Acceleration Tennis at Meadowood (Napa) Resort - Doug King
Doug King teaches his Acceleration Tennis program at the beautiful Meadowood Resort in Napa, California. Doug is one of the country's foremost tennis teaching innovators. Founder of Acceleration Tennis, a revolutionary teaching system, Doug King is leading the way in reinterpreting the traditional tennis model.
Click here to see a video tour of Doug King's program at Meadowood Resort.
Evolutionary Change versus Compulsory Change
David W. Smith Senior Editor, TennisOne
In my articles I've tried to emphasize the importance of understanding how players learn, respond, and, subsequently, employ the concepts of skilled tennis execution and strategy. While there are a plethora of methods to "hit a ball over the net," there are only a limited number of methods that result in more prolific play or allow players to move on to more prolific play over time. Today I'd like to focus on how different kinds of change can be either detrimental to or contribute to more skilled play.
Change is Inevitable
The saying, "the only thing that is truly constant in life is change," certainly can apply to the way students learn to play tennis. However, it is interesting that depending on how players learn–or rather depending on the foundation they first develop when learning–millions of players can end up stagnating at levels far below their potential. Why is this?
It is a given that new players to tennis will make changes in the initial patterns and strokes they first learn. But this observation must be understood in the context of natural adaptations versus compulsory adaptations. Compulsory changes are those that must occur for the player to reach his or her potential, whereas natural adaptations are changes made within a foundation that are not mandatory for more skilled play, but occur because of the natural, human propensity to create idiosyncrasies based on player perceptions, personality, and character.
Obviously, as a player becomes more comfortable and familiar with the complex interaction of moving, swinging, and hitting a moving tennis ball, (and, accordingly, applying various spins, speeds, and hitting the ball to strategically optimal locations), the student will evolve as they develop an affinity for these components just as a musicians develop different playing styles, rhythms, feel, and personal tastes in the music they play. While 100 people can learn to play the piano within the same correct playing foundation, each one will develop a unique and personal flair for both the instrument as well as the music they choose to play. Tennis players are no different!
If a student learns rudimentary, grips, strokes, and footwork, then the aspect of reaching "skilled" levels is dependent on the player's ability to make mandatory changes in many of these hitting elements. The player must change from the inferior, ineffective, or just plain flawed patterns that were first learned, and, at some point, adopt and master more effective, prolific, and opportunistic methods. Making such changes is hard. It reminds me of the story about the woman who gave her tennis pro $50 bucks for her lesson and said, "Now don't change a thing!" This hits close to home for many players!
Why Mandatory Change is so difficult
This concept of learning rudimentary methods first, then transitioning to more effective, prolific and advanced methods later is oddly unique to tennis. I have found few (if any) other sports or skilled activities that adopt this learning mantra. Most sports teach kids the same foundation that pros and other advanced players use. The difference is usually in the equipment or distances: Basketball coaches use smaller basketballs and lower hoops; golf instructors use shorter clubs and hit to shorter targets; baseball coaches teach proper throwing techniques but within shorter distances.
Yet, of the 117 books I have on tennis, (not to mention many DVD's, web-sites, the USTA, and even teaching pros in the industry), most pontificate from a foundation of teaching methods that are less challenging with the focus on getting the student to play tennis fast. There seems to be a fear that if students are introduced to challenging methods first, they will abandon the sport quickly. Now, while I know there are those who resist anything that is challenging, the truth is, most student–even kids–understand the concept of learning things that will lead them to become more prolific players.
The reason that mandatory change is so difficult is that when the student begins to compete, regardless of the level of competition, the desire to win will usually override the desire to use more effective stroke mechanics–if those mechanics are unfamiliar, uncomfortable. This phenomenon will always cause the student to revert back to more comfortable or familiar grips, swing paths, footwork or hitting strategies, even though they know such methods will not allow them to progress to more advanced levels.
What Each Student Should Know
Every student should ask themselves this one question before they attempt to play tennis:
Is this technique based on advanced play or will it need to change later on?
Obviously, if the student could care less about improvement and doesn't want to become more skilled, then this concern is irrelevant. However, in my experience, I don't think I've ever come across a player who says, "Gee, I'd love to play tennis but I really don't want to be any good."
When Does "Productive Change" Occur?
Understand that, as I mentioned at the start of this article, all players will change from what ever initial patterns they first attempt. However, there is an important side note to this statement: When players learn an Advanced Foundation, these players usually experience what I call "Evolutionary Change." Just as in science, the term "Evolutionary Change" usually refers to "adaptive change," one that benefits the organism in its environment. In tennis, when the foundation is based on advanced principles, then the change is usually beneficial and based on the person's personality, character, and perception of strengths as they continue to develop. Such changes can include more (or less) aggressive grips, stances and loop swings on groundstrokes, variations in serve backswings and stance, the use of more slice or more topspin on various shots, and variations on follow-throughs among other things.
Not only are these adaptations or evolutionary changes natural, they occur with little or no suggestion from a teacher. While there can always be suggestions to try something if the student is being too mechanical, it is rare indeed that pros need to teach such changes in a student's game.
Obviously players need to employ more advanced strokes and methods early on. Note, I don't promote hitting at speeds associated with more advanced play. Nor, do I promote extreme advanced "idiosyncrasies" you see among top pros. Almost all players will evolve and develop adaptive patterns to augment their foundation naturally over time. (However, at most academies, players are usually introduced to more extreme stroke patterns over time, once their foundation is established.)
Remember, simply hitting thousands of balls every day will seldom lead to more advanced play unless those hits include the constant practice of more advanced, more prolific stroke patterns. There really is no reason anyone who has the desire can't become a highly skilled player. But, avoiding flawed learning methods is certainly not only a step in the right direction they are steps that will prevent a lot of frustration and stagnation in every player along the way!
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Developing a "Feel for the Game"
The Boyd Cycle and the OODA Loop: so what do these two concepts, that sound like they should be on a third year physics exam, have to do with tennis? Well, one of the most critical human components in the stroking process may also be the one that receives the least amount of attention; that is the mind. The mind is the command center and Doug King thinks the Boyd Cycle and the OODA Loop may be the key to developing a better feel for the game and unleashing some of your best tennis.
Comparative Stroke Analysis
Tennis teaching efforts are determined by observations. But as regards observation, would any group of professionals agree, first on their observations, and then on potential interventions. Last year, TennisOne introduced an incredible tool — the Stroke Comparison Channel where you can upload your video of any particular stroke and compare it to any number of the best players in the world. So here's the challenge — upload your video and (if chosen), Jim McLennan will share his observations with you and the tennis world. Read on.
Color Code your Shots and Reduce Errors
A lot of players players try to play too big. They see pros like Rafa and Federer hitting huge groundies and they try to emulate them and over hit. What they don't realize is that the pros are playing well within themselves. Here, Jorge Capestany and Luke Jensen revisit the classic color coding system of red, yellow, and green shots. Learn which shot to hit in a given situation and you are well on your way to becoming a better player.
ProStrokes 2.0 - Jelena Jankovic's Backhand
Jelena Jankovic has reached the pinnacle of the women's game – currently number 1 in the Sony Ericsson WTA tour rankings, and also 1st in the Tour Race. Jelena holds nine tour singles titles but has yet to capture a Slam title. She is remarkably fit and plays an aggressive counter punching baseline game. But her matches are overly long, and she has been prone to injury if not injurious theatrics. To step up and gain a stranglehold on the number one ranking, she will have to take a page from Serena's book, and build a weapon on the serve – anything for "free points." Check out Jelena's backhand in TennisOne ProStrokes 2.0.
The Etcheberry Experience DVD
For more than twenty years Pat Etcheberry has been providing athletes from around the world with the winning edge. We call this the Etcheberry Experience, and players with an Etcheberry experience have hoisted Championship Trophies at over one hundred major championships, including 28 Australian Opens, 18 Wimbledons, 22 UP Opens, 22 French Opens and 15 Olympic medals.
And now it's your turn! This is your chance to experience the same drills, exercises and words of tennis wisdom that Pat gave to Pete Sampras, Andre Agassi, Jennifer Capriati, Martina Hingis, Jim Courier, Justine Henin-Hardenne, and others, that helped launch them on their incredible careers. For the first time, Pat Etcheberry shares his training secrets in a series of DVDs for players of all ages, their coaches, and trainers.
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