Thursday, November 09, 2006

How to Increase Your Racket Speed-Part 1, The hard road to a faster racket

At this point in time, there are really only two effective methods to increase your racket speed. One method is something everyone will recognize. The other method is novel and somewhat out-of-the-box, and only a select few in tennis know about, but sooner or later, I'm pretty sure that everyone will be dying to try it.

The first method to increase your racket speed is to optimize your stroking technique.

(See, I told you it would be something you'd recognize...) And, contrary to what the whole tennis establishment in the US is telling you, there isn't a "wide range" of acceptable tennis technique especially if you're interested in becoming a tour pro.

Given the kinds of ball speed that the pros are capable of generating with their strokes, the ball speeds that are necessary to be competitive at the tour level, and the natural laws that humans, rackets and balls must obey on planet Earth, there really is only one way to strike the tennis ball that maximizes both speed and control for each stroke.

Namely, if your forehand—the one stroke that has undergone arguably the most technical change in recent tennis history—is not identical in its execution to the forehands used by that of Federer, Safin, Moya or Nadal, you will be significantly disadvantaged as an aspiring high-performance tennis player.

There really does exists a single, core set of movements you need to make with your body in order to maximize your racket speed without losing control of your shots. The tough part is the fact that the chances are great that your local teaching pro--well, make that the vast majority of teaching pros and coaches, including many decorated high-performance and collegiate tennis coaches--has absolutely no idea what these moves are.

The good news is that for those of you out there who are either "naturally athletic" or have been exposed to a lot of different sports in your life, it's pretty likely that your body already knows how to make those necessary movements, it's just that you don't know how to put those movements together to make an optimal tennis stroke.

Now, I suppose that you want to know what these “core moves” for the various strokes are?

Well, if you want to me or anyone else to teach these to you, you will need to pony up some significant $$$. Why?

Because if you learn these moves, your ROI—“return on investment”—in tennis terms would be priceless and in real-world, financial terms (depending on your age), your ROI may be somewhere in the 500 to 1000 percent range.

As in, you could “make” 5 to 10 TIMES your original investment.

Here’s an example:

If you spend $10,000 to learn the moves, and should it turn out that you can actually execute them, and learning these moves gets you a college scholarship worth $100,000 as a result…

When you do the math, your ROI comes out to 1000% or 10X your original “investment”.

So where do you go to learn these "optimal" strokes? To a famous tennis academy? To one of the many online instruction sites? To the instruction pages in the monthly tennis magazines? Where?

Sorry to be bearer of more bad news, but if you're living in the US, the answer is really none of the above. IMHO, I think that there are maybe 7 to 10 tennis coaches in the entire US that would be knowledgeable and capable enough to teach you the kind of tennis techniques that would help you become a true pro prospect. And, 7 or 8 of these 10 coaches work almost exclusively with established touring pros and are constantly on tour with their pro clients.

So where else can you turn to? Maybe, if you really want to learn "pro techniques" you need to go to Spain or France as now many of the famous, and very knowledgeable former pro players and tour coaches have set up tennis academies in those countries. Perhaps spending some time at the Casal-Sanchez or the Bruguera Academy in Spain, or at the Mouratoglou Academy in France, or wherever Bob Brett (coach of Boris Becker, Goran Ivanesivic, among many others) has now set up shop (I think his new academy is in San Remo, Italy) will be a wise investment given the inaccessibility of pro stroke "knowledge" in the US.

Alternatively, if you are one of those people who learn mainly by watching (a "visual" learner), you might benefit by going to one of the instruction sites that have a large video archive of touring pro strokes (TennisOne, Advanced Tennis, etc.) to study how the pros actually do it and try to copy what you see.

The downside of this approach is that you should be really careful about reading the "expert analysis" your model pro's strokes that are thrown about on these sites. Why be so careful? Again, remember that there are maybe only 10 coaches around the US who both understand and can teach these optimal techniques and none of them write for any of those websites!

Chances are, you are as much of an expert in tennis technique as those experts who are currently writing columns for these websites...

OK, so now you may be somewhat discouraged about trying to increase your racket speed by optimizing your stroke technique. (If you happen to be American, that is.) Want to hear about that second method I mentioned earlier?

We'll talk more about that next time!

P.S. I wish I could say something positive about tennis coaching in the US with regard to technical knowledge, but that's hard to do because it's painfully apparent that we are really very far behind the curve especially when it comes to high-performance tennis.

On one hand, the USTA is to be given a lot of props for recognizing that the US is far behind the rest of the tennis-playing countries of the world when it comes to developing world-class players. But the stark reality remains that for all they have done in the past 10 years, they have only really made up about 5 years of the 10 year lag between us and the rest of the successful tennis nations such as Spain and France.

Bottom line is, it's really a "good news, bad news" deal... The good news for the US is that we're now only 5 years behind everyone else instead of 10 years, but the bad news is that we're still 5 years behind the competition. C’est la vie!

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At 5:51 PM, Anonymous Eric Arrington said...

I agree 1000% with you on the fact that there are very few US coaches that are qualified (and that includes me!). As an aspiring coach where can I go to learn more as a coach?

Thanks for this resource, I am going to fill out a purchase order for the speed chain ASAP.


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