Tired Of Thinking About A Split Step

Discussion in 'Tennis Tips/Instruction' started by Cindysphinx, Dec 22, 2009.

  1. Zachol82

    Zachol82 Professional

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    The only way to make the split-step, and pretty much any other actions, "automatic" is to keep on doing it. I'm sure you've had to consciously think about your service motion at some point during your early Tennis career (assuming that you are comfortable with serving already). As you play more and more, your service motion should just be "automatic" and you end up thinking about what to do after you serve rather than worrying about your service mechanics.

    However, there is one thing that I did do that helped me out with my split steps, maybe it'll work for you as well.

    Try to keep a light jump, either with both feet or alternating from one foot to the other. If you watch the pros, they often do this when preparing to return a serve. First of all, this keeps your feet moving, and an already moving pair of feet are always quicker to react than a static one. Secondly, this motion helps loosen/relax your muscles and will greatly increase your reaction time. As you keep this jump going, just keep your eyes on the ball, AT ALL TIMES, and your body will react automatically, trying to chase down the ball wherever it may be.

    Notice that I emphasize on keeping your eyes on the ball simply because sometimes, your mind will wander and even though you're staring in the direction of the ball, you're actually just staring at the blank space in the vicinity of the ball. That or maybe I'm just retarded and I'm the only person that does this =|
     
    #51
  2. BounceHitBounceHit

    BounceHitBounceHit Legend

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    If you had to pick between a bit too soon or a bit too late, I'd go too soon for now. This also prevents 'over-closing' when approaching the net, which (especially at our age) renders you MUCH more vulnerable to the lob. :) BHBH
     
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  3. Bungalo Bill

    Bungalo Bill G.O.A.T.

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    But split-step with timing as your main lesson. If you are sinking in your feet when you do it, you are doing it too soon. If the ball is headed towards you and then you do it, you are too late. Bottom-line is you will get it. It is only about timing and not about whether you can split-step or not.

    You want to be able to split-step and almost immediately move to the ball. This means you are on your toes or the balls of your feet for a very short period of time. I mean it is like a blink of an eye fast.

    Time the down swing of the player and work from there until you feel you are moving fluid with the direction of the ball. Don't be afraid to think outside of the box if you are not getting the timing.

    Sometimes it helps for players to think of a sound when they are split-stepping. Such as thinking of someone making a clap with their hands. As soon as the opponent hits the ball, they have timed that to coincide to a clap sound in their heads. So as the person is moving his hands together, you perform your split-step and sort of land at the sound before moving.

    Anything that will help you with the timing is A-okay.
     
    Last edited: Dec 28, 2009
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  4. Ripper014

    Ripper014 Hall of Fame

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    Either way you are in trouble... to soon and you are flat-footed and will be late reacting to the ball... to late and you have the same issue... you are in the air when you need to be reacting to the ball.

    Like BB said... you will pick it up, it is a natural thing to do... and will come easy to you if you have any athletic ability.
     
    #54
  5. TheLama

    TheLama Banned

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    Nadal doesn't split-step on clay, or very rarely. Many clay court players do not. All you need to do is to look at how far up their legs that you see clay; the higher the dust goes, the less they split-step.
     
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  6. BounceHitBounceHit

    BounceHitBounceHit Legend

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    Good stuff. Precisely what I was trying to communicate but better said. :) BHBH
     
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  7. BounceHitBounceHit

    BounceHitBounceHit Legend

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    Agreed. But learning anything is a process. We rarely start out with the perfect 'anything'. I think the timing is THE KEY, as BB pointed out, and if (in the process of learning the skill) an error it to be made, especially at the lower levels of play where the ball simply isn't moving as fast or with nearly so much spin as at higher levels of play, too early is preferred (as a FIRST APPROXIMATION of the skill) over too late. :) Happy Holidays, BHBH
     
    #57
  8. bad_call

    bad_call Legend

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    yup, me too.
     
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  9. Power Player

    Power Player G.O.A.T.

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    One thing I thought about when working with a real good player this weekend. What is your Ready Position like? If you think about that and get it right ( I am in a western grip, so racquet face down, knees bent) then the Split comes out of that. So the first thing I think about after I hit the ball is to get to my ready position for the next shot. This gets you out of the habit of admiring shots and makes the split step a lot easier.
     
    #59
  10. larry10s

    larry10s Hall of Fame

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    here are some things that helped me get the timing of the split . you know the bounce hit drill well i use bounce split. when the ball bounces in there side i would say bounce and as they were coming foward with their swing i would say split so that i was going up as they made contact. in serve and voll ey i would come in wathch the ball land say bounce and at the appropiate time say split. when the timing is right the feling of landing and springing to the ball has to be felt. once you feel it you will knoww when your timing is off. when at the net in doubles split stepping has helped me be more ready to handle balls and go for balls . its improved my attittude ito expect the ball is coming to me and wanting the ball. hope this helps
     
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  11. TheLama

    TheLama Banned

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    Your ready position should be anything that puts your knees in the best bent position after your split-step landing to allow you to push-off in the direction of the on-coming shot, with the adequate shoulder rotation to optimally time the ball at your discretion, without being hurried, once you get there.

    The first thing that you get ready for AS YOU HIT YOUR SHOT--for you should know your subsequent ball quality and it's effect on your opponent immediately in you hand--is your opponent's possible answers, which should be clear to you after the warm-up and 3-4 games. You should by then know what he/she is capable of and what his/her predilections are. Then, you position your body accordingly, so that when you do split-step, you will be optimally positioned to reply.
     
    #61
  12. Cindysphinx

    Cindysphinx G.O.A.T.

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    OK, I worked on it today in a clinic. Pro wanted us to follow our first shots to the net.

    My partner and I started off playing very badly. Footwork was the obvious culprit. I suggested that we both say "Split" when the opponent was hitting, hoping this would remind us to split. It was helpful. If I forgot to split, my partner's saying "split" would remind me of my omission. We played better doing this, no question.

    Boy, it is really hard to remember to split with everything else that is going on. :( Oh, well. Try again next time, I suppose.
     
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  13. larry10s

    larry10s Hall of Fame

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    if you concentrate on the split step for a while it becomes automatic. you have a foundation on your strokes . just split and hit your shot instead of thinkg about "how" to hit your shot. even if you do this for part of your practice i think you will see a big difference. its not as hard as it sounds.
     
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  14. mikeler

    mikeler G.O.A.T.

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    When I took lessons growing up, my coach would only let me focus on one thing at a time. So if I was working on a split step he told me if you hit the ball over the fence I don't care. Just focus on one thing at a time and try not to get overwhelmed with trying to think about too many things at once.
     
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  15. TennisCoachFLA

    TennisCoachFLA Banned

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    Cindy, its not all that. Just relax. With little kids we can use simple verbal reminders. In a few lessons a 5-6-7 year old does it automatically. Adults and seniors we teach are not blank slates so we go to the next step, yet still simple. Name it in your own words and write it down.

    Each adult relates to a little different name....ready hop, slit step, bunny hop, little jump...or any little old name that makes you remember and maybe even smile. After all the little hop is to relax and balance the player.

    Get 2 white wristbands, right bunny on one, hop on the other. Or whatever name you want to use to name what you do.

    Within 1-2 sessions after naming the split step in their own words and writing it on their wrist bands, every player I have seen, from 19 to 68 was doing it automatically. Its a pretty common habit to glance at your grip and wrist bands between each point anyway.

    And don't get hung up on the exact timing. There is room for variation in recreational level tennis, some hop higher, some hop later. In rec tennis it isn't all that crucial, you have time. The hop will just get you balanced and relaxed and ready to move to the ball.
     
    Last edited: Dec 29, 2009
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  16. Cindysphinx

    Cindysphinx G.O.A.T.

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    ^OK, you're on.

    I will show up on Saturday with "split" written on my white wristbands in Sharpie.

    I used to do something similar when giving speeches. I would write the word "Slow" all over in random places, as I tend to speak too quickly. It really does work.
     
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  17. Bungalo Bill

    Bungalo Bill G.O.A.T.

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    This has already been said, why repeat it. Or maybe you just borrowed the tip and rephrased it. The split-step most people know how to do. It isn't hard to do. The timing of it? Some people DO have a hard time with it and it needs to be practiced. If you have ever coached you would know this.

    Again, already said. Already known. Have no idea why you are repeating things that have been said. Many people learn how to do the split-step by learning how to hop-scotch for goodness sakes!! lol

    It doesn't need to be this weird. A simple cadence does the trick and players do not need to look like fools with wrist bands on their wrists with one named "Bunny". :)

    All of us have agreed that the split-step is about timing because it is. All of us have agreed that it needs to be practiced because it does. All of us have provided all the insight needed to understand and perform a split-step.

    It is as simple as "RACQUET READY, WAIT FOR THE DOWN SWING, RISE, SPLIT, AND GO!"

    Don't get hung up about the timing? Did I read that right? LOL!!

    In "rec" tennis it isn't all that crucial? Perhaps the split-step is not at the Moon Ball level, however, if a player wants to improve using the split-step why not teach it right?? To say timing isn't important wiht the split-step is the biggest lie there is around here. So, do you even know how to do a split-step? LOL

    The split-step is all about timing. The split-step is about unwieghting yourself so that you can move in a any direction. It is all about timing and is used to help a player get a jump on the ball.

    And this some hop higher is also false and some hop later is false. The split-step is a timing step. It is timed to the swing of the opponent whether it is a serve, groundstroke, or coming in for a volley. Because the split-step is performed in a SPLIT-SECOND, a player does need to time their split-step to get a good jump on the direction they want to go in.

    This is the typical I have no clue what I am saying coaching tip. To tell a player to not get hung up on timing is irresponsible coaching.
     
    Last edited: Dec 29, 2009
    #67
  18. TheLama

    TheLama Banned

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    The best way to work on split-stepping is to just hit for rhythm, concentrating on split-step, hit, recover, and then split-step again to start the sequence over again. Make sure to hit at a pace where you cannot miss. If you recover before you need to split-step, just dance in-place until just before contact to do so.

    Try:

    • Rallying DTM
    • FH CC
    • IOFH/BH CC
    • One player in the baseline corner, running the other side2side
     
    #68
  19. Bungalo Bill

    Bungalo Bill G.O.A.T.

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    Excellent advice especially hitting at a pace that is relatively easy so it is easier to focus on one's timing.

    Timing is the key to the split-step not the split-step itself. Rhythm is very important.
     
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  20. Bud

    Bud Bionic Poster

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    You don't really want to be split-stepping at the exact moment your opponent is striking the ball... it should happen just before... after the ball bounces on their side but before they strike it (to give you some sort of tangible marker for timing it).

    I think of it like this... I hit the ball to the opponent... depending on where I choose to hit the ball, I then move into the optimum court location for their 'best' (i.e. highest percentage) return... within the time I have available.

    So, when I identify where exactly my ball is going and how my opponent is set up to return the ball back to me... I split step. The split step occurs at about the time the ball bounces and they've committed to the shot... but before they strike the ball. Again, keep in mind, I've already moved to (approximately) the best possible return location... based on my shot and my opponents court position as they prepare to strike their return.

    So much of it is just feel and experience. I've noticed that when I'm 'in the zone' it all falls into place just perfectly.

    You'll also notice that when you're playing a junk-baller... or playing 'low percentage' tennis... the split step can be more difficult to implement and time, since you'll be out of position more often... and will be hitting more of your return shots on the run. For example... if your opponent hits a shot deep into your ad court from their ad court... and you choose a low-percentage return... like going for a flat shot down the line to their deuce court... if your opponent reads what you're about to do... they are going to then hit it deeply back cross court to your deuce court... leaving you little time to do anything but hit the ball on the run.
     
    Last edited: Dec 29, 2009
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  21. Spinz

    Spinz New User

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    There is so much good advice in this thread already.

    If you are a visual learner, maybe it would help you to watch some movement drills before you go to play. Here's an example:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cjxwYMsq7JA

    I learned to play before youtube etc. but when video came out, we used to tape pro matches and watch a bit before practice or matches.
     
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  22. Cindysphinx

    Cindysphinx G.O.A.T.

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    You know, this is a doubles problem.

    I think I could play singles and rally with anyone here (if I could keep the ball in play!). I would have no trouble with the split step. In singles, it is easy. And it is easy to remember. I know where I plan to hit the ball, how much time I will have to recover before opponent hits it, and where opponent will be when she hits it.

    The problem in doubles is that I don't know where the ball is going until it gets there. In other words, my partner may be behind me while I am at net. I don't know where she is going to hit the ball or which opponent might reach it. If she hits it deep, no problem. Split when opponent is hitting.

    What if she hits it to the net player or the net player starts moving to poach, though? You time your split step the same way, but it is very easy to get surprised and "forget" to split. This is especially a problem when the ball is coming at you from a good volleyer.

    Maybe I've been focusing on the wrong thing, then. My problem isn't really that I "forget" to split. It's just that the distraction of all of the movement in doubles coupled with the uncertainty as to when the ball will be struck and by whom makes it harder to get good timing. Which may be why you see so many rec players standing flat-footed at the net.

    Ya think?
     
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  23. larry10s

    larry10s Hall of Fame

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    yes when your partner hits the ball within reach of the net player you get your clue from watching th net player move and his eyes as he sees an attackable ball. still when YOU see the ball on his side oif thew net you shoukd still have enough tin=mne to spj=lit when he hits most of the time
     
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  24. Bud

    Bud Bionic Poster

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    You're correct... it's definitely a different rhythm in doubles. I make sure my feet are constantly moving so I stay alert (even slightly bouncing). You don't want to be caught flat-footed in doubles.

    Since the doubles dynamics are completely different than singles... there isn't always the opportunity to 'split step'... After you or your partner send the ball over the net, you should move to the most likely return location and set yourself in the ready position, balanced and able to move quickly in any direction (which is the purpose of the split-step).

    I definitely don't 'split-step' the same in doubles and singles.
     
    Last edited: Dec 29, 2009
    #74
  25. fruitytennis1

    fruitytennis1 Professional

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    The one and only real answer is playing on the courts alot
     
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  26. bad_call

    bad_call Legend

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    wow...that vid can teach me a thing or two. think i would need a bottle of oxygen nearby.
     
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  27. TheLama

    TheLama Banned

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    The rhythm in doubles is such that you must be moving in sync with your opponents racquet/ball contact, the ball, and your partner. Don't ever let your heels touch the ground and constantly keep moving. You still need to split-step; you just don't leave the ground as high. Try watching the line in the air that the ball draws. It is a different way of watching the ball, and tends to slowdown time. Perhaps that will help.
     
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  28. mikeler

    mikeler G.O.A.T.

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    Yep, doubles you literally have to stay on your toes. Your split steps need to be short and sweet.
     
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  29. Bud

    Bud Bionic Poster

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    I'd like to see the girl in this video actually play some real points. We'll see if all this (obviously well-practiced) complex instruction helps or hurts her game.
     
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  30. Cindysphinx

    Cindysphinx G.O.A.T.

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    That side-to-side bouncing thing looks useful. It does seem like a lot of energy and movement, though. And I don't see pros doing that.
     
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  31. larry10s

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    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r5qdFJ93j_s
    watch even when hes relaxed he still shuffles his feet and split steps before his unit turn.( my pet peeve is when i started playing they didnt teach the split step as the FIRST move in preparation. instead the unit turn was taught)
     
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  32. TheLama

    TheLama Banned

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    Any decent coach was teaching the split-step before the unit trun--a Jack Groppel term--way back in the early '80's. And before Groppel coined the term, all good coaches taught to split-step as long as I can remember in the '60's. I'm sure older players than I were taught to do so as well.
     
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  33. Kostas

    Kostas Semi-Pro

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    Cindy - I was going to play with you because I know you watch the Tennis Channel all the time and I saw one of their OMC's last night about the split step.

    I went to the website but they don't have that one listed...

    :)
     
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  34. crystal_clear

    crystal_clear Professional

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    Don't give up Cindy. You are on your way to form the muscle memory for Split Step.
     
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  35. crystal_clear

    crystal_clear Professional

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    What is DTM? IOFH? I don't get it.
     
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  36. Kostas

    Kostas Semi-Pro

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    Down the Middle and Inside-Out Forehand
     
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  37. bad_call

    bad_call Legend

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    IMO if a player can move their feet like that then footwork wouldn't be an issue.
     
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  38. larry10s

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    maybe i didnt get it:oops: its taken a long time to correct
     
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  39. TheLama

    TheLama Banned

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    Rallying: (DTM)...Down The Middle
    FH CC....Forehand Cross Court
    IOFH/BH CC.....Inside-out Forehand/Backhand Cross Court
     
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  40. Bud

    Bud Bionic Poster

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    Yes, and why I'd like to see her translate that movement into a real match. It's obviously well-rehearsed and video-ready. Now, let's see the rubber hit the road :)
     
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  41. skiracer55

    skiracer55 Hall of Fame

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    What they said...

    ...in addition, consider the following:

    - Before you think about how to split step or how to make it automatic, think about why you split step. There are really two reasons:

    - First, so that you recenter your stance and balance so you can move either way. What if you already seen which way the passing shot is coming? Guess what...you don't have to split step! However...

    - Reason #2 is that it's also important to recenter/reblance yourself so that you can step into the volley rather than run through it, which usually produces a miss hit. The split step, or something like it, therefore, helps you set up or prepare for the volley.

    So where does that leave us? Well, consider the following:

    - I, too, was having a problem with the split step when Dave Hodge was coaching me. I'd run, run, run, and split stop...clomp!...and come to a dead stop, then try to restart. Then I realized that you're not try to come to a stop, you're trying to slow down, gather yourself, then step into the volley...but it all needs to be part of a continuous movement pattern, and the feet have to keep moving.

    It's a lot like playing hop scotch. You have to make the single-footed steps and the double-footed steps, but since the idea is to get through the steps the fastest, you have to keep moving...it's just at the double steps you
    s l o w down your rhythm, then pick it up again in the single steps. So think about continuous steps, changing your rhythm at the split step, then changing it again as you step into the volley. I'd strongly recommend getting Pat Etcheberry's footwork DVD, because he has you working footwork patterns, not single steps....

    - In general, don't think, just do. I just finished reading Open, and one of the cool things was something Steffi told Andre when he was struggling with his tennis and essentially overintellectualizing it. "Just feel what you're doing" she said, or words to that effect. Tennis, like skiing, like a lot of sports, is essentially a feel sport. Feel what your feet are doing on the court, feel what the ball is doing on the racket face, and a lot of things will sort themselves out without a lot of conscious thought.
     
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  42. TheLama

    TheLama Banned

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    Yes, but at that level, everything is automatic.

    I frequently say the same thing to all of my players, but they are also between 5.5-7.0. Talking about "feel" to solve problems always comes first.

    However, if I work with a lesser player, there is need for a breakdown of technical info and much drilling to make it automatic, so that someday, when they get better, they can "feel".
     
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  43. Cindysphinx

    Cindysphinx G.O.A.T.

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    OK, I did 2 hour practice session with another lady today. I did what was suggested on this thread. Here's how it went.

    I got two white wristbands and a sharpy. I wrote "split" on the reverse side of them (no sense ruining perfectly good wristbands, right?). Trouble is, I've never written on terrycloth before, and the first one wasn't very clear. When I put them on, one of them said "split" and the other one looked more like "sh*t." Great. Just great.

    Anyway, I did find the wristbands helpful. I couldn't help seeing them before and after points. I think I will keep using them for a while. So thanks for that suggestion!

    I also did the pendulum footwork in the video one of you posted, albeit with less vigor than the lady in the video. That was really helpful and seemed to require less energy than random movements or bouncing around. It was easy to stop that movement with a split than to try to split right out of the blue.

    The most helpful thing, though, was that I *thought* about nothing but footwork for 2 straight hours. And I noticed some things:

    1. I stop moving my feet during a rally much more often than I would have thought. Yikes.

    2. When I hit a dodgy shot -- one close to the lines, one really deep, one with weird spin, a horrid floater that is going to get spanked -- I hesitate before recovering, or tend to get flat-footed, or tend to watch my shot. Utterly unhelpful.

    3. The movements (or pendulum stepping) or recovery movements are just as important as the split step. It's like the split step is just one piece of a whole chain of things for effective movement. By itself, the split step doesn't achieve much. In conjunction with a good recovery and non-stop footwork, the split works beautifully in helping me achieve the goal of Overall Readiness To Play The Next Shot.

    4. When I was fatigued, the first thing to go was the footwork while the ball was on the way to my opponent.

    Again, thanks to all who commented. Maybe I'll get this sorted sooner rather than later. Next up -- doubles practice this weekend!
     
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  44. Cindysphinx

    Cindysphinx G.O.A.T.

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    Thanks, BB. I appreciate your previous post. Very nice.
     
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  45. Bungalo Bill

    Bungalo Bill G.O.A.T.

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    Hey, you're very welcome. Hope it works out for you. Happy New Year!
     
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  46. TheLama

    TheLama Banned

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    One thing that I did not mention regarding split-step timing and good movement:

    Your feet should be moving just as hard after contact to recover, as you did moving to hit. Additionally, as your ball is traveling to your opponent, you should be "dancing in-place", if you've already reached your optimal recovery position, and your opponent as not yet begun his/her swing to initiate your subsequent split-step process. It is very important for good rhythm.
     
    #96
  47. Bungalo Bill

    Bungalo Bill G.O.A.T.

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    Very true indeed.Don't dwell, keep moving.
     
    #97
  48. Cindysphinx

    Cindysphinx G.O.A.T.

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    Yeah, that's where the pendulum step was helpful. It felt like I was doing this pendulum step thing, and it felt natural to stop when the opponent was about to hit. And the easiest way to stop was a split.
     
    #98
  49. TheLama

    TheLama Banned

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    I looked back at the previous posts, because I am unfamiliar with the "pendulum step"--I assume that you mean dancing-in-place, side2side, from one foot to the other--which is what is always done at the highest level, especially in women's tennis.

    As I looked at the previous posts, I saw that one poster mentioned jumping rope. Now I usually don't coach its use--because I almost exclusively work with male players and the ball speed is such that there never is any lag time--but of the three high level women's players that I coached who were in the Top 100, all had awesome footwork, and they all jumped rope, especially the one who was the best doubles player of the three.
     
    #99
  50. Cindysphinx

    Cindysphinx G.O.A.T.

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    I called it "pendulum step" for lack of a better term. That side-to-side thing is something we used to do back in the 1980s in those Jane Fonda aerobics classes.

    I don't know what you mean about jumping rope. Do you mean basically bouncing in place, with the split being the last bounce? If so, I would have more trouble with that, as there isn't as clear a demarcation between the jump rope step and the split as there is between the pendumlum step and split.

    See what I mean?
     

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