"Listen" To Your Tennis Racquet
For Better Serve And Overhead Timing
Bill Cole, MS, MA
Is your timing erratic on your serve or overhead?
Does your power come and go?
Do some shots feel good, yet others feel very odd?
Do you know how to correct your timing issues on these two
shots when they act up?
It may be that you need to pay closer attention to the constant
feedback the ball-racquet connection provides to you. You
may not be listening to or feeling the specific reactions
your racquet makes when it contacts the ball at three distinct
timing spots on its face.
What is this specific feedback telling you?
A ball hit on the racquet's sweet-spot will have more power,
go to its target straighter, take less effort and feel better
than one hit off-center. In addition, balls hit off-center
may lead to tennis elbow, especially when hit on the frame.
Your Racquet Is Talking...Are You Listening?
Here's how you can gain valuable corrective feedback and
improve your timing every time the ball contacts your racquet
on a serve or overhead. Since your racquet is vertical at
impact, and since the ball is dropping through the hitting
zone at that point, you can memorize the following:
1. If the ball hits the racquet early, near the tip, you will
feel the contact as being weak and as sounding tinny. Probably
your power will be muted as well.
2. If the ball hits the sweet-spot, it is well-timed and it
will feel powerful and solid, sound loud, and should pop.
if you are hitting flat. If you are hitting spin, it will
feel somewhat less solid and give off a scraping sound.
3. If the ball hits below the sweet-spot, near the throat,
your timing is late and the shot will feel weak and sound
dull or muted. Here's how to use this critical information:
- As you notice you are timing the ball too early, simply
wait longer to swing.
- As you notice you are timing the ball too late, simply
- As you notice you are hitting the sweet spot, continue
the same timing.
As you repeat the process of actively listening and feeling
your ball-racquet impact, your timing will automatically sharpen.
You are giving yourself high-quality feedback. You can then
attend to this process as needed.
Every particular brand name of racquet will feel and sound
slightly different, but with practice you can identify what
characteristics your particular racquet has. Across all racquets,
the feedback I've described here will be true.
The process of identifying the various sounds and feelings
can range from obvious to quite subtle. Yet, the feelings
and sounds seem to be universal across all players and all
types of racquets.
Musicians Know Adjustment Is Key To Learning And Performing
As a former musician, to play well, I had to attend very
carefully to the sound and tone of my instrument (I played
the trombone). If I failed to do so, I played out of tune,
off-beat with my fellow musicians and had the wrong tone relative
to the passage I was playing.
Anytime I needed to make an adjustment to any of these three
areas, I would listen to my horn and make the appropriate
changes, on the spot, right during a performance.
In-The-Moment Adjustments In Tennis
Tennis players who DON'T pay attention to this serve and
overhead feedback -- either the feelings or the sounds --
are losing out on some very critical feedback. Additionally,
they are not aware of other, subtle performance issues taking
place. For example, if they contact the ball in the tip of
the racquet, they are not aware that:
1. Their head is not up.
Copyright © Bill Cole, MS, MA 2003,
2006 All rights reserved.
2. They are too anxious to see their result on court, so look
there too early.
3. They are rushing mentally.
NOT knowing this feedback information results in you NOT being
able to adjust. Then guess what? You roll along, making the
same error over and over.
But you can stop that sad scenario. You can simply begin noticing,
on a regular basis, moment to moment, what your ball-racquet
connection is doing. Try first being aware of this information
in your lessons and on the practice court before you notice
it in matches. You'll be able to figure it out much easier.
This system is not valid for other strokes, since other strokes
do not have the racquet vertical at impact, with the ball
falling through the strike zone. I have other techniques for
timing in this regard.
Best of luck in hearing and feeling all this new information!
Listen to your impact and your racquet will do all your talking
Now, go forth and use this winning stroke production tip to
play better and win more matches!
This article covers only one small part of the mental game.
A complete mental training program includes motivation and goal-setting,
pre-event mental preparation, post-event review and analysis,
mental strengthening, self-regulation training, breath control
training, motor skill training, mental rehearsal, concentration
training, pressure-proofing, communication training, confidence-building,
breaking through mental barriers, slump prevention, mental toughness
training, flow training, relaxation training, momentum training,
psych-out proofing and media training.
For a comprehensive overview of your mental abilities you need
an assessment instrument that identifies your complete mental
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This assessment gives you a quick snapshot of your strengths
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Bill Cole, MS, MA, a leading authority on peak performance, mental toughness
and coaching, is founder and President of the International Mental Game Coaching
Bill is also founder and CEO of William B. Cole Consultants, a consulting firm that helps
organizations and professionals achieve more success in business, life and sports.
He is a multiple Hall of Fame honoree, an award-winning scholar-athlete, published
book author and articles author, and has coached at the highest levels of major-league
pro sports, big-time college athletics and corporate America. For a free, extensive
article archive, or for questions and comments visit him at www.MentalGameCoach.com.
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