How To Be The Quickest Player On the Court by Lee Taft

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Republished from www.sportspecific.com

If you're not quick on the tennis court, you're losing a lot of potential crucial points. Discover how to be qquicker and more agile on the court with these must-know secrets!

Tennis is a sport that requires great quickness, acceleration, and agility. Top tennis players have the ability to anticipate shots by watching the shoulder turn and foot placement of their opponent prior to the ground stroke or volley. Proven footwork techniques separate the good players from the great players at every level.

In tennis, one of the first and most important techniques to learn is the “Split Step”. The split step is when the feet split into an active athletic stance. Tennis athletes must be able to randomly react to the shot and explode with an aggressive first step to get in position to hit the ball. Just prior to the opponent striking the ball, there should be a split step performed to create a plyometric action to create a quicker take off. It is important to time the landing of the split step in order to move when the ball is hit.

When an athlete performs the split step and has determined the direction of travel, the next technique to learn is the “Directional Step”. The directional step is when the lead leg opens to allow the hips to turn freely and the lead lower leg and foot take a small step in the direction of travel and create and down and back force angle to accelerate from. This step is subtle and quick, but extremely important. The primary mistake with this action is most athletes take too big of a step and create a breaking action, or slowing down, due to the heel coming in contact with the ground first. This step is just to quickly position the body into the most efficient acceleratory position possible.

The third technique to teach your tennis players is a combination of two footwork skills called the “Stop and Recovery”. The stop and recovery occurs when the player must recover back to the middle of the court or run down a crosscourt shot. When a player must run wide to hit a shot immediately following the shot, the player must stop and begin to recover back towards the middle of the court. To properly do this with efficient movement two things must occur.

The first is the stop technique. This simply means to stop the body’s momentum from running out wide to get to the shot. This is performed by bring the back foot out to the side of the body with a wide angle. Be sure the foot plant is wider than the shoulders and hip in order to avoid a stumble, swaying of the shoulders, or multiple skip steps. The next part of stopping the body, which leads us into the recovery portion of the stop and recovery, is the positioning of the ankle. The foot should be dorsi-flexed in order to avoid rolling of the ankle, and to produce a greater force into the recovery step. When the athlete plants the foot with the toes pointing out there is not much stopping power or recovery power. Also, if the athlete is up on the balls of the feet in a weak ankle position, there is a greater chance of rolling the ankle and creating an injury.

The recovery technique is critical in tennis due to the fact the opponent can hit the ball behind you at any time and if you are not oriented to the net, your going to get beat. The recovery technique is when the player uses a crossover step, keeping the shoulders oriented to the net, to gain quick acceleration back to the center of the court. This technique is only used on the first step, possible second step also, to gain speed then immediately the player will shuffle staying completely square to the net. Remember this, if the shoulders turn completely and the player sprints toward the center court and the opponent hits a shot behind the player, then there is virtually no way to recover quick enough to get to the shot. Stay square to the net but use the crossover step to gain speed initially.

The final technique that a tennis player should learn is called the “Hip Turn”. The hip turn is going to occur when at the net or approaching the net. The hip turn is performed by quickly turning the hips and feet to create an aggressive plyometric push off angle. This will allow the player to recover with far greater speed than the pivot technique. This hip turn will applies when a lob is giving by the opponent while the player is at the net or approaching the net. The hip turn is usually going to be coupled with the split step technique. If a tennis player can learn this technique effectively, the ability to run down difficult shots will dramatically improve.

Much of my sports performance career has been to the improvement of movement techniques. I have been fortunate to have worked with some of the top touring professional and collegiate tennis players. Through this time, I have been able to develop the above techniques to a level that have made dramatic improvements in a player’s games. When the playing ability reaches an elite level, these techniques become even more critical for the players. The ultimate goal is to improve starting speed, first step acceleration, and change of direction quickness. If you can do this, you will certainly improve your player’s games.

Lee Taft is the founder of Sports Speed Etc.. Visit his website at Sports Speed Etc. and Sport Movement..


Submitted by DMorgan on Thu, 03/30/2006 - 5:02pm.

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