Good movement in tennis is the name of the game. After all, in an average set, players run about half a mile, including an incredible 250-300 changes of direction. The conclusion? Tennis is all about quick starts and stops, acceleration and deceleration. It is not about running a marathon, although it is a sport that requires great stamina at highly competitive levels. Effective movement is a critical part of competitive tennis. The question is “How should we practice or teach movement?” Joe Dinoffer recalls, “I remember my first lesson at 5 years old. Pivot, racquet back, step and swing. It was like taking a dance lesson. In fact, I remember some teachers painting footprints on the court.” That instruction may have been considered innovative in those days, but it was also arguably illogical since everyone’s stride length is different. Can you imagine stepping on footprints on the court? If that old paradigm doesn’t work, then what are the keys to good movement on a tennis court? To find the answers, we interviewed a series of world-class sprinters and found 5 guidelines they all agreed upon:
1. Establish Standards – Right from the start, establish standards for good footwork and movement habits.
2. Keep it Natural – Do not teach players how to move unless an athlete has a clear limitation in their movement patterns, such as an inability to easily change directions.
3. Lower Playing Height – Help players develop an athletic playing height as opposed to their normal standing height.
4. Lean Forwards – Keep players leaning forwards into the court rather than flatfooted, backwards, or to either side.
5. Create Game-Based Movement Drills – As far as possible, create game-based exercises that help players improve their movement skills under game-like conditions. www.oncourtoffcourt.com