of CHARLESTON

Cont. from page 1..Technical Skills A Hindrance

BE SENSIBLE - HAVE A SENSE OF BALANCE
The other day I heard one of the pros at the club say to a player, "be balanced when you hit that shot." I racked my brain to figure out what exactly that means! Is there some kind of body position that determines balance? If your feet are exactly this way or that way then are you balanced? In professional matches pros are diving and falling all over the place when they hit shots. Does this mean they are not balanced? Yes, they are balanced - they have a SENSE of balance.

The answer to this conundrum lies in what balance really is and how balance develops. Balance is first and foremost a sense. It's not a technique, it's not a position,

"Tennis is a game of feel, not mechanics.
If you over-concentrate on the technical skills
you will take years longer to develop"

it's not a certain look. If you are off balance when you hit a particular shot, it is just a symptom of an undeveloped sense of balance. To tell you to be balanced means nothing!!! You cannot automatically BE BALANCED! You have to work at it. It's like telling a child who is learning to ride a bicycle to be balanced and everything will be fine. You just cannot DO balance! You practice for hours and hours. I think it's called repetition.

The principle here is that BALANCE IS A SENSE NOT A BODY POSITION. When your sense of balance improves you can 'feel' the balance in many different positions when hitting a tennis ball. You may 'look' off balance, even uncoordinated and discombobulated, but your sense of balance is intact. Exactly like your sense of balance on a bicycle when you can ride all over the place, make turns, ride in circles, etc.!

Balance is internal NOT external. You can't see it, you feel it! And it's your own unique 'feel'.

BE SENSIBLE - HAVE A SENSE OF TIMING
How many times do you hear coaches scream, "get your racket back, get your racket back, get your racket back!"? The idea being if you take your racket back quickly you will have better timing when you hit the ball.

Continued on next column
Millions of players all over the world are jamming the racket back in hopes of better timing on their shots. Does it work?. . .Hardly! I have watched players for years mechanically throw the racket back, only to continue hitting the ball too late or too early.

The answer again is: racket preparation is not the cause of poor timing it is only a symptom of poor timing. Poor timing is caused by not enough practice to develop a sense of timing. Bringing the racket back at the wrong time is just a symptom of poor timing that can be resolved by hitting thousands and thousands of tennis balls. When I teach I simply stay out of the way of the learning process and embrace the journey toward a sense of balance and a sense of timing. It's a great ride!

DON'T BE CAUGHT SENSELESS
I have experienced too much success watching players develop their game with none of the overdone technical skills.

I have said for years that tennis is a game of FEEL, not MECHANICS. If you over-concentrate on the technical skills you will take years longer to develop this 'feel'. Think in terms of feel, NOT mechanics.

Apparently I'm not alone with this type of teaching! Below is an excerpt from the golf website, www.broadchannel1.com/Golf/Golf.ht m, that shocked me when I read this tip from golf pro Rick Martino and writer Don Wade. I promise I did NOT write this. :)

"You learn to play golf by feel, not mechanics alone. Too much detail is confusing. You cannot think your way through a golf swing. You feel your way! Finally, short practice sessions regularly are better than one long period. Practice, and good repetition, will teach your muscles to learn to feel - creating your own internal dialog from within that you, and only you, can describe to yourself."

Tom Veneziano is an accomplished tennis coach and author. You can visit his website at www.tenniswarrior.com



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