Ball machine etiquette?

#1
Ordered my silent partner ball machine! But something I'd like to ask.

Is it considered bad etiquette if you practice with the ball machine in a public court with adjacent courts that have no physical barrier (e.g. fence) between courts?

The court in my community has 3 courts side by side without any dividers, and during good weather days/evenings it is reasonable to assume at least one court will be taken.

I might not feel too bad if court 1 was being used and I use court 3 to practice with the machine while court 2 (middle court) is empty.

Taking up the middle court with the two side courts occupied feels iffy to me the most, and taking up a side court with the other courts occupied feels somewhat iffy as well but I may feel less bad if I direct my shots toward the side away from the other courts. This is assuming that balls will inevitably roll or bounce over to the next court from my machine practice and potentially disrupt play on those courts.

What do you guys think?
 
#2
I'd have to agree that hopping on the middle court for ball machine practice while the courts on the sides are in use isn't cool. At my club, ball machine use is only allowed on one of the end courts.
If I took my own machine to other courts with more than two courts in line, I'd follow the same rule. If someone came later and occupied the court next to me, they'd have to expect that there might be some errant balls rolling over to their side. If that was the case, I may do as you suggested, and turn the sweep off so that I'm just driving balls into the fenced corner.
 
#5
If your court isn't a fenced standalone court, or if your entire aisle of courts aren't dedicated to lessons for that time, then don't use it.

You'd be annoyed if you were playing/practicing, and you kept having balls either roll onto your court, or creep up behind you along the baseline.
 

jonestim

Hall of Fame
#6
Most of our outdoor courts are side by side with no curtain. If there is someone on the adjacent court I just hit cross court shots. Most of the time I have less balls roll into their court than they have roll into mine - maybe one every 15 minutes?

I wouldn't ever hit in a middle court.
 
#7
I think the question is about public courts, as indoor facilities usually have curtains.

I try to use my ball machine on those outdoor courts or during those hours when it is not likely that other people will be there. We are lucky to have many choices of outdoor courts in our area. When I am out of luck and other people are playing on one of the courts when I was hoping to use my ball machine, and for whatever reason I do not like the idea of trying other courts, I would ask if they are OK with it and would try to hit diagonally away from them, into a corner, to minimize or eliminate stray balls flying towards their court. This of course may interfere with what I planned to work on, but what can one do. I never had a case that someone would be against me using a machine. Many people come to courts with a bucket of balls to practice (even if they do not have a ball machine), so lots of balls on the court is not uncommon and people are used to it. Of course, if someone else is on the court with tons of balls already, I will just go elsewhere to avoid the headache of figuring out whose ball is whose.

If I got a court while adjacent court(s) were empty, I do not worry much about other people coming later. They see what is going on, I will do my best to not disturb them, of course, but if they chose to use the adjacent court despite the ball machine in use, it is their choice, i.e., they implicitly accepted the trouble of dealing with possible stray balls. They always have an option to go elsewhere. There are plenty of other courts within 5 mins drive time or less. I have fewer choices than they because I need to park close to the court to carry the machine, battery, balls, hopper, tripoid, and videocamera, so I feel that they can always go to courts which do not work for me.

I would definitely avoid using a court in the middle when there are more than 2 courts side by side without dividers. Too much trouble collecting balls, and no safe diagonal direction to prevent stray balls.

If I see really strong players on a court, I might consider going elsewhere as well, so that I do not mix up with their match.

My general strategy for summer is to either get to a court with a ball machine very early (like at 6 am, or whenever the sunrise is) before other potential players wake up, or go to work early, leave early, and go to a court like at 3 pm or 4 pm, to avoid busiest times which are typically 6 pm to 9 pm. If it is a weekend, I would try late morning or early afternoon. The fact that my ball machine is relatively quite helps if I chose to do it in the early morning - I do not feel like I would wake up local residents who live close to the court. During peak hours, I would not even think about using a ball machine as most courts will be occupied.

Most people who come to play tennis on outdoor courts, at least in our area, are people like I am, they are recreational players of not particularly high level who came to have fun. They are not bothered too much about balls accidentally rolling on their court, they are just hitting back and forth for fun, and some of them may have never seen a ball machine in operation and are curious to see what it does :)

So it is not too bad, but there are some constraints to be aware of!
 
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#8
Well, I ran into a situation my first time out with the machine where I had a side court, the middle court was empty, and a dad was hitting around with his elementary school looking kids.

Did as others have said, focused more on cross court away from the open court, and when balls did bounce funny off the fence or started to roll into the middle court, I stopped the machine and jogged over to stop it from rolling over to the occupied court - love the remote!

Didn't think about this before, but one reason why I wanted to be super conscientious of the balls rolling over (aside from etiquette), was because I wanted to make sure all my balls were accounted for since I paid good money for the Micro X balls, and I would not want them to get taken up randomly by the kids thinking it was their ball :laughing:
 
#9
By the way, the second part of the question is HOW to use the ball machine and for HOW LONG. I learned a lot from video lessons from Ian Westermann. He has a significant presence on Youtube ("Essential Tennis") but his best video lessons are sold through his web site, either as a part of the membership package, or on ad-hoc basis. I bought quite a few of them. He teaches to watch a technical video, then work on shadow strokes an slow pace, maybe videotape yourself to get feedback on what you are doing and not doing, and only when you have a very clear picture what you want to change, then hit with a partner or with a ball machine, take a video of yourself again, and analyze it either during the practice or afterwards. There is no need to hit for 2 or 3 hours. 45 min to an hour of focused work with video feedback is plenty. Work with purpose for a short time yields much better results than random hitting for hours. It is hard to get better from just hitting, it only engraves existing technical deficiencies deeper into the muscle memory. Ball machine is a tool for grooving technique, and this requires a lot of focus.

Of course, one can use it for a cardio workout, too - but then the purpose should be clearly defined, run as wide as you can, as quickly as you can.

I owned the ball machine, Playmate Volley, for probably about 5 years, and did not really feel that it helps me to get better by a measurable amount. This winter, I rented a court with a machine at my local tennis center and tried to do what Ian teaches. It would take me 2-3 times more time off-court to watch videos, do shadow strokes, analyze video, then analyze video again after the hitting session, but the results were dramatically different. It is the first time in 5 years when I felt that practice with a ball machine really, really helps. When I identify what I need to change and work on it, using video analysis, it really helps.
 
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#10
tomato123, another idea for you: if you can find a partner who wants to practice together with you with the ball machine, one person may hit while the other would collect the balls and stop stray balls in their tracks. I did it with my son. This way, we pretty much could eliminate all interferences with other people.

I've been using Penn balls from Costco for several years. They are inexpensive (around $40 per box of 24 cans, or so, plus minus a few dollars) and work fine for this purpose. Usually I would buy 2-3 boxes in the beginning of the summer and they would last until fall, but they get kind of dead by mid-summer, like balls in carts in a tennis club. This year, I stocked with 5 boxes to be able to exchange them in the middle of summer.

Of course, Tretorn Micro-X balls are not necessarily yellow, they are available both in yellow color and in grey and yellow color, so there is definitely a benefit right there - it is very easy to distinguish your grey/yellow balls from other people's balls! Also, one can see the amount of spin better. I might try them one day, they get very good reviews.
 
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#11
tomato123, another idea for you: if you can find a partner who wants to practice together with you with the ball machine, one person may hit while the other would collect the balls and stop stray balls in their tracks. I did it with my son. This way, we pretty much could eliminate all interferences for other people.

I've been using Penn balls from Costco for several years. They are inexpensive (around $40 per box of 24 cans, or so, plus minus a few dollars) and work fine for this purpose. Usually I would buy 2-3 boxes in the beginning of the summer and they would last until fall, but they get kind of dead by mid-summer, like balls in carts in a tennis club. This year, I stocked with 5 boxes.
Yup! My wife and I rotated in that manner the last time out. I also 100% agree with you about the value of using the machine time to address certain aspects of my game, and reviewing my hits in real time with video off my mounted phone has been really helpful. :) Hopefully I can keep up the momentum.
 

Ronaldo

Talk Tennis Guru
#12
Problems arise when balls from another court get mixed into the ball machine balls. This is really an issue when there are lessons on-court.
Gadzillion fafillion balls and you try to retrieve one or two. Had better luck using HS courts on weekends or early mornings
 
#13
I use my machine on courts nobody else would think of using. Cracks, bad net, etc.

I'd never use my machine on courts with others around me or on courts others wanted to use. But if all you have are those 3 courts, I guess you just look for off hours to use it?

What kind of balls do you use? I use the two color Tretorn balls, so nobody could possibly mistake them if they happen to roll on to another court.
 
#14
Didn't think about this before, but one reason why I wanted to be super conscientious of the balls rolling over (aside from etiquette), was because I wanted to make sure all my balls were accounted for since I paid good money for the Micro X balls, and I would not want them to get taken up randomly by the kids thinking it was their ball
Sort of off topic, but reminds me of one occasion when I had my machine out. Me on one of four courts (the others all empty). An elderly couple show up in a beat up vehicle, and proceed to the court next to me. I explain that they might be better off on one of the other two courts since I may have balls rolling their way, but they say that "they don't mind." The women also comments that "I sure have lots of balls." I know I have 60 as I just cracked the case.
They leave, and now I'm missing about 10 balls. Easy to figure out since 4 x 15 balls in a tube!
 

Ronaldo

Talk Tennis Guru
#15
Sort of off topic, but reminds me of one occasion when I had my machine out. Me on one of four courts (the others all empty). An elderly couple show up in a beat up vehicle, and proceed to the court next to me. I explain that they might be better off on one of the other two courts since I may have balls rolling their way, but they say that "they don't mind." The women also comments that "I sure have lots of balls." I know I have 60 as I just cracked the case.
They leave, and now I'm missing about 10 balls. Easy to figure out since 4 x 15 balls in a tube!
Now they have lots of balls too
 
#16
I use my machine on courts nobody else would think of using. Cracks, bad net, etc.

I'd never use my machine on courts with others around me or on courts others wanted to use. But if all you have are those 3 courts, I guess you just look for off hours to use it?

What kind of balls do you use? I use the two color Tretorn balls, so nobody could possibly mistake them if they happen to roll on to another court.
I'll have to figure out the good time slots over time, but I got the normal green Tretorn balls with the "x" mark, so most people will be able to differentiate, but you just never know in public courts!
 

Ronaldo

Talk Tennis Guru
#17
I'll have to figure out the good time slots over time, but I got the normal green Tretorn balls with the "x" mark, so most people will be able to differentiate, but you just never know in public courts!
Bought two buckets of 96 Micro-X balls over 10 yrs ago. Seem to improve over time
 
#18
I use the end courts and angle the machine so I hit the majority of the balls in the corner area of the fence. If the only courts are not at the ends I do not set my machine up. I try and find a different set of courts to practice on.
 
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