Getting players to switch from pancake to a throwing motion

Discussion in 'Tennis Tips/Instruction' started by pushitgood, Apr 20, 2013.

  1. pushitgood

    pushitgood New User

    May 8, 2012
    A little background: I'm captaining a 3.0 team for the first time. We have 3 men's lines and 2 ladies lines. Last year the ladies lost 80% of their matches. Part of the challenge is that we don't have enough ladies, the other problem is that the ladies we have are at a low skill level. So to address this, I wanted to start out the year with a preseason clinic. I brought a coach in and asked him to cover the serve and some basic doubles tactics. What I observed during the clinic is that most of the ladies have pancake serves. The coach asked these women to use scratchback, presumably as part of a progression towards a normal service motion.

    My question is: what is the best way to get these ladies to abandon the pancake motion? Most of them have been serving the same way for years, and I don't think they will buy into scratchback because it feels weird and when their consistency drops they will probably end up reverting to what they know. Is it even realistic to try to change their service motion? I asked the coach to consider teaching an underhand serve, because we have recruited some beginners, and I would like them to be able to play a game without double faulting, but I also think that an underhand serve would be a better second serve than the soft pancake serves that many of the women are using. The coach didn't like this idea as he preferred to have the ladies using the correct overhand motion for first and second serve. But I have a feeling that whatever correct form he teaches them will simply be abandoned when the ladies want to get their second serves in. And slowly, but surely, their first serves will revert to their original form (maybe not so slowly, either).
  2. gplracer

    gplracer Hall of Fame

    Apr 5, 2004
    You have to get them to commit and to practice. It takes 4-6 weeks to learn a new skill. Are they willing to have bad serves and serve lots of buckets during that time period?
  3. Chas Tennis

    Chas Tennis Legend

    Feb 17, 2011
    Baltimore, MD
    Very often I see ladies at the 3.0 level serving with their shoulders too level for the high level serving technique and possibly risking impingement shoulder injury.

    See the Todd Ellenbecker video in reply #4 for a complete discussion and the Jim McClellan video for a brief and to-the-point explanation.

    Back scratch is one step in the serve that is easy to see and gets attention. But the final racket head speed before impact is developed using rapid internal shoulder rotation (ISR) and wrist motion, set up by the back scratch. These motions cannot possibly be directly seen in a faster serve, even by an experienced instructor. Because ISR cannot be seen except in high speed videos the part played by ISR is not understood by the great majority of tennis players. If the player keeps the concept that the arm swings - as it falsely appears to do from the side view in videos - instead of rapidly rotating who knows what inexperienced players might be doing when a new serve is taught. This misconception probably also results in the "she throws like a girl" throwing motion. [Internal Shoulder Rotation is a specific biomechanical term that can be searched on the internet.]

    The videos that mention internal shoulder rotation in the descriptions clearly show ISR. Watch the quick twitch-like axial rotation of the elbow bones.

    I'm certain that many intermediate players (3.5-4.0 level, etc ) have an adequate serving technique using ISR without realizing what the biomechanical details of the motion are. Compare weak axial rotation (by watching the elbow bones) for these serves to the strong ISR for the pro serves.

    High speed videos of the player's strokes might be helpful but learning and practicing a new serve takes time.

    For doubles matches I'd recommend the book, The Art of Doubles (2007). It details - regarding shot choice and positioning - many things that should be done and many common flaws. You will add points in your matches with the do's and don't's in this book.

    Teaching a new serve or other strokes takes longer
    Last edited: Apr 20, 2013

Share This Page