Changing My Viewpoint
Change. It has the power to uplift, to heal, to stimulate surprise, open new doors, bring fresh experience and create excitement in life. Certainly it is worth the risk.
Confessions of a tennis fan-atic. That is, I am a fan, but also, as a player I am a fanatic. To that end, I watch tennis closely (when it amuses me) and have done so over the years. Some of my favorites have included Jimmy Connors, Ilie Nastase, John McEnroe, Stefan Edberg, and now certainly, Roger Federer. As a player, I have tried to find elements of their style, stepping in to punish second serves, chip and charge, kick serves with a following volley, and now a brand new approach to seeing the point of contact.
As a playing and teaching fanatic, I have genuinely tried to learn new skills over the years. These include gravity footwork at age 28, an eastern backhand service grip at 45, and constant tinkering and re-tinkering with a forehand grip that would be less continental. Some things have come easily, and some not at all.
Now, with the inclusion of the new and exciting writers at TennisOne, the tennis fanatic in me has tried exploration and discovery teaching methods ("Mind over Muscle") from Sean Brawley, a different feel for the hit and its rules of engagement (The Hands Have It) from Doug King, a sense of balance and a turning model where the "dog wags it's tail" from Jack Broudy. And now a total reexamination of whether I am watching the incoming ball or whether I am focused on the point of contact, based upon Scott Ford's recent article " Focus and the Zone ." Certainly, Roger Federer uses his eyes differently than anyone else on the tour. I experiment with how I use my eyes and focus constantly, and our own Scott Ford leads both you and I down this "point of contact" road.
So, to step back from player to teacher, I (and I suppose most other teachers) teach a version of the game that I have been taught and that I personally employ. Not exactly an uncritical acceptance of all that I have been shown, but pretty much an accumulation of years of lessons and on-court practice are encapsulated in the material I deliver day in and day out. Yes, the material has evolved and continues to evolve, but equally there are distinct elements I have taught that mark me as a teacher.
I will often stand next to a student; have them place the racquet at contact on a forehand. I set a ball against their string and then ask, "At this point of contact do you have any peripheral vision that allows you to see the court as well as the ball?" When meeting the ball well out in front, one can somehow see both the ball and the resulting target line. Yet when I try the Federer "eye" thing (see Ford's article on focusing on the contact zone ), I notice his head is turned so far to the side that the target line and the opponent's court are totally obscured.
Click photo to view Federer animation.
I now experiment with this on court, and I do notice that I can aim the ball just as well (if not better) to the student when I focus on the point of contact and do not have the student in my peripheral vision. Playing a senior tournament this past weekend (with mixed success and a resounding loss in the finals) I found I could more easily keep my head and eyes at the contact point when not pressed, but continually looked up in key situations.
So my long-winded point here is to share a new journey that I have chosen. I am rethinking my approach as teacher and player, and I'm going to keep experimenting with focusing on the contact zone rather than simply "watching the ball." I have gotten this idea from watching and emulating Roger Federer, and will hone this skill with an assist from Scott Ford. Want to join me on this one?
As always, we would love to hear your views on the subjects raised in this newsletter. Please click here to send your email directly to me.
Jim McLennan TennisOne Editor
(Click link to purchase Jim's McLennan's Secrets of World Class Footwork Video)
Focus and the Zone (Part 2)
Are you in control of your visual focus when watching the ball, or is the ball controlling your focus? In part 2 of his series on Focus and the Zone, Scott Ford explains how fixing the focus of your eyes on your contact zone, you can adopt a more highly efficient and accurate visual strategy that will allow you to locate the optimum contact point on each and every shot.
Improving Technique Among Senior Players
Notoriously, senior players are the most difficult to convince they can improve their games by making changes in technique. Unfortunately, many seniors believe 'you can't teach an old dog new tricks!' The truth of the matter is that anyone can improve, even seniors, if they have the right attitude and Dave Smith shows you the way.
ProStrokes Gallery: Sebastien Grosjean, Serve
Don't be fooled by his size. At only 5 feet 9 inches and 147 pounds, this diminutive Frenchman can pound the ball as heavy as any of his larger competitors. His movement about the court is exceptional. He often runs around his backhand to unleash penetrating forehands, he can and does move forward to finish the point, and he plays with an economy of style that is worth examining. New this issue - Sebastien Grosjean's Serve.
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