Should the split step in the service return be done consciously or unconsciously?

Should the split step in the service return be done consciously or unconsciously?

  • Consciously

    Votes: 11 50.0%
  • Unconsciously

    Votes: 11 50.0%

  • Total voters
    22

zill

Professional
Would Thinking about it interfere with the actual return? I see that I naturally (without thinking) 'split step' when preparing to hit grounstrokes. So should it also happen when returning the serve?
 

5263

G.O.A.T.
you might have to think about it if you don't do it naturally, but I knew to do it before I ever heard of it....better to focus on reading the serve...
 

shamaho

Professional
actually you have to time the split to synch with the server, so thre's always some degree of conscious activity... then even more in reading the direction of the serve
 
Would Thinking about it interfere with the actual return? I see that I naturally (without thinking) 'split step' when preparing to hit grounstrokes. So should it also happen when returning the serve?
Unconsciously is obviously better but in order to get there you have to first do it consciously. At some point, you will cease thinking about it because you've made it automatic.

There are 4 stages of learning:
- unconsciously incompetent: you don't know how to do it and you aren't even aware that you're not doing it
- consciously incompetent: you still don't know how to do it but at least you're aware of what should be done
- consciously competent: you know how to do it but you have to think about it
- unconsciously competent: you know how to do it and you don't have to think about it
 

ptuanminh

Hall of Fame
:) has anyone tried skipping rope. maybe some coach can chime in about this. I find skippin rope to be very similar to split step, it trains you to bouncy on your feet thousand times. Also when you are skipping, you have to pay attention when the rope is going to cross so that you can bounce. Very similar to doing the split step right when your opponent hit the ball.
 

E46luver

Professional
better to split too early, than too late.
Split when racket starts to move upwards towards ball.
You will land right at ball contact
 

travlerajm

G.O.A.T.
Forgetting to split step in the return increases the probability of getting aced. The split step really makes a difference on the wide serves by expanding your lateral range.
 
better to split too early, than too late.
Split when racket starts to move upwards towards ball.
You will land right at ball contact
You actually want to land after contact by enough time that allows you to figure out where the ball is going and therefore, where you need to go. Landing at ball contact is too early. The smaller the gap between contact and your split step when you can calculate the ball trajectory, the more efficient your split step.

 

Curious

Legend
You actually want to land after contact by enough time that allows you to figure out where the ball is going and therefore, where you need to go. Landing at ball contact is too early. The smaller the gap between contact and your split step when you can calculate the ball trajectory, the more efficient your split step.

It's a quite delicate balance. A tiny bit later than what you say, the ball is already crossing the net!
 
It's a quite delicate balance. A tiny bit later than what you say, the ball is already crossing the net!
Yes. That's why splitting a bit too early is better than a bit too late.

However, if you split way too early, you lose the benefit; in that case, you could have just lowered your center of gravity by bending your knees.

These are all reasons to continue to hone your split step timing as opposed to discarding it as too difficult.
 

RajS

Semi-Pro
I believe if you keep following a set of cues consciously, it becomes unconscious eventually. On the serve, I got into the habit of watching the server's racket. When it starts going up, I split. The timing mostly works out, and the times it doesn't, oh well, I didn't lose any money! I got a great tip from my tennis buddy on ground strokes that I am working on and it shows great potential. Watch the ball through contact, and immediately after contact, shift your gaze to the opponent's racket (in other words, don't even attempt to watch the ball or where it goes). Split when the forward part of the opponent's stroke begins. Somehow, I am finding it easier to use this process than all the tips I have tried before.
 

1stVolley

Semi-Pro
I'm not sure it matters whether you do it automatically or not as long as your attention is not distracted from watching the serve and anticipating what's coming
 
I'm not sure it matters whether you do it automatically or not as long as your attention is not distracted from watching the serve and anticipating what's coming
The more automatic something is, the less I have to think about it, which allows me to get into the rhythm of the match more easily. I don't want to be expending my mental energy on such things [important though they are]; I want to save that for the big-picture things [strategy, adjusting to my opponent/conditions/my own game, etc.].
 

Dartagnan64

Legend
I quit trying to split step on the serve not because it was too difficult, but because it really messed up my vision. I'm vision impaired as it is and the head movement associated with split stepping makes it so hard to see and read the ball. I'm far better off getting into a wide base and low COG and focusing on the ball.

Unless I'm facing a 100+ mph serve, I can get to most serves if I read it well and that makes more of a difference to my return game. If I try split stepping I frame way too many returns.
 

Curious

Legend
I quit trying to split step on the serve not because it was too difficult, but because it really messed up my vision. I'm vision impaired as it is and the head movement associated with split stepping makes it so hard to see and read the ball. I'm far better off getting into a wide base and low COG and focusing on the ball.

Unless I'm facing a 100+ mph serve, I can get to most serves if I read it well and that makes more of a difference to my return game. If I try split stepping I frame way too many returns.
Now I wonder if waiting in the athletic bent knee position with heels off the ground could be good enough instead of split stepping on the return, if you really think about what’s the benefit of split step.
You can’t do that properly during a point as you’re not stationary.
 

Crocodile

Legend
In normal rallying situations the split step should be performed just before your opponent is about to hit the ball and Ibeoykd suggest that this would be the case for return of serve.
what is important in return of serve is to have a wide and low base with forward centre of gravity and become an expert of analysing typical patterns of service and particular pattens of serving skills of the people you play.
Another way of looking at it is you don’t want to be flat footed so learning to be posed and ready to split is a habit you want to instil.
 
Now I wonder if waiting in the athletic bent knee position with heels off the ground could be good enough instead of split stepping on the return, if you really think about what’s the benefit of split step.
You can’t do that properly during a point as you’re not stationary.
"Good enough" is a different question than "what is optimal?". I think the traditional split step is optimal because A) that's what almost all high-level players do; and B) it sequences the lowering and springing into one motion. The gravity split segments the two, which I believe robs you of some of the fluidity.

Experiment; you might find that it is good enough. For most situations, I think that the extra bit of performance I get from doing the traditional split step is worth the investment of energy.
 

Curious

Legend
"Good enough" is a different question than "what is optimal?". I think the traditional split step is optimal because A) that's what almost all high-level players do; and B) it sequences the lowering and springing into one motion. The gravity split segments the two, which I believe robs you of some of the fluidity.

Experiment; you might find that it is good enough. For most situations, I think that the extra bit of performance I get from doing the traditional split step is worth the investment of energy.
I agree. Good enough sounds like as good as proper split step which is not correct for split stepping for groundstrokes but I thought return of serve is a little special in that you’re stationary and if you think about what you’re actually trying to achieve with split step ( to be on balls of your feet with bent knees right after the ball is hit so that you’re ready to ‘jump’ towards the ball) my point was that why not just wait/be in that position already, while the ball is being hit?
At least it can be a great option if your split timing is not that great.
 
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Shroud

G.O.A.T.
I agree. Good enough sounds like as good as proper split step which is not correct for split stepping for groundstrokes but I thought return of serve is a little special in that you’re stationary and if you think about what you’re actually trying to achieve with split step ( to be on balls of your feet with bent knees right after the ball is hit so that you’re ready to ‘jump’ towards the ball) my point was that why not just wait/be in that position already, while the ball is being hit?
At least it can be a great option if your split timing is not that great.
you are right if you are not the best at timing the split step it could work. Its also great if you just want to get the ball in play and play it safe. But where is the fun in that? For me at least a good split step and moving into the court can help be aggressive with the returns and if you face kickers I find it easier to take them more in the court than behind the baseline....

 

Bender

G.O.A.T.
Consciously until you do it unconsciously
This is correct. Many experts do a lot of things unconsciously that are the result of earlier conscious practice.
What they said

I had to really force myself into doing it and now I don't really have to think about it until I realise I'm missing a few returns in a row.

I had some issues with timing the split step and developed a habit of split stepping twice or even thrice depending on the rhythm of the server. It looks weird but it's better than no split step at all.
 

stapletonj

Hall of Fame
the problem with not split stepping and waiting for the serve "in the athletic position, on your toes" is it is very difficult to maintain, even for 5 seconds.
inevitably, your heels will drop back to the ground, your weight will settle back, and you will be REACTING and trying to get your weight moving forward during the few milliseconds that you have.
The higher level player you are, the more difficult a serve you will face, the more you need to split step.

Human nature plays into it too. IT is almost impossible not to go into the athletic position too soon, thereby inducing the above problem.
 

Curious

Legend
the problem with not split stepping and waiting for the serve "in the athletic position, on your toes" is it is very difficult to maintain, even for 5 seconds.
inevitably, your heels will drop back to the ground, your weight will settle back, and you will be REACTING and trying to get your weight moving forward during the few milliseconds that you have.
The higher level player you are, the more difficult a serve you will face, the more you need to split step.

Human nature plays into it too. IT is almost impossible not to go into the athletic position too soon, thereby inducing the above problem.
Don’t need to wait on the balls of feet the whole time. Wait on your heels until the opponent starts upward swing at the ball, then move to the balls of your feet. ( but with bent knees the whole time)
Two of the best returners of all time Agassi and Djokovic have a very subtle small hop, especially Agassi.
 

MyFearHand

Rookie
Don’t need to wait on the balls of feet the whole time. Wait on your heels until the opponent starts upward swing at the ball, then move to the balls of your feet. ( but with bent knees the whole time)
Two of the best returners of all time Agassi and Djokovic have a very subtle small hop, especially Agassi.
Why try to find a short cut from what the pros do? As long as it isn't causing you physical pain then shoot for the real split step and yeah you may not get it every time but I guarantee you attempting to split every time will be more effective than not trying to.
 

Curious

Legend
Why try to find a short cut from what the pros do? As long as it isn't causing you physical pain then shoot for the real split step and yeah you may not get it every time but I guarantee you attempting to split every time will be more effective than not trying to.
I try to split every time the opponent hits the ball. I thought return of serve is a little different since you wait initially in a stationary position. In that regard it should be easier to time the split but it’s usually not because of the speed of the ball being higher than other shots.
Anyway I’m just looking for ways to return better. That’s it. I’m not claiming anything firmly really.
 

Curious

Legend
Return of serve is rarely practiced in rec tennis, just like the overhead, hence so many suck at it badly.
 
Return of serve is rarely practiced in rec tennis, just like the overhead, hence so many suck at it badly.
The additional part about the OH is that it seems so easy: the ball is hanging right there a mere 10' away from the net and I have all of that court to hit in to...how can I miss?
 
Does split step really matter at and below NTRP 4.5?
Yes, because it creates a good habit that will become more and more important the higher you go.

At a slow enough rally pace, it won't matter. But I'd rather have it and not need it than need it and not have it.

I think it's made a difference for me [4.5]; it's hard to prove, though.
 

stapletonj

Hall of Fame
I think it is important even at 3.5! singles or doubles, a decent ROS transforms a defensive position into an offensive one with one stroke.
 

SystemicAnomaly

Talk Tennis Guru
Does split step really matter at and below NTRP 4.5?
All other things being equal, the split stepper at 3.5 or 4.0 will have a distinct advantage over those who do not employ such a timing action... an action that primes the muscles and takes advantage of the stretch-shortening cycle.

If you look at a lot of recreational 3.5, or even 4.0 players, many of them will not bother to split step. But, if you look at the more competitive players at these levels, you will see the split step a lot more often. Take a look at sectionals and regionals at these levels. You will probably see that most of these players are incorporating split steps.

A properly timed SS will help you get to the ball quicker and will also help to sync a player to their opponent's shot / stroke. A player with often be more tuned in to the opponent's forward swing (or upward swing on the serve).
 
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SystemicAnomaly

Talk Tennis Guru
Conscious or unconscious, that is the question. Depends on your level of competency. I posted this two or three weeks ago, I think. Here it is again, the four levels, in order of development:

~ unconscious incompetence
~ conscious incompetence
~ conscious competence
~ unconscious competence
.
 

SystemicAnomaly

Talk Tennis Guru
@E46luver
This is completely incorrect.
Not completely. I initiate the SS hop during the opponent's forward swing (groundstroke) or the upward swing (serve). At contact, I'm pretty close to the top of the hop and will land very shortly after contact.

With this timing, I usually have a neutral two-footed landing. However, if I initiate the SS hop a split second later, I'll often land one-footed since I've already picked up the direction I'll be moving. Many pros / elite players employ this later SS and land one-footed.

But I primarily teach the two-footed landing. When students mis-time this slightly, they will usually land one-footed, automatically, as they start to move to intercept the ball
 

tonylg

Hall of Fame
I initiate the SS hop during the opponent's forward swing (groundstroke) or the upward swing (serve). At contact, I'm pretty close to the top of the hop and will land very shortly after contact.

With this timing, I usually have a neutral two-footed landing. However, if I initiate the SS hop a split second later, I'll often land one-footed since I've already picked up the direction I'll be moving.
And that is completely correct.
 
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