Dear Tommie Ray,
To keep it simple for both you and your students, teaching footwork can be
boiled down to one word: "balance." We used to be taught that turning
sideways was imperative to every shot. Unfortunately, many teachers still
implore their students to turn sideways.
Turning sideways is not a fundamental. It never was. Getting to the ball as
fast as possible with the best possible balance is the fundamental. Ninety
percent of the forehands on the pro tour these days are hit with an open
stance, and there's nothing wrong with this. In fact, an open stance is
often much more practical, particularly on the run. It eliminates a lot of
recovery steps then.
If you're working with top juniors and better players in general, you'll
notice they're even off the ground a fair amount when they're hitting the
ball. Do they come down well-balanced? That's okay too.
Obviously, it's important to impress upon your students that the more they're
on the balls of their feet between shots, ready to pounce like a cat, the
better chance they'll have of getting to the ball in time to be well
balanced. You might also ask your students to take a split step or balance
step up to the balls of their feet right about when their opponent is hitting
the ball. This will get their feet engaged for any quick movements they may
have to make.
Finally, you will also relieve your students minds by letting them know that
even the best players in the world are in trouble 25 - 35% of the time on the
tennis court. Michael Chang in his prime wasn't balanced on 100% of his
shots, and he's one of the fastest tennis players ever. Therefore, players
need to learn the importance of hitting off-balance too. This will help them
handle that very important 25-35% of shots where they're in trouble. I'll
sometimes have my students hit while standing on only one leg! They find it
extremely difficult at first, but after only a minute or two, they find that
they can still use their opposite hand to set the correct racquet angle and
hit through the ball real well and hit some pretty darn good shots, even when
their balance is bad. Sorry for any typos. I've got to get to the resort to
Received on Tue Aug 28 2001 - 09:44:11 CDT