumb points at the floor, you are performing the most important motion in the serve.

Check out this video (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4DpptgXq5j4).

It explains it pretty well. There are lots of aspects to the serve, but I find that if you don't have good pronation you will never have a great serve. Many people get by without pronation and have good serves, but if you want to have a wicked fast flat serve and a kicker that makes people return from outside the doubles alley, you need to understand and be able to employ pronation in your service motion.

02-01-2012, 08:24 AM
"many people get by without pronation" ...
Absolutely true. If you have God's gift of a live arm, you have quick flex genes, you are naturally gifted to throw, you have leverage and strength on your side, you can serve well without a great pronation.
But reality, few of us have even a couple of those traits, so we need the best possible mechanics to serve fast.