Discussion in 'Tennis Tips/Instruction' started by firstblud, Sep 6, 2007.
just curious as i've never tried them, nor have i seen them in person
Provided you have solid technique while using the ball machine, yes.
i've never used one either, but i'm assuming yes, because i'm pretty sure you can time it slowly enough so that you can concetrate on each hit. it's probably the next best alternative when you want to practice and there's no one to hit balls with. i'm thinking of investing in one.
Of course its helpful.
It gives you the same ball everytime so you can fine tune your swing or figure out whats wrong.
Is it worth having? Not really though, if you have a partner or a wall.
Absolutely helpful in developing your stroke.
Of course, provided you know what you're doing (with proper coaching, and full understanding of sound technique)
My ball machine is my fav training tool to refining and grooving any of my strokes.
95% of the time I turn off the "random" oscillator, and just have it feed me 200 balls in a row to the same spot, same speed, same spin.
I do this to "groove" my stroke (i.e. enhance muscle memory).
In addition to physically helping you train your movements, it also helps you improve your mental game by boosting your confidence. After hitting 100+ "winner" shots off the ball machine, you really start gaining confidence in "going for it" in a match.
imo, a good ball machine is the best solo tennis training aid. It's one of the best things you can do for your tennis game for those times when you don't have your coach around to feed you balls, or when you don't have any good quality hitting partners.
This is very true!
Doing some shadow tennis and then fine tuning with the ball machine is exellent if you have to do solo practise.
practice makes permanent
Well compared to other options, I think the ball machine sometimes is your best choice.
Here are my problems with each practice method
Hitting partner - If your or your partner's strokes are not already grooved, you will both be spraying balls everywhere and not hitting the shots you need to work on.
Wall - The bounce of the wall is always the same, plus you can't really determine placement.
Teaching Pro - Costs too much money, and sometimes availability isn't always there
Ball Machine - Too many balls to pick up since you can't hit multiple shots with the same ball. Renting one at a club is cheap, but buying your own is expensive.
To me the ball machine is the best way to practice without a teaching pro (assuming you don't already have a serious htting partner) because you can isolate the ball to come with exact spin, pace, placement to work on certain parts of your game. Today I basically spent 30 minutes feeding backspin balls to my backhand volley because I have major problems with hitting those in match play. Definitely is a helpful tool.
Personally I think the best tool for self-learning is a video camera, but that's just me. You make valid points for all the teaching aids though.
I bought a ball machine recently (I been playing tennis couple of years).
For practising, I found it better than hitting with a partner. Because unless your partner is really good, say, who can feed to your backhand consistently with proper spin and speed/depth.
The way I use it is, have the ossilator off, let the machine shoots to my forehand side (close to side line), I start at middle, when see balls coming run to my right and hit the ball, then run back to middle, and wait for next ball, and so on. This way you don't just stand right there waiting for the ball (because this is never the case in a real play). Backhand is similar. I usually do 200 forehand then 200 backhand, vice versa.
I think ball machines are horrible for developing strokes except volleys. First of all, a ball machine feeds you the same exact ball every time. same height ove the net, same pace, and no spin. YOu will never play anyone who gives you the same ball everytime in a match. Secondly, the ball machine doesn't give you time to recover like you would in a match. So, if you hit a high loopy ball deep in the court, it would take you oppenent time to hit the ball back, even if they took it out of the air. Finally, and MOST IMPORTANTLY, someone who is developing strokes does not want to be rushed. The focus of a developing player should be technique; they need to learn to hit their strokes correctly. A ball machine often takes time away from the player hitting the ball, causing them to rush and become tired. People often times end up practicing incorrect technique with a ball machine.
volleys are the only shot in the game that is meant to be a short motion. All you do it block the ball back, so a ball machine can be effective for practicing volleys.
Even if you think your strokes are already developed, I think you get much more benefit hitting with another player. You never see pro's or college players hitting with ball machines.
1. the machines usually have horizontal occilation, some also have vertical occilation, so it is not the same ball all the time.
2. you can adjust ball feed rate, thus u can rest. I don't get it when you say u can't rest.
3. if you got rushed and become tired, that is your physical condition. not the machine or the game's fault. in a real game, you could get tired after just 20 minutes of serious playing, depending on your fitness.
do most tennis courts have power outlets for you to plug them into? i'd feel silly to take it to my local park and it ends up having no outlet
I totally agree. it's very hard for a player to fix there own technique. Although there are very many talented and skilled teaching pros, many either don't know how to teach tennis correctly or are very smart, but don't know how to verbalize what they notice.
As far as the video cam, I work at a country club and notice that many members think they have beautiful, smooth, "federrer-like" strokes, when in reality many of them just chop at the ball at best. They'd be horrified to see themselves on video.
Most of the courts around me do, but check the area around the park and then bring out the machine if you'd like.
you don't need that. most ball machine models now have rechargable battery. and that is what I got. battery works for 2-3 hours.
For sure. I'm never pleased when I see myself on video, which is why I work harder each time I see myself. At the same time I do see progress too, which further reinforces my desire to improve. It's an amazing tool and I highly recommend it to those who can't afford to have regular private lessons.
people who tend to spend a lot of time playing the ball machine become only good at playing the ball machine and not very good at playing real people. ball machines are pretty good if someone has made a technique change and wants to ingrain the feel of how it works by hitting a volume of balls, but if someone is at a good enough level to have a good partner who hits a consistent ball, it is better to do that with a real person in drill format...it can also be good aerobically if worked in the right way..thats about it
By same ball everytime I really had spin and pace in mind. In one point a decent player will probably mix up there shots, maybe a couple heavy, loopy balls to the back hand, then a low skidding slice to the forehand, then a flat inside out and a volley. I could be wrong, but I don't know of any ball machine that can vary the spin and pace on a ball. also, the occilating machines have a pattern to them, so it's not hard to figure out where the balls going.
How many points have you played where you've even hit 15+ balls? maybe 3-5 points in an average match? People get lazy, ESPECIALLY someone who developing there strokes. For someone who's a 3.5 or below, they may start to rush they're shot and start practicing the incorrect technique.
I don't care what level you play at. Even the pro's are tired after a long rally. That's all you're doing on a ball machine, hitting the same ball, it might be in a different place, but it's still the same ball. just running side to side. It's would be much more effective just to run sprints.
That's what I was trying to say...
That old saying "practice makes perfect" should be changed to "perfect practice makes perfect". By this I mean, you have to know the correct technique first before you practice. Otherwise, you will just continue to do the same incorrect technique. A ball machine is simply a machine that feeds balls. Therefore, to answer the question, it depends. If what you mean by developing strokes is repetition of proper stroke techniques that you already know, sure. A ball machine would be very useful because you will get a fairly consistent ball to hit. The repetition will aid muscle memory. If you don't know the proper technique, you will be better off spending your money on tennis lessons.
On the flip side, it is a great tool for teaching. It allows me to focus on my student better. It is specially good for group lessons because it gives the students more balls to hit. It makes teaching so much easier and way less tiring.
I spend a lot of time on the ball machine when I want to improve one of my strokes.
I also regularly play real matches with real people.
The ball machine has absolutely 100% helped improve my game, technique, execution, and results when I play against "real people".
The ball machine is just a tool to help your game. It's not a magic pill or something. You have to know HOW to train with it properly to improve/develope your game.
If you don't know how to properly train with one, you will not get the most out of it. Those who think the ball machine is there to "simulate" a hitting partner, are only limiting it to the status of exercise equipment. Not "training aid" or "game development" tool.
A ball machine is just like my old coach who used to stand at the net with a hopper and feed me ball after ball, same location, same pace, same spin. The only thing missing is the verbal feedback. But at my level, I have had enough coaching in my 20+ years of playing to generally understand why/how to analyze my technique. What is wrong... how to fix... tips.. etc.
What I get most out of the machine is repetition, muscle memory, timing, instant visual feedback (e.g. how did the ball come off my racquet, did the ball land in the court, etc.), the ability to practice new strokes from different angles, etc.
Another person with recent experience with the ball machine. (Background: I'm 3.0, and I use it the day after a lesson to try to groove whatever we are working on).
I thought it was helpful. I turn the oscillator off and feed all balls up the middle. I adjust my position to the ball for forehand and backhand. I don't have it do anything fancy; I want to focus on good technique. I try not to pay much attention to where my ball goes, within reason. I keep the speed of the ball and spin to a minimum; I want all of my technique errors to be painfully obvious. I keep the interval between balls a bit long. My goal isn't to run myself ragged, it's to once and for all fix X problem and really think about what I'm doing.
I think it is outstanding for volleys. It is nigh on impossible to find anyone at my level who can sustain a rally of volleys, and volleying off of a wall is utterly unhelpful for me at my level. You can start close and gradually work yourself backward once you think your technique is correct.
Heck, I might go use the machine again next week!
yea thats fine you disagree even boldly like that, but i havent seen any ball machine people who can quantify that the ball machine helps their games, and <as i said> most of them get good at using the ball machine which is way different than hitting with a real live person. i make it a point to do a drill session with a quality opponent every week...this is much better than any ball machine. also, a previous poster mentioned, people often tend to ingrain bad habits with a ball machine...like anything, there can always be the occassional exception. i never derived a benefit out of the ball machine other than aerobically by making it a point to work it hard, but i can accomplish this very same thing with one ball and a wall....lets see...one ball = less than 1 dollar. a ball machine = many dollars. those many doillars are most usually better spent by getting some quality lessons. yes, i know you can rent a ball machine and there is nothing wrong with that if people like hitting ball machines, but a quality lesson is better
EDIT: Almost all the lessons I've given over the years to regular ball machine users are to people who have ingrained some bad habits which are very hard for me to undo, and they also have sloppy poor footwork. typically they cant handle variety in spin and ball depth very well at all, and some even complain that a live ball from a real person doesnt come to them right because it doesnt come to them like the machine. ') as i said, there can always be the exception...if it works for yuou, then good on you man
Sorry, but that is a problem with the user and how they choose to utilize the training tool, not the machine.
A ball machine is just a tool. Like all tools, you must first learn how to use it properly to get what you want.
If you wanted an aerobic work out, then you got what you wanted.
If you wanted to develope, refine, groove, your strokes, then you failed you utilize the machine properly. (i.e. operator error)
This thread is about whether or not ball machines are helpful in developing your stroke. Not about the economics of what you are willing to spend in order to train and improve your game.
Are tennis ball machines helpful in developing stroke? yes
Are tennis ball machines the cheapest way to practice? no
As I've mentioned in other threads on this topic, hitting against a wall is not comparable to using a ball machine. When you hit against a wall you never actually get a feel for where you're placing the ball within the court. I hit against a wall quite frequently because I work odd hours and don't have access to practice partners, so a ball machine would be wonderful to have.
Yes, a ball machine is great for practicing strokes.
EDIT: No one in this thread has ever said that using a ball machine completely replaces hitting with a partner. Some of you guys need to understand that not everyone has access to a hitting partner every time they feel like playing tennis. A ball machine is simply a tool used to better refine your strokes, and it accomplishes that task quite well. We all know that it can't perfectly replicate a human player, but neither can a wall and that doesn't stop it from being a good training aide. There is a reason why pros and high level juniors practice with ball machines; because they work.
If you don't know how to make a clean shot of the ball, and there is no one teaching you, don't use a ball machine. Go get a pro to teach you a lesson.
If you know how to make shot and you want to "groove" it, get the machine. unless you 5.0 already or playing with a 5.0 partner that can feed you like a machine.
You've obviously never used a high-end ball machine. It is not the same ball every time. There are many settings you can do such as changing the height, speed, direction, amount of backspin or topspin, feed rate, and you can have it alternate what setting to use each time it launches a ball. Then if you want to make more changes, halt the machine, fill it back up, and change the settings again.
I love the posts were people say the ball machine isn't very good for developing strokes, but a hitting partner is better. Please find me a 3.0 or even 3.5 hitting partner that can feed me balls to my forehand side more than 2-3 times without screwing up. Now a ball machine can serve me 200 balls without screwing up.
Bingo! Absolutely right.
So ball machine users are more likely to have bad habits than people who hit against hitting partners?
If they only use the machine at one setting, and never actually play against other humans, no wonder they can't handle variety. How does someone's inability to use the machine effectively make the machine a useless tool?
I have never heard of a ball machine that can do all that before. The most advanced ball machines I've seen merely occilate up and down and sid to side. I'd love to see one of these new ones.
A 3.0/3.5 hitting partner isn't a very good hitting partner. play with a better player, or get some lessons. do you think a 3.0-3.5 level player really knows what they're doing out there? (no offense to any 3.0-3.5 players). A 3.0-3.5 level player doesn't understand what it takes to play at a higher level. If they did, they wouldn't be 3.0's. Now how can someone who doesn't have a complete understanding of the game expect to improve it by themselves?
People need to understand that it's not about practicing hard, it's about practicing correctly.
You can learn proper form all by yourself with the help of a ball machine. I did it with a wall and they suck.
I took lessons from a pro for several months when I was a junior and it only served to hinder my progress. Different people learn in different ways. You may just have to accept the fact that a ball machine is not for you.
Didn't one of the top female players of the 80's or 90's learn to play by hitting against a wall? EDIT: I actually know that one did, I just can't think of who it was... Seles? Hingis?
I use a machine at my club that allows me to set 2 different configurations, and basically have it alternate between them in the pattern I choose.
Yes a 3.0/3.5 hitting partner isn't typically a good hitting partner. Playing at a high level requires hundreds or thousands of hours of practice, regardless of how much knowledge they have about the game. A 3.0 can learn alot through reading and playing/practicing but may not have put in the hours yet to play at a higher level. So I disagree with you on that point. Besides, why would a more advanced player want to waste their time practicing with a lower level player?
Why do so many people not understand the fact that not everyone is rich! Who the hell can afford $50-75/hour for good instruction?? Certainly not me, at the age of 26 and house poor.
I don't understand this belief that its impossible to improve without lessons. I get compliments all the time as a 3.0 to 3.5 player on my technique, despite it being all self-learned. I recently beat a 4.0 in a lucky match and he thought I had all the shots, just need to get more match experience to compete at that level.
I think many pro tennis players will say as a child they hit against a wall for countless hours, in addition to their training. I'm pretty sure Federer said he hit against the wall as a child, but I need to verify that.
A lot of people seem to think that tennis is somehow harder to learn than other sports on your own. It's a pretty easy thing to learn, all you need is practice. I picked up the game just fine by simply playing and watching pros and other people play. I think it's that elitist aura that tennis still has left over from bygone eras.
My opinion is that in tennis and other sports, anyone who is self taught is likely to have technical deficiencies. But lots of people who get lessons also have technical deficiencies.
I can't think of a single top pro who didn't have *a lot* of instruction, so I think this proves lessons to be quite valuable. In fact, I think one cannot reach one's potential without lessons. If someone can't get lessons for whatever reason, fine. But I think it is quite a leap to assume one can reach one's potential at much of anything without one bit of instruction.
Is it "impossible to improve" without lessons? Of course not. If the second ball you hit is better than the first, you have improved. The relevant question is whether you will reach your potential with no instruction at all. The answer, I think, is no.
But hey, we all have limitations, financial and otherwise. This is just a hobby, so it is not the end of the world if someone doesn't reach their potential. But that, IMHO, is the point of lessons: to help someone reach their potential, whatever that happens to be for them.
Regarding the ball machine, I can also confirm that top ball machines (the kind you rent at a club), can feed you any ball you want. The one I use has settings for topspin and slice, and a setting for interval of feed. There are five dials, each allowing you to direct the ball in one of five directions, plus a "random" setting. There is a two-way setting for height over the net, and one for speed.
how much did you pay for your ball machine? i want one.
Good post Cindy.
I've have been trying to change to the double bend forehand. I watch a good video segment "Restrung in 24 Hours" or go to Hi-TechTennis for a few minutes, then go out and hit on the machine for an hour. I've been satisfied with the results. I'll video myself when I start to feel overconfident...that should bring me back to earth.
It's great for learning how to hit the ball. Being fed balls, by a machine or a human, is incredibly helpful. People really should do it more. You get more out of 30 minutes of being fed balls than an hour and a half of hitting with a partner IMO.
The danger is that you try to hit the ball too hard. You should really try to concentrate and work on a rally ball, not hitting winners.
Also, like I said, it's good for learning how to hit but it's not necessarily good at teaching you how to play tennis. You need to play matches and points to learn that.
I bought a [SIZE=+1]Silent Partner PRO Programmable[/SIZE] - it was a 10 hour demo unit for around $1,100.
(these are sample photos from their website)
Here are some videos from the Silent Partner's website:
I love my machine, but there are other bands that are just as good too!
I would recommend:
for affordable, portable, battery operated, personal tennis ball machines.
There are other excellent ball machine bands as well, but they cater to Clubs rentals and are much more expensive, not portable, not battery operated, etc.
I wanted something that was portable, reliable, and can fire balls at me up to 85+ mph if I wanted to.
I still think that a DEVELOPING player shouldn't be using a ball machine. If you have solid dependable strokes, and you want to practice a certain shot, then go for it. However, often times (I'll admit there are expections, but very few) people using a ball machine feel that they need to get every ball back, and in turn, stop using correct technique in an effort to retrieve every ball the machine spits out. Then they start practicing incorrect technique.
first of all I do understand the fact that not everyone can afford to take lessons, being that I was in that position at one point. but when people were talking about buying a ball machine (which I'm pretty sure is $200+ at least) I assumed they could afford one lesson every week or two. I'm really sorry if I sounded snobby or condesending by saying that, I really didn't intend to.
Also, it really takes incredible athletic talent to train one's self in a sport like tennis where there's so many things going on at once. Think about a forehand for example:
First you need to decide whether you're going to hit off your right foot or your left foot. This depends on both the grip you choose to use and the ball that your opponent hits to you. Next you need to move to the appropriate spot in time to make contact with the ball. then you need to prepare to hit the ball. You clear your left hand out of the way, turn your hips, make contact with the ball in the correct place (depending on how high and how far in front of you you like to take the ball). While making contact with the ball you must make the appropriate adjustments to decide on the spin, pace, depth, arc, and placement of the ball. This happens in a second or two.
If people video tape themselves and compare their video to roger federrer, it's very possible that they could develope solid strokes but still very challenging.
but to watch federrer play, and then just go out and do it? that doesn't happen. Anyone who says that is either an outstanding athlete who has complete and 100% control over every part of their body or has no clue what they're doing. I think most of the people who just watch the pro's and try to play like them really have no clue what they're doing.
I guess all I'm saying is that in order to improve, you really need a second set of eyes. You cannot name one pro who has perfected their technique all by themselves without anyone else's help.
as I said earlier, many people have no idea what they look like when they play, they think they have very smooth strokes when in reality they don't.
That's one of the reasons I'm often times skeptical of how people rate themselves or how good they claim to be.
Finally, I think everyone who's played tennis can agree that reading about it or watching it on tv is completely different from going out there and actually doing it yourself.
I know how to use a ball machine. I'm a 5.0 and have been teaching tennis forever. I think they're better than nothing at all <sometimes>, but definitely in the realm of unecessary to play better tennis, and in many cases, people end up playing worse for the reasons earlier stated. I've seen this quite a few times by giving lessons to people who sspend a lot of time on ball machines and not enough time playing people.
I got lessons when I started playing. I would take the info from the lessons and ingrain it with my ball machine which I bought from the get-go. It allows me to isolate parts of my stroke and ingrain it.
The debate is a no brainer. Sure you need to hit with a humanoid. But a ball machine will help you improve faster with good coaching. It is simply a tool.
The only thing I find that is that your footwork does not get a good workout with a ball machine and you can get lulled into standing still when you start playing with a person again. But that only lasts a little while. Even with oscillation, you start kinda knowing where the ball will be spit out and start sneaking over there
I didn't think you sounded condescending, but I think too many people on this board are under the assumption that regular lessons are feasible by the people asking questions on this board, when often they are not because they are expensive. If you take one lesson a week at $50/hour, then its at least $200/month, which is alot for some like myself. Alot of clubs rent out ball machines as cheap as $10/hour like my club. I only use mine probably twice a month.
Anyways, I agree its hard to learn proper tennis by yourself, but it just takes a certain kind of person to do it. As far as myself, I have several books that I've read into to understand technique from the textual explanations. Then I compare what they are saying to what the pros do. Then I practice in slow motion in front of my TV or in front of a mirror. Then I take it to the tennis wall and try it with a ball. Then I play against real people. Sure if I wanted to play D1 or go pro, lessons are really the only way to go. But if I want to improve in adult rec leagues, I think I will do just fine with my methodology. I do get complimented from higher level players who understand technique, so I know I'm at least close to doing things right. I know there are things I can do better, so as long as I continue to find my own flaws, I will correct them and continue my path to improvement.
Hitting with a ball machine is good if you have a specific workout you are going to do. It's good to hit against the wall to work out ball contact issues. It's also good to hit against all different types and levels of players so you get court smart and ball smart. This helps you become a complete player. You just don't want to get stuck in one rut e.g. playing only 3.5 players, only hitting against a wall, or only using a ball machine, because you only will just get good at one specific thing. If you mix it up it's much better. One thing I do like about a ball machine, is that you can experiment with different grips and shots, work out your kinks, and not feel guilty about being inconsistent and frustrating some of your hitting partners. I know pros like Agassi used a ball machine.
ok, I see where you're coming from. that makes sense
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