Originally Posted by Wegner
[i]Ash, sorry for the delay. I consider footwork and foot movement synonymous. But I do know some patterns are very beneficial. And yes, they are essential at high level. I do coach them through drills, so the person can adjust them to be in tune with their own physique and very efficient as well.
Actually, it is the desire to be efficient that drives the player to look for simplicity and for the best way to use the forces in nature. For example, a child does not cross over the foot first to go to one side, or they would fall backwards, unless they lean into the new direction. What the child does is which is very efficient, they take the weight off the foot closest to the direction they want to move to, resulting in the center of gravity of the body "pulling" them in that direction. What many kids have but needs to be taught if not present, is an extra move to accelerate the start in that direction: sliding the leading foot outwards, together with some turn in the new direction, then the crossover as necessary. I state this simply for more clarity. No big words.
There are other situations, as in the volley, where this outside sliding foot aids net coverage. If you cross over as first reaction, you cover considerably less than if you slide the outside foot first, then step across or cross over. I usually teach the "footwork" or "movement" with drills, so I am guiding the player to select from his actions those which are more efficient and beneficial. It is a very interesting subject which I feel needs to be addressed intelligently, otherwise, if it is not aligned with nature, it makes the player slower (I have tested this extensively). Furthermore, if the player's mind gets clogged with thought about the feet, it traps attention units which should be used to focus on the ball, not the feet.
The point about emergencies. Preparing early can be misleading. Many players practice to react (prepare) fast all the time, even on a slower ball. If you react in this fashion to a slow ball, how would you react to a ball 4 or 5 times faster than the previous one? This does not promote coordination. The best technique is: slow for a slow ball, faster for a faster one, all coordinated. Since human beings tend to overreact, a player is better off with restraint than attempting to prepare as quickly as possible. The player learns a lot faster and is more efficient by waiting with the hands in front of the chest until the ball is near (tracking), finding the ball as if going to catch it, then taking a good swing, than by taking the racquet back early and swinging from all the way back.
Thank you for your questions and your patience.
thanks for that post, it helps me to understand your viewpoint.
i´ve seen lots of rec players with less than good movement over the years, so i have always strongly sympathized with your calling for natural movement.
usually the problem is either that players use inefficient steps to move, like only doing sidesteps on the baseline for example , or it is players taking the racquet back first and then starting any movement towards the ball. i´ve seen players trying to run down a drop shot with their racquet back wagging like the tail of a dog.
what i like about your post is, that you acknowledge the need for some drills and guiding players into certain movements that are beneficial.
i also like what you say about preparation, and that it depends on the speed on the incoming ball.
once you realize how much time you have to prepare, you can then take away time from your opponent by taking the ball early.