There is hope to get better.

Discussion in 'Adult League & Tournament Talk' started by NLBwell, Dec 14, 2012.

  1. NLBwell

    NLBwell Legend

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    Many years ago I used to play Open-level tournaments. I then didn't play for a number of years and came back as a 5.0 level player. Age and injuries to my shoulder, elbow, ankle, and knee, some keeping me out of the game for lengthy periods of time, dropped me down to 4.0. I've been fighting a tear in my achilles tendon for the last couple of years which is slowly getting better and then last winter tore some cartilage in my shoulder. I played very little this summer, however I did practice what I was physically able to do.

    I worked very hard on the backboard and drop-feeding myself trying to fix my strokes, re-learning them almost from scratch, and driving out the habit of lifting my head to look at the opponent which almost destroyed my game when I was teaching (lifting up to see what the students were doing during drills). As my shoulder and achilles gradually got better, I started hitting more seriously, and learning to serve with what range of motion I did have in my shoulder. With rest, time, and dissolving cartilage chips, everything gradually got better and I was able to hit with friends of mine fairly consistently. Still, I went out to the backboard or fed myself balls out of the basket working carefully on form almost every day - getting rid of the sloppy habits accumulated from injuries and lack of movement, working on every type of shot.
    Finally, my shoulder felt much better and I started to learn to serve much more normally. I now go out and practice serves quite often, re-learning all my serves again. Not all the way there yet, but getting much closer.

    I'm now often dominating in the higher level 4.5 doubles I play. I'm beating my friend I who I historically was even with. When coming back from injury he was beating me 6-0,6-2 or so pretty much every time. Thanks to him for putting up with me. Just beat a guy who I wouldn't even have thought of playing a few months ago because I would have had no chance, winning 6 of the last 7 games, just overpowering him.

    There are two points to this:
    1) Even though for long periods of time where it seemed improvement was not coming at all and I had thoughts that it was all in vain and I would now be a 3.5 player, all the work finally did pay off in getting my game together.
    2) If someone is wanting to improve to a higher level, are they putting in the many hours on the practice court it truly takes to do it?
     
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  2. LeeD

    LeeD Bionic Poster

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    Wish I had your dedication and determination.
    Your first paragraph sorta parallels my tennis from the mid '70's.
    I quit for motocross, then for windsurfing.
    My third year regular practice partners were Div111 singles players, and a couple of top high school players. They often were also my doubles partners, and I was the poorest person with no transportation.
    I haven't recovered from the windsurfing yet.
     
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  3. Cindysphinx

    Cindysphinx G.O.A.T.

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    Congratulations on your improvement!

    Drop feeding rocks. Way underrated way to practice. . . .
     
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  4. Mick

    Mick Legend

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    In my opinion, it is easier for a player like NLBwell to improve since he was once an excellent player before the injuries and time off. Bad players who don't have coaches can't fix their forms and usually lack the dedication needed to advance to the next level. It's much tougher for them.
     
    Last edited: Dec 14, 2012
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  5. LeeD

    LeeD Bionic Poster

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    As usual, I disagree.
    I suspect NL is close to my age, like SocialSecurity eligible.
    As such, long practice sessions and drilling, some play, can quickly lead to injuries that are hard to recover from.
    If he was 50, yes, he has a great chance to get back up to at least 4.5.
    At 64, no chance, it's reality, injury is the NO. ONE factor that inhibits getting good.
     
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  6. NLBwell

    NLBwell Legend

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    I'm around halfway inbetween 50 and 64. So I guess I've got a half chance?

    Still got a long ways to go in my movement before I'm a solid 4.5.
     
    Last edited: Dec 15, 2012
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  7. Mick

    Mick Legend

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    four or five years ago there was a Mercedes-Benz commercial shown on TV where a guy went see to his doctor. After the examination, the doctor told the guy, "I don't know how to tell you but you only have 40 years left, 50 max." The guy left the doctor's office feeling down and out then he saw a Mercedes-Benz car, bought it, took up hang gliding, and engaged in other exciting activities.

    Maybe you are like that guy, except your passion is tennis :)
     
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  8. maggmaster

    maggmaster Hall of Fame

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    Inspirational. For those of us who are younger but not kids and are trying to improve, this is a great example. Thanks man.
     
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  9. TimeToPlaySets

    TimeToPlaySets Rookie

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    What is drop feeding?
     
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  10. dizzlmcwizzl

    dizzlmcwizzl Hall of Fame

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    Drop the ball ... and hit the ball over the net ... repeat. Then go pick them up.
     
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  11. TimeToPlaySets

    TimeToPlaySets Rookie

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    Seems totally useless.
     
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  12. LeeD

    LeeD Bionic Poster

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    Drop feeding is useless for lots of players.
    But for some player's, it's useful to hit the ball with solid kinetics, like the first ball against a wall, so you get in practice to hit real balls, not slap shot first ball feeds in rallies.
    Most of us play like we practice. Notice lots of guys on here feed the first ball with a side/underhand slap, and hit their forehands like that.
    Not every player needs to concentrate on the first feed ball, but some do.
     
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  13. Avles

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    Drop feeding is certainly limited but can be helpful for working on technique (if you do it mindfully).

    A quick anecdote from Vic Braden--

    "...about three days later I was at the Los Angeles Tennis club and Stan was out on the court like a beginner, throwing the ball up and working on a topspin backhand. He would let the ball bounce, take his racquet back at eye level, then drop down with his thighs and lift up as he hit the ball."

    "Stan" is Stan Smith. If drop feeding was useful for him, it's probably potentially useful for most of us.

    Another anecdote (based on memory, but I think it's accurate): somebody once asked Tony Larson on this board about how he mastered the 2hbh. If I remember right, Tony responded that one of the keys was when an instructor insisted that he use his backhand when feeding the ball to start rallies. Pretty powerful evidence that drop-feeding can make a difference.
     
    Last edited: Dec 15, 2012
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  14. Cindysphinx

    Cindysphinx G.O.A.T.

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    Drop feeding is great for developing rec players, IME. If you don't have the budget for tons of instruction but you need to work on muscle memory or change one specific thing about your stroke, drop feeding is awesome.

    I did a lot of it to get used to the feel of SW grip, for instance. I also taught myself to hit topspin lobs off of both wings that way. It's also very good for learning to put away mid-court sitters -- toss the ball up over the T, crush. It's probably one of the reasons why I like paceless balls.

    I think drop feeding can be better (or maybe just different) than hitting off the wall. Most people I see hitting off the wall are slamming the ball, which is back on them quickly. So they do an incomplete swing to be ready. How is that helpful? With drop feeding, you can take your time and do the thing right so you build some muscle memory.
     
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  15. 3fees

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    drop feeding is useful to work over and over on the same stroke to improve it,,eg, I had trouble with short ball put aways, did a lot drop feeds to get a feel for the shot, now its much better when playing.
     
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  16. OrangePower

    OrangePower Hall of Fame

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    This.

    Big difference between "improving" to get closer to what was previously your level, vs improving to a level higher than you've ever previously been.
     
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  17. TimeToPlaySets

    TimeToPlaySets Rookie

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    Cool tip, actually.
     
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  18. goober

    goober Legend

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    I admire his determination, but I am not inspired. In reality his overall net improvement is negative. He is just not as bad as he use to be but still not as good when he was at his peak. What is more inspirational a professional concert violin player that takes off 20 years from playing trying to get back to make first chair at his local community orchestra or a 40 year old adult that takes up violin that makes makes it ? The point is he doesn't have to learn anything. All the technique and ability have already been honed with thousands of hours of training previously. He really just retraining himself so his improvement from 3.5 to 4.5 is expected. An adult recreational player that started tennis in his 30-40s improvement to 4.5 is not necessarily expected and should not be compared.
     
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  19. Avles

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    I think that a lot of 30+ y.o. people at the 3.0-3.5 level are worried that their chances to improve significantly will be foreclosed by advancing age.

    So it's inspiring to hear about someone on the older side (no offense NLBwell) getting back to a high level despite some health issues.

    That doesn't mean we expect to replicate his progress-- just means that, like the thread title says, there is hope to get better.
     
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  20. dizzlmcwizzl

    dizzlmcwizzl Hall of Fame

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    @ goober and Avles

    Goober is right in fact that the OP getting back to 4.5 is not all that impressive. Players who have built up the muscle memory as a junior will always have a higher ceiling than the folks who came to the game late.

    However, what you can be impressed with is making the effort after so long away from the game. I will tell you that once I stop playing tennis it will be golf full time, and you will never see another post from me again.

    FWIW ... I am a 43 year old that did not start until my 30's and just this past year was bumped to 4.5 ... so it can be done. However, my strokes will always be unorthodox compared to someone that learned proper technique when they were 12. I will never be able to develop a 5.0 game with my current technique and I have neither the patience or the time to completely renovate my strokes.
     
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  21. Timbo's hopeless slice

    Timbo's hopeless slice Hall of Fame

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    I would just like to add a note from my own experience.

    Don't be afraid to change your technique.

    About ten years ago I returned to tennis after quite a long break (I took up squash).

    Anyway, I hit up an old friend (who is a high level coach)for a hit to see where I was at and he noticed straight away that pretty much every part of my game had survived intact except for..

    my FH! (uh oh)

    So, we analysed what was happening and found that ten years of squash had 'ruined' (more on this in a minute) my footwork on that side as one plays pretty much every squash FH with an 'open' stance. My classic FH didn't like open stance too much.

    hmmm

    So, long story short, instead of trying to 'correct' this, Matt (my friend) suggested we go with the foot work and rebuild my stroke around it. Voila! Modern FH here we come!

    Anyway, I have been able to get back to a comparable level to when I quit, but with a much better FH that helps to compensate for my 46 year old legs not being as fast as they once were. (actually, I don't feel any slower, but common sense tells me I MUST be!)

    So, you're never too old to improve, and it is never too late to adjust your technique.

    (I do thank my lucky stars that I haven't had the physical issues of many of you guys, that must really suck)
     
    Last edited: Dec 17, 2012
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  22. TomT

    TomT Hall of Fame

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    Thanks NLBwell. Inspiring. I've also been using drop-feeding to develop better (or rather to help regain former) stroking technique. Not a substitute for actual hitting, but helpful, like wall hitting, if approached conscientiously.

    Post some vids.
     
    Last edited: Dec 18, 2012
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  23. NLBwell

    NLBwell Legend

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    I think the critical part of your statement is "don't have coaches." If someone is coached by a good tennis pro and is very mindful of what they are doing and are willing to work very hard, they certainly can improve significantly in a year or so.
    If you don't already know what is correct, without an outside view of what is wrong and, importantly, what to do to improve it, just practicing a lot will only get you so far.
    I know a couple of people who were really dedicated, who worked closely with a good pro and moved up to 5.0 in only a couple of years. Yes, it is pretty rare.

    Also, a lot of pros aren't that good.
     
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  24. J011yroger

    J011yroger G.O.A.T.

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  25. Sakkijarvi

    Sakkijarvi Semi-Pro

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    I am for drop-feeding and wouldn't sell it short unless you've tried it.

    It was one of the main training methods I used to get back into the game after a layoff of about 20 years.

    Good thing was being able to head out for a break from work, to the local courts, on my time. Dropped and hit countless forehands and backhands. Same thing with my serve. I hadn't joined a club at that point, and used the outdoor courts that were a) Less than 5 minutes from my work; b) Always empty during the day (as in completely empty so there was no distractions from training and no one to worry about while hitting hoppers of balls).

    I credit drop-feeding with developing the consistent and strong serve that is my main weapon to this day. Also helped me work up my down the line forehand, also one of my weapons.
     
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  26. Mick

    Mick Legend

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    there's this kid (15, 16 yrs old, i think) that used to show up every Saturdays at the park where i play. He had a coach and the coach did a great job on fixing his forms, all of his shots looked good.

    One day, his father asked my hitting partner and I if we would want to play doubles. We agreed and proceeded to triple bagel the father-son team. It turned out the kid could only handle the kinds of ball that his coach feed. If it was slower, faster, higher, lower, or beyond the ideal hitting zone, the boy couldn't handle it. The father, although he didn't have as good of a form as his son had, he could handle most of those balls.

    The coach was pretty disappointed but the kid never played other players. he only practiced with his coach. Not sure what happened but he stopped showing up at the park.
     
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  27. J011yroger

    J011yroger G.O.A.T.

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    Wasn't there some kind of story about how Djokovic used hand feeds to fix his forehand a few years back?

    J
     
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  28. Timbo's hopeless slice

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    *edit, I was rsponding to Mick, but Jolly got in first..

    ye. it's often not about 'form', eh?

    I like to think I have pretty nice 'form', as long as I am in good position and have time to set up. People stop to watch us practice.
    However, in a match, I believe the best part of my game is my ability to improvise, to 'make up' a shot that puts the ball where I want it even if I'm all out of shape. A lot of these shots are ugly! That return of serve that jams you up but you somehow manage to hit it into the into the corner from under your chin, the FH passing shot that was all wrist 'cos you weren't in position to play a lovely, 'pretty' shot, the last second slice BH hack down the line as you realise he's covered the CC so you just sort of stop the shot half way and push it.

    Ugly tennis that works.

    I like nothing more than playing my best shot with my best form, but it doesn't always work like that, and I see a lot of players that have been heavily coached who still try to keep their form while out of position.

    A really good coach will (hopefully) allow for some improvisation during matchplay practice, even encourage and force it by putting their pupils in awkward places.

    look at Federer (who else?), he's the prettiest player on the planet, but he will still hack a squash shot up the line if he has to...
     
    Last edited: Dec 19, 2012
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  29. NLBwell

    NLBwell Legend

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    I hope he got a new coach. He may have quit tennis thinking he wasted all of his time. I hope they didn't pay the coach any money. So many horror stories like this about bad coaches.
     
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  30. floridatennisdude

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    Sometimes coaches say "go practice and play some matches" and kids retreat to the couch and Xbox. Then the next week at the lesson, the kid still sucks.

    Not saying that's what happened. Just offering an alt theory. Since you're so quick to fault the pro 100% and criticize the family for paying money.

    Do you also expect a kid to learn algebra the first day they see it in class? Or do they make them go to a class 5 days a week, do homework, take tests an quizzes, maybe even get a tutor?
     
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  31. NLBwell

    NLBwell Legend

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    Even in a lesson, you would think the instructor would give the kid some high balls or low balls or balls he has to move for. To your example, he only taught the kid subtraction over and over again.

    From the OP scenario, I actually figured the instructor was probably a friend or relative who knew how to play tennis but didn't know how to teach and probably wasn't paid. In which case, I applaud him for trying to help the kid out. However, if it was an outsider getting paid significant money, it certainly was a bad deal. (Even if the kid didn't practice, a good pro should have known the kid's abilities and not been "disappointed" that he lost so badly.)
     
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  32. heninfan99

    heninfan99 Legend

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    Some people train by just competing and they do very well with that strategy. If you're not working through an injury it's another way to go.
     
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  33. Mick

    Mick Legend

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    Timbo,
    Your improvised strokes could never be this ugly :shock: :-D
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jsQmY3td2rs
     
    Last edited: Dec 21, 2012
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  34. Timbo's hopeless slice

    Timbo's hopeless slice Hall of Fame

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    lol, ye, my point precisely :)
     
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  35. skiracer55

    skiracer55 Hall of Fame

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    A good story...

    ...because I've hit a bunch with NLBwell (although not last summer...sorry about that, NLB, I had a bunch of Bad Things come up last year, let's try again next summer...) and (a) I'm even older than he is and (b) I'm a witness...he is getting better, and so am I. We've both played a bunch, so it's kind of a mutual coaching situation where I'll see things that he does well, and other things that might go better, and he'll do the same for my game.

    So after working on stuff for a while, we'll crank up and play some points, which definitely helps me, because NLB is a big guy with a huge serve, so I have to do the right thing, and do it sooner than later, otherwise I'm toast. Good story, NLB...let's reconvene next summer!
     
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  36. NLBwell

    NLBwell Legend

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    I'd love to hit with you next summer skiracer55. I hope the stars will align correctly.
     
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  37. LuckyR

    LuckyR Legend

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    No one is happier than I that this is a success story, but as others have pointed out it is easier to regain lost prowess than to stretch yourself beyond your previous maximum.

    We've all seen guys around the courts who have terrible physicality but pristine strokes. You can take points if you put enough pace on a shot going away from them, but they likely can make that shot low enough percentage for you to hit, that they will compete (and win) a majority of the points.
     
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  38. Buford T Justice

    Buford T Justice Semi-Pro

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    Yes...as someone who took up tennis at age 35 (now 40), when I play guys who started at a very young age, its pretty obvious that, even though our technique and strokes may be similar, they have a higher tennis IQ and their muscle memory is more readily available even though I might have progressed at a fairly rapid pace as far as skill development. There is something about taking up, and becoming proficient at, a sport when young that lends ease to that ability staying "put" and coming back more easily.

    I grew up playing hockey, didnt skate for 20 years (literally), put skates back on a few years ago and within a minute felt right back at home where everything just came automatically. Tennis will never be that way for me as the muscle memory was not "set" when at a younger more impressionable age.
     
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