Anniversary of 10 years of wasted lessons

When I was young I played a lot of tennis. I wasn't the biggest talent of the country but skilled enough to beat plenty of other kids when playing for points, I had over 2 hours of lessons per week which I benefited from (I think). Unfortunately at the age of 13 I decided to quit.

In the 2nd half of my period at college I decided to pick tennis up again. I was motivated so I played a lot and took lessons as well. You might expect me to be a good medium club player. Unfortunately this is not the case. This year is the 10 year anniversary of my period of lessons which unfortunately taught me almost NOTHING.

My first session of tennis lessons 10 years ago was at my college sport center. The coach wasn't the best player in the area, in fact it was not rare some players could already beat him after one or two series of his own lessons. But his lessons were good enough for re-starters or real starters.

The year after that I decided to took another session with him. I knew I wouldn't benefit from these lessons but it might be a good chance to meet other people.

The years after these 2 series of lessons I took lessons from 3 female coaches. These lessons were offered to us by the club. They were not full time coaches, for them it was a part-time job. However they were talented as a kid and trained with other highly talented junior players of which some of them even became (semi) pro. As an adult these 3 coaches belong to the best female players of the club and one of them was even top 100 of the country. So when you have lessons with these girls as a coach you expect a lot!

The first girl (the top 100 girl) was good. So could see I was holding my stick the wrong way while standing on the opposite side of the other court. I was impressed. The other 2 girls however where disappointing. You get the usual drills and some other things you wonder what you benefit from. One day one of the girls saw me struggling in a clay court match at a club. During one of the breaks she came to me and said "you have to hit topspin, you have to hit topspin, it is easy". Topspin? Topspin? You never taught me how to hit topspin! These 2 girls were so good as a junior but gave bad lessons, how was that possible. Possibly a lack of motivation.

So because the improvement stagnated I decided to go to a professional tennis school. The school was founded and run by a former top 10 player of my country and the coaches at these school where licensed by the national tennis association. The first series of lessons was with 3 males who were much older than I was. For them these lessons where for fun, for social chat, for beer after the lessons, to become better at doubles. A huge gap with my motivation to hit a heavy solid bass-line game.

This didn't help either so I found someone at my club who was motivated as well and we took a series of private lessons at the same tennis school. Finally something was happening and I was pointed on the things missing in my game. One of the useful tips I received: you have to stand still at moment of hitting. Perfect tip and in fact confirmed by what I see by the pros. These pros are running around on the court but when they hit they stand perfectly still. I applied it during the training and it definitely worked. Things became even better, I received another great tip: early take back of your racket. The coach spotted I was always way too late so she mentioned it. This also worked very well. No one told me this before, at least I couldn't remember anyone did which is IMO a sign of bad coaching! No one told me to stand still when hitting neither.

My friend went to another part of the country so I found another guy to take lessons with. However he was on a tight budget so we just took about 3 - 4 lessons with some very good coaches. One was a semi pro, she had lot of great things to say about tennis however as I just received 2 lessons I forgot the things she said. There was also another coach, he was young just like us and was a very good club player. I remember one tip he gave me: when hitting a forehand make sure your elbow makes a maximal radius. Maybe a good tip, but very difficult to apply.

At this moment I was at my best I think. I was a medium club player and to make it more quantitative, I was at the median of all players in the country. Was I good because of the few good tips I received or just because I played a lot of matches for points all these years? I don't know, I was at the median and I was happy because of that.

After this some years without lessons followed. I didn't play as much and I lost the feeling. I lost against people I would normally easily beat. I was highly disappointed, how could my game drop so low because of not playing that much? I used to be at the median and I was going back to the lower 25% of players in the country. Not fun when you used to buy complete tennis outfits from the gift coupons you won at tournaments.

One year ago I was really convinced my game wasn't there what it used to be so I decided to took lessons ... at the college sport center ... again (another college this time). I played horribly, I used to be much better but hey, these lessons might raise my game to what it used to be. NOT! The female coach was not good. Some drills and the usual stuff. At one moment she made the remarkable statement: "you all have a good forehand, so we do not need to practice it". A good forehand? You are talking to low ranked club players, some of us might hit some good shots when not playing for the points but to say we have a good forehand to compete against (weak) medium ranked club players: absolutely not! How could she say this. Unbelievable. Again: wasted lessons.

So this year I opted for the most serious approach you could think of. I decided to make a one week visit to a tennis-school which is also frequently visited by ATP and WTA pros. Boy my expectations were high! After these lessons I should sky rocket up the rating. So I took 10 hours of lessons with some other guy. When these lessons where over I unfortunately found out I learned almost nothing! Well, nothing my game seriously benefitted from. The focus during these 10 hours was on hitting a lot of balls, not on hitting balls properly. That week I hit a billion of balls but I didn't break a single string. This is really a sign something went terribly wrong. I did receive some tips but imo these tips were useless.

Highly disappointed, when playing for the points I still didn't play as well as I used to play. As a result I was close to a final quit with tennis.

However, during a few matches, which I won, I (re)discovered some things my game greatly benefited from:
  1. Early take back of the racket. This was what one of the coaches told me long long time ago. That good habit had slept out of my game during the years. I started applying it but this time with full conviction and my game really benefited from this.
  2. Turn your shoulder to the opposite side. In other words: make a full unit turn with the line trough your shoulder pointing to the opposite side of the court. Somehow I knew I had to do this for a long time. However I never did it because there was no need for: I was winning matches without turning my shoulders. Maybe one of my coaches has mentioned it once. But it should have been drilled IMO. In fact, for a full unit turn it is best to try to put your shoulder to your chin, a golden tip I found on this board some years ago. In the past I applied it now and then giving me instant winners. The full unit turn is also confirmed by what I see the pros doing on TV.
  3. Use a semi western grip. I used to play with an eastern grip. I know this because I always had the bent my wrist when playing topspin. However I spotted this year I was playing with a semi western grip. Really great for a solid baseline game. Again it is confirmed by most pros who play semi western. Again: coaches never talk about this. The top 100 girl mentioned my grip height, not the angle. It is unbelievable most coaches do not talk about grip.
So I now I am playing better than ever and some opponents really were blown off the court. Not a single moment I think about quitting, but not because of the lessons I received unfortunately. (you wonder why standing still at moment of hitting is not mentioned in the list at #4: because I do not need it yet. The current 3 tips are good enough for me at the moment)

2 weeks ago I was watching some low ranked players at my club receiving lessons from a good/top club player. One guy hit a very poor ball. I immediately saw why the shot was so poor. However the coach had another explanation. The poor shot was followed by the coach saying out loud "you have to hit the ball in front of you!!!". Well, the low ranked player definitely didn't hit the ball in front of him. However that is NOT why the shot went wrong. The shot was so poor because the player took back his racket way too late. Then you will never be able to hit the ball in front of you. But when you desperately try too hit the ball in front of you without an early take back you put yourself in a very complicated situation. So instead of focusing on hitting the ball in front of you the low ranked player would have highly benefited from the early take back advice. When you do an early take back of your racket you will automatically hit the ball in front of you, one thing leads to another (well most of the time). However the coach unfortunately didn't gave him this advice. A missed opportunity.

We are talking about easy knowledge, why is it shared so poorly!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?
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Hall of Fame
There are several fundamental problems. First the game is too fast for the human eye to record accurately. You are also talking about a game with 8 strokes with a variety of different grips and an unlimited number of variations in the shot paths, spin levels, and velocity. Second all sports learning is a matter of seeing and feeling--visual and kinesthetic. Yet you've got the teaching pro 78 feet away with a basket giving verbal "tips." Many or most of these "tips" don't correspond to reality and often don't reflect what the teacher himself does--cause guess what? He learned sub verbally by seeing and feeling. If you can't--and only a small majority can--assimilate technique based on osmosis you have a problem. Especially if you take what the teacher says seriously. You might spend years faithfully attempting to follow instruction that is either inaccurate or ineffective in activating the actual key elements in the strokes.


Here is a free tip: your plant foot, should always be sideways, on bh or fh towards the side fence. Why? Coils your shoulders better, so your wrist does not have to adjust for a forwards (towards the net) plant foot. Provides a more stable base for fewer ues. Increases confidence that you can make shots even under difficult times. Allows you to focus on which small part of the ball you are going to hit, as it becomes automatic. Right side/left side for cc shots, and more in the middle for dtl shots.

Sideways plants also allow: easier chinning : placing your shoulder to your chin. Better torso rotation. That doesn't mean you hit step sideways, as you would on the dead run out to an alley. YOur hit step should be towards and into the shot.
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Hall of Fame
We are talking about easy knowledge, why is it shared so poorly!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?
Excellent question. I believe your journey has been shared by many. The situation is even worse in golf. At least you get a good workout from a tennis lesson.

Tennis (and golf) are generally taught by good athletes who learned the game as kids. Teaching unathletic adults is difficult for them, because so much of what is instinctive to them is not to the student. Add to that the fact that a lot of coaches have erroneous understandings of what is happening in strokes or how to produce a stroke.

The thing that really irks me is when I see a coach feeding a poor player and allowing them to repeat the same technique flaw over and over, thereby ingraining it. That kind of lesson is actually a detriment. That might actually be a good test to use when evaluating a new coach. Don't turn your shoulders, prepare late, stand flatfooted, etc, and see how many of them get picked up and corrected. Or if you are just fed balls and told to "step into it" and "hit through the ball."

I also believe a lesson that does not involve some video analysis is a ripoff. Seeing yourself make a mistake on video and comparing it to a proper movement is invaluable. No excuse for your coach not to do it.


Hall of Fame
It's not easy, not well understood. You can't share what you don't "know." And retro is one million percent correct about video. You can shot 240 frame video on an iphone now.


Bionic Poster
Best way to is post video here and get advice from expert coaches like leeD, chas tennis, and sick animaly.


It's not easy, not well understood. You can't share what you don't "know." And retro is one million percent correct about video. You can shot 240 frame video on an iphone now.
It is disappointing, but, not surprising, how many coaches don't understand the basics of modern stroke production. Even many of those who execute it well themselves don't fully understand what they are actually doing, and, therefore, can't teach it to others except through visual demonstration, which does work well for some learners.


It is disappointing, but, not surprising, how many coaches don't understand the basics of modern stroke production. Even many of those who execute it well themselves don't fully understand what they are actually doing, and, therefore, can't teach it to others except through visual demonstration, which does work well for some learners.
such a good post here.....


Hall of Fame
You can also use a remote microphone with the iphone, and shoot in 720fps.
Do tell me more! 720?? That would be great for golf swings!

Oh, and I may have discovered something with iphone videos - or maybe somebody else has a better answer.

I used to be able to record a whole match with one of those "fence hangy thingies" and then upload it onto my laptop. About the time that did the most recent update to iphone operating system, my laptop stopped recognizing there being any video on the phone. I gradually came to understand that the laptop *did* recognize *some* videos, but not others. I *think* that I have determined that the videos have to be shorter than about 15 minutes in order for it to recognize them.

While I can manage to do some very basic editing of video on the laptop, doing it on the iphone is a whole nuther matter. I downloaded a free app to do it, but it didn't work worth a crap. After much googling and struggling, finally found that I can fumblingly chop up the video on the phone into shorter segments merely by going to the "photos" app that comes with the phone and clicking on the "hamburger" or "cheeseburger" icon (just learnt what that was): and going from there. Awkward, but gets it done by dragging the little yellow end thingies.

Oh, and my last iphone (6 plus) came with 64k - just enough for a tennis match. Oh, and if I want the recording to keep going during the match and not have an incoming call or text cause it to stop, then I need to remember to put it in "airplane mode". Oh, and it's good to hang the phone on the fence, record a few seconds, and then watch the video to see if you have it aimed properly - not only to get the maximum amount of court in view, but also to make sure that you don't have the phone facing backwards. Don't ask me how many times I've had to re-learn this last bit. :-(

Oh! And, IIRC, you can't do it in slo-mo if you use the "selfie" view, but which does allow you to get an idea from the field of play what the camera is recording.



It is disappointing, but, not surprising, how many coaches don't understand the basics of modern stroke production. Even many of those who execute it well themselves don't fully understand what they are actually doing, and, therefore, can't teach it to others except through visual demonstration, which does work well for some learners.
Completely agree, found that the best coaches were the ones that not only understood the mechanics but could also recognize whether their student preferred auditory, visual or kinesthetic learning. Each player is wired differently.

Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk


Hall of Fame
Being a good player doesn't make you a good teacher. Rather than lessons, if you don't have a good teaching pro available, use the internet and video yourself. Then compare and correct. It's free and much more productive than bad lessons.

Also, group "lessons" and group drills are largely worthless.