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Move fast, hit slow!
by Tom Veneziano

To help players learn to play in different gears I teach a doubles clinic where everyone has to play their volleys at a slower pace. I do not want them to slow down their body, just slow down the speed of their shots a little. It's an essential drill. I usually get yelled at a couple of times because players have trouble moving fast when they know they have to hit slower. This of course does not make sense. Moving and hitting are two different skills. I explain briefly that they must learn to move fast and hit at different paces to become a better player. Then they see the light and we move on. A few minutes later I get yelled at again (tough drill for me :) when they miss an easy shot. They exclaim, "when I slow down, my timing goes off and I miss. I could have made that shot at my normal volley speed." I often think to myself, can you imagine a pro saying I slowed down my stroke and it made me miss. Pros learn to play at all different speeds and so will you!

After a while I pull them all up to the net for a powwow. I have many such discussions in my day! I begin by quizzing them, "do you know why you are having trouble with this drill?" They usually are not one hundred percent sure why they are having so much trouble. My answer is, "because you are not good enough." Well, you can imagine that comment is not a big hit, but I usually do not get myself in trouble without a means of escape, so I quickly explain to slow down a shot and play at a different speed is an extremely high level of play. Have you ever seen a pro run full speed on the court then hit a slow touch angle? Do you think you can do that? To move fast and hit slow is tough!!! But, this is a level of play you must strive to reach. With this explanation I barely escape unharmed and we go back to the task at hand.

NOTE TO TEACHING PROS - try this at your own risk.

Another problem I run into is players tend to think the ball they hit is moving slower than it really is moving. The truth is when they slow their shot down they are not really slowing the speed of the ball down all that much. What's happening is when they slow down their shot they have to slow down their mind at the same time, creating the illusion the ball is traveling super slow. Most players hit with their mind racing and think everything is happening faster. Do you? This is one of the main reasons I do this drill. To teach them to move fast but slow down their mind. If they can accomplish this slowing of the mind they will play more relaxed, aim their shots with more accuracy, and improve their feel of the point.

The reason their timing goes off is because they have their timing connected to this frantic state of mind when hitting. When they attempt to slow down their mind their timing goes completely out of whack!

The challenge is for you to learn to play with this relaxed slow mindset and not blame your misses on slowing down. Your top pros play with this mindset, so why shouldn't you? That's right, the pros move FAST, but maintain a slow controlled mindset. Even when they are hitting hard they are mentally relaxed and controlled. You can do the same. But, first you must learn the art of moving fast and hitting slow.

Below is a list of benefits you can expect if you can master this mindset.

  • Improved accuracy
  • Play more relaxed
  • Save energy
  • See the ball better
  • Improved feel of point play
  • Move more fluidly
  • Not over play as much
  • Create a sense of mental control

This is only a partial list. You will even improve your confidence. This is one of those magical moments of doing less to get more. The art of moving fast but slowing down your mind is a mental challenge that is well worth the effort. To accomplish this mental technique, practice slowing down your shots just a little during some of your fun matches and experience the slowing of your mind. At first this can be frustrating. You will have to work yourself through some of the pitfalls explained in this lesson, but if you stay with it long enough you will experience an inner tranquility that you never knew existed on a tennis court. And without Valium! :)

Tom Veneziano has been a tennis pro teaching in Houston, Texas for over twenty-five years. He has taught thousands of players to think like a pro with his Tennis Warrior System, which is described on his web site at www.tenniswarrior.com.

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