Early in my coaching career, the following scenario would take place with me and my students repeatedly … I would work long and hard with a player and achieve a smooth, efficient stroke, only to see the shape of the swing fall apart when the player moved more than one step to the ball. I also noticed that technique would often deteriorate further with each shot in a rally.
Perhaps one of the single most valuable and exciting insights I was ever given as a teacher came from my colleague Lee Hurst. He showed me that technique and movement to and from the ball are inexorably interwoven.
One day at the USTA Training Center, one of our top players was not able to achieve a efficient shape on his forehand and could not accelerate the racquet equal to his backhand. I focused on the racquet in an attempt to isolate and fix the problem. Lee took a different approach. He suggested that the path to the ball of the loading steps was incorrect. When the player took a better path to the ball, he was able to load better, clear his hips and the technical and acceleration issues were cleaned up right away. Also, I was excited to see the player recovered much more easily for the next shot.
To help break this process down into manageable pieces, Hurst argues that each stroke has seven stages:
This very helpful framework looks at movement and racquet together. The unit-turn is the easiest to see. A good turn serves to rotate the shoulders and pivot the hips (movement), but it also prepares the racquet (technique) or what we used to call in the old days “getting the racquet back.” Great technical coaching involves getting to know the complex elements of each of these stages of the stroke and how one should flow into the other. No easy task. This framework divides up a shot in a useful way that allows intermediate coaches to more easily identify the root of a problem.
I hope you will find, as I have, fixing the movement often leads to immediately fixing the shape of a swing, while not needing to address your student’s racquet technique.
<p>Tim Mayotte was one of the nation’s best tennis players during the 1980s. Twice during the 80s, he finished the year ranked in the world's top 10. Besides reaching the semifinals of Wimbledon and the Australian Open, he also won a Silver Medal in the Olympics and represented his nation in Davis Cup action. For the last decade, Tim has shifted his focus to developing top American players and is currently running Mayotte-Hurst Tennis Academy at the Cunningham Tennis Center with his partners, Lee Hurst and Carl Thorsen. He may be reached by e-mail <a href="mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org">email@example.com</a>.</p>