Don’t Take The Tennis Racket Back!
When you are about to hit a groundstroke, you do not have to jam your tennis racket back then prance around the court searching for the tennis ball. Although many coaches are beginning to move away from this traditional technique, many still believe it is crucial to get that racket back quickly.
Many times I have taught you that to learn tennis you must do the opposite of what is traditionally taught. Taking the racket back immediately is one such tradition. Unfortunately, since most players want quick-fix, exact instruction to help them play better tennis immediately, techniques like “take your racket back quickly” will always be appealing.
Intellectually, jamming the racket back to prepare for the oncoming ball appears to make sense, but this technique actually defies common sense! Quick, robot-like racket preparation is too rigid and too mechanical and is not the way the best pros in the world are preparing for their shots. Watch this video below from one of my tennis clinics and learn some simple but powerful ideas that you can use to improve your racket preparation.
The answer to how to improve your racket preparation is... not much! Yet doing nothing (or not much) is extremely difficult! As you practice and seek your own individual form, style, timing and feel you will make many, many, mistakes. You will hit the ball early, you will hit the ball late, you will mistime the shot, you will mishit the shot and make a host of other creative mistakes! This of course is a normal part of the learning process, yet you will be told that to solve all of these problems you must prepare that racket quickly.
As I have said before, staying out of your own way seems to be the most difficult challenge when learning tennis. Players want to intellectually control every movement. As a coach, I also had to learn to stay out of the way of the process. Repetition and the wisdom of the body are the great teachers, not me!
I have seen hundreds and hundreds of players jam the racket back well ahead of the oncoming ball and still mistime the shot... Now what? When this happens, I will usually hear, “I didn’t keep my eye on the ball” or “I need to bend my knees.” Failing always has to have some kind of reason attached to the blunder. Forget the fact that all players have to practice for hours and hours and hit tons and tons of tennis balls before they improve (that is the process). Instead, you think uttering a few words like keep your eye on the ball would have magically stopped you from botching up the last shot.
I suppose the tennis industry is partly to blame for this mindset. You are bombarded with technical and mechanical information on the net, in books, videos, magazines and even watching professional tennis on television. Why wouldn’t you think technique reigns supreme!
Susan Power, a weight loss trainer many years ago, had a slogan that I believe fits perfectly. Her slogan was “STOP THE INSANITY.”
To master preparing your racket for the oncoming ball, forget the “racket back early” technique. Just run and hit the ball. Practice doing this over and over again and your timing will improve, I guarantee it! And constantly scolding yourself every time you mistime your backswing will not work. Until you have practiced enough you will still mistime your shots.
Do you really think some technique will take the place of incorrect timing and incorrect ball judgment from lack of practice? I believe many players think it will. But it will not!