Review Notes for Joe Dinoffer’s “Ball Machine Drills” DVD Price $34.95, including shipping, for the two-DVD set (about 2 hours worth of combined material, including ball machine drills with the bonus backboard drills DVD). Ordered on a Wednesday and received on Friday, two days later (quick response and shipping). OK, I have basically watched these two DVDs one time apiece (each is about an hour long). I took notes as I watched, and what follows is basically nothing more than those notes with some very light editing so it could be posted here. Most of the machines used for these videos are VERY high-end machines costing several thousand dollars. Not your basic Tennis Tutor or Silent Partner or Lobster. And I feel I must repeat that this is more series of notes than a true review. Since I wasn't getting paid to do this and rushed my way through it, I made sure my organization of content and writing style both sucked... The first DVD is Joe Dinoffer’s “Ball Machine Drills” DVD, which is a combination of his earlier video “Millennium Tennis” and some new material in called “Ballmachine Breakthrough.” The second DVD is focused on backboard/wall practice and drills. I think the “Millennium Tennis” portion of the first DVD is unchanged from its original content, but not having seen that video, I don’t know for sure. “Millennium Tennis” is basically a bunch of drills that can be done for individuals or groups of players using high-end ball machines. I get the feeling that the video was developed as part of a sales tool to help sell PlayMate ball machines to tennis instructors. While there are quite a few concepts expressed in this video that could be taken by an individual and used as a basis upon which to develop his/her own drills, the video does not seem to have that purpose as its intent. It is definitely not focused on the individual ball machine owner, but seems more geared toward the professional instructor who might be considering the acquisition of a ball machine to help in putting together group instruction. I think this was a way for PlayMate to sell PlayMate machines to instructors who want to expand their group offerings. Some items on the DVD have nothing to do with ball machines but are there to make a point about good practice “progressions.” I don't say that as a bad thing, but a bit of a divergence from the ball machine topic. Covered in the “Millennium Tennis” portion of the DVD are sections on: 1. Blocked, Serial, and Random Practice. Blocked practice is same shot over again, Serial practice is the same sequence over and over again. 2. Grooving Shots 3. Shot Specificity 4. Decision-making Drilling (depends in part on a machine that can do a form of random oscillation/random feed, variable shot ball machine, varied feed frequency, sophisticated programmable options, rather advanced features). 5. Directionals 6. Rhythm Skill Development 7. Aerobic vs. Anaerobic Training 8. Footwork Patterns 9. Perception and Awareness 10. Tactics and Positioning 11. First strike tennis 12. Beyond Endurance and Conditioning All in all, I’d say that “Millennium Tennis” is kind of like a beginning instructor’s guide to setting up ball machine drills for students, and some of the philosophies behind different drills. “Ballmachine Breakthrough” is the second portion of the first DVD. This second part of the DVD is better than the first part. Covered in part two of the DVD are: 1. Safety, Benefits of ball machines, 2. Use of ball machines to accelerate the learning process, 3. Guided discovery 4. Teaching tools 5. Flexibility 6. Video replay in conjunction with ball machines 7. Creative drilling. The machines used in “Ballmachine Breakthrough” are the Matchmate Coach ball machine, Ultimate Coach (I think I have that right). This is also a very high end machine. Many of the drills will not be able to be emulated on less expensive machines. (Programming deep and short balls, mixing lobs with groundstrokes, variable speeds within the same sequence, etc.) Drills covered: 1. Forehand drills 2. Ball on the rise 3. Mid-court alley (no-man’s land) 4. Close-out volleys 5. Approach and volley 6. Quick doubles 7. Poach and volley 8. Read and direct (calls for an advanced ball machine) 9. Out of the diamond 10. Return of serve (calls for an advanced ball machine) 11. Overhead and volley (calls for an advanced ball machine) 12. Hit deep and close (calls for an advanced ball machine) 13. Retrieve without reprieve (calls for an advanced ball machine). There is also a second bonus DVD included as part of the purchase that focuses on the use of backboards. "Backboards" – Three Sections: 1. Off the Wall 2. Bag of Tricks (semi-sales pitch for “Bag of Tricks” teaching aids with drills) 3. Mini Champ (semi-sales pitch for “Mini Champ” miniature, portable, angled backboard with drills, a couple including ball machine coupled with Mini Champ) Benefits and strategies for using straight and angled backboards as well as dual curved walls are discussed. (Angled and curved backboards are pretty cool. I've never hit on either, but can see their obvious value.) Material covers: 1. Basic groundstrokes 2. Mobility variations 3. Backboards as used for other sports 4. Racquet controls 5. Drills with more than one player Volley Wall Skills represents a good set of drills, but some of which must be practiced with an angled wall or angled/curved wall (and how many people have those available?). Criticisms on Video Production Values: 1. Average production values. 2. Inability to skip around except to the most major sections. 3. Fast forwarding or reversing takes time. 4. It seems more like several VHS sections strung together. 5. There are occasional volume spikes and drops. 6. Many sections are way too short and lack substantial detail. 7. Scripting (writing needs some work) and delivery of lines lacking (Dinoffer's delivery of lines will be too slow and deliberate for some, but that's a bit nitpicky) Many of the drills are possible only with very high-end ball machines costing several thousand dollars. Modifying those techniques to any ball machine is not necessarily going to be possible without drastic modification that would lose the overall purpose of the drill and in some cases drills will be impossible to modify to accommodate a lesser machine (the kind of machine most individuals will own). Overall conclusion? Is this DVD set worth the price? That depends. One of the problems about locating material focusing on ball machine drills is that there’s a lack of such material generally available. From that standpoint, this is nice to have or at least nice to watch. Is it worth close to $35? If you’ve got a ball machine and a bit of extra cash burning a hole in your pocket, perhaps so. Some folks will hate it. Some will get a few valuable items from it, or at least ideas on how to apply the techniques to their own ball machine practice. The inclusion of the second DVD on wall/backboard practice makes a nice little bonus and perhaps pushes the overall value to an “it’s worth it” level. But personally, for what you get, I think you’re paying a lot. If you can share it with friends who also have ball machines, so much the better. Each ball machine owner might get something different of value from this DVD set. And the backboard drills are interesting, too. Not a bad addition.