Using the winter season for technical development.
During the winter periods, we really encourage our players to keep their tennis up and stress the importance of working on technique during this period. We try and tackle the shots that take the most practice to improve. Below are 4 shots we have been working on over the winter period.
- Slice Backhand and Slice (chip) Forehand
The Serve is always hard to get right. Continental grip is painfully difficult to grasp and even once right, short term, there is often a loss of power in the serve. We are always working on the serve but the winter period gives us a chance to start fresh with the grip and try different ways to help with the development. We are finding we are doing a lot of throwing with our Orange and Green ball squads as they have not properly developed their throwing action.
The slice shot is used so often and in so many ways. As a chip return, as a drop shot, as a floating deep slice, as an angled slice, as an approach slice or as a desperate attempt to reach a short or wide ball. So learning how to hit all of these shots starts with the ability to use the continental grip. By practicing how to hit slice it is not only a useful tool to be able to have but can also contribute to better volleys.
For the younger players (under 12) the volleys are still hard to improve quickly. They naturally want to change grips between forehand and backhand and with a continental grip have trouble locking the wrist in position (particularly forehand volley) so our focus is on control of the ball with small, compact swings. If our players can practice the continental grip with small volleys then their technique will take hold quicker before trying to master hitting harder and deeper volleys. Also a great skill learnt here is the ability to be able to receive a hard groundstroke and then be able to take the pace off the ball with a volley.
In Junior tennis, lobs are easier to hit due to the size of the players. But the lobs are not normally done very well and a topspin lob must be learnt and developed as young an age as possible. By doing lob practice in the winter period, it gives our players to chance to exaggerate topspin and racquet head speed by promoting top spin as the key to a great lob. The ‘Rafa Nadal’ swing I find can be introduced here with the forehand lob as a way to generate high levels of spin and height. Once the lob is looking good, hitting through the ball with harder and lower groundstrokes seems to be an easy transition.
As we introduced these techniques, our players start to have more ‘tools’ in their tool box. The downside is their shot selection gets a little bit off for a while as they will then try a slice when they should of stuck with a topspin or flat ground stroke or perhaps done a lob with it wasn’t the best choice. Plus with the serving, there will be a lot of faults as they navigate the new method. So where the sessions do not neccessarily seem to look that successful, the seeds of development are planted and can be developed. Moving forwards will be more and more repetition and then a more intentional shift towards decision making can come as we practice point scenario’s leading up to summer.