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March 2007 Article

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Embrace the Change!

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John Mills, USPTA

I just got back from an educational seminar offered by the U.S.P.T.A of Texas. What did I learn? I learned that I do not know everything, even though I have taught tennis for over 30 years. Why is that? If you stay in one place and remain isolated from the rest of the world, you could be the best instructor dispensing the oldest technology.

Teaching tennis right now is very exciting. The new racket technology, the fitness regimes and nutrition regimes are changing the game. The new rackets can create so much more torque and power than before. Players are more fit and eat more nutritiously. It's just common sense that with all these changes that the way we instruct will have to change.

The modern game of tennis is very situational. In a match you will never get two of the same shots hit to you in a row. There will be differences in your position to the ball, pace of the ball, spin of the ball or depth set. With all these variables how can you teach just one way to hit a ball? So, the modern instructor must be able to feed the ball to his or her students in a situational method. For example, you could not feed passing shots to your student while feeding from the baseline, you could not teach a player to follow through in the same place for every shot.

What I have also found is that the new techniques, such as using forehand grips which are more semi-western or hybrid, rather than strictly eastern and continental, can help older players stay in the game longer because they reduce injuries. Most tennis elbows I deal with are from older players. Once you convince them to change their grips, (they will go through a short period of adaption), the tennis elbow is gone. I believe the modern game has changed from a horizontal game to a more vertical game. Even small children can create tremendous racket head speed. The new game is more of a slapping of the racket, not the pushing of the racket.

So, I am hoping all players and coaches embrace the change. I think this is a great time to be a tennis instructor. Go out and embrace the modern game of tennis.

Good luck on the courts!

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This column is copyrighted by John Mills, all rights reserved.

John Mills currently teaches tennis at the University of Houston, Clear Lake campus. John Mills' experience includes four years as head pro at the Windemere Racquet & Swim Club, where he was responsible for organization of all tennis activities at the club. John also played college tennis at the University of Houston and has spent 20 years teaching tennis at the Memorial Park Tennis Center, the Pasadena Racquet Club, and as the head pro at the Bay Area Racquet Club.


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