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  • Feedback on a student

    Hey Guys,


    mary-june is 9 and a half

    wondering what you think she can improve / change on her forehand

    I know she uses closed stance at times when she shouldn't


  • #2

    Good potential for development with her movement.

    Her hip slot is okay, so, thats a start.

    She naturally has good alignment.

    Generally speaking she moves towards contact with her hips, and not her nose, so that is a good start (she is a prospect, and not a suspect).

    Now, the bad news.

    Her weak hip flexors are a real big issue, and she slaps the ball, buckles and puts way to much pressure on the arm.

    I would not train her for more than three days a week as there is a lot of pressure on that rotator cuff. I'd really limit her reps to maybe 200 - 300 balls as well until she gets the unit into a workable condition.

    Tennis for this girl should be a fun deal, and nothing more.


    Now, if she is serious about being a baller, and wants to play, compete every day, and has the resources and community support to develop into an international level player this is what I recommend.


    Needs a ton of lower and upper back work, and really needs to understand how to use her hip to manipulate the racket head. I am in a good scenario training now being a coach, who has a pretty decent heavyweight fighter under development. I have three young girls (two daughters, plus a third we have in the group) who see world class fighters every everyday (we have a few good sparring partners as well who excel in a lot of different martial arts disiplines), and they mimick everything the older guys do.

    Tennis is changing, and old tennis pro's are generally on the way out.

    Guys with multi sport backrounds are the new breed, and they can correct common tennis issues because they know athletic functional cause right at the source.

    So, first less tennis, and more MMA, NBA, NHL, MLB training principals to get a proper base down before she can begin to hit a lot of balls.

    In tennis repetition is the key, however, the cart cannot come before the horse.

    You've got to put in the work on the MMA mats before you even think about hitting balls, or learning technique.

    I like work on MMA mats with kids, as its easier on the body, and they cannot leverage against the ground to generate power. Its tough, but, its easier on the body. I notice when we move off the mats, and onto courts I see less improvement. Most of the work I do with tennis is on a court where we have only MMA mats.

    Most of my running is done in a pool, again, because I like to minimize pressure on young bodies (even my 23 year old MMA kid).

    We have special mats that give an okay bounce, and then we close off with on court grond work for a minimal amount of time.

    My MMA kid loves doing his "roadwork" on clay tennis courts. They all love it. Its a clean surface, and they feel they can do more, and better volumes. I don't use hard courts with kids, but, that surface you are using looks interesting.

    The reason I mention what I do, is it relates to how your girl plays the game.

    Now, to this girls hips, they are not firing at all, and she's not floating back to position naturally due to the fact their is no speed or continuity of momentum coming from her hips (basically, that chain has a lot of gaps in it).

    You need to hit the ball with your hips, and float to your next position. She hits, and stops, and that all has to be combined into one stroke. Tennis is getting faster and faster, and you need to flow. Think of it like MMA fighting, or playing in the NHL, everything is combos, and one shot needs to lead into the next. You can never get caught not being in an eliptical flow, and doing number one without a plan on how what 3 and 5 and 7 are going to be!

    Her hands are generally weak, and I don't see much propensity for power in her shoulders. Again, lots of work on MMA mats walking on the hands, and doing that type of work. She doesn't have tennis player double joints (all three of my students do), so that relatively easy (lucky for you, I have to work around all of these issues, and its a pain).

    Generation of spin and timing will be big time issues for moving forward for her if that athletic base isn't put into order soon as she will never be able to get into a good slot position with the racket head because the hips are not driving the racket head down into the proper power position slot all the players use now. The major change in pro tennis over the past ten years, and the reason for the new ATP 3 is you have a generation of athletes who are functionally efficient, and able to generate more hip speed, which in turn means they'll use that to flow to their next shot without breaking continuity of momentum with their movement.

    Again, her hips are nicely in position, and now, its a matter of strengthening the nuerological chain she is physically able to move her hips quickly enough to adjust to the level of any oncoming ball in whatever range she needs to travel to get there.

    Right now her flexors are so weak she is always to high to really attack the ball like a cat chasing a mouse (the cat can get down to the level of the mouse in its last three steps to contact of poucing and control).

    But, again, her hip is in a nice position, and she is capable and mobile (she has relaxed knees by the way, and watch how her hip does back, and the knees rarely come over the toes). Now, she just needs to get into 90 degrees with the hips, while maintaining the right ankle flexion, and a few other deals.

    That big butt end completely needs to come off her racket in her practices so she has no leverage, and learns how to generate power properly with her hips (and improves her grip power). In the beginning stages the racket may even come flying out her hands, which is good. And she won't be able to hit balls. But, she won't be able to overextend without that bob, and will surprisingly be more under control. Try it. It works.

    The bucking concerns me, and that racket is way to big for her. My daughter is about 5'9 now, and JUST moved to a 25 inch racket (and we custom make handles so they are small in diameter, not big like this girls).

    Start small. Everyone uses oversized rackets, and its not good for young bodies.

    You need to be very careful with the arms of nine years olds. I have big, heavy kids, who loves to slug it out (quite literally). So, a lot more can go wrong for me. One has to be very mindful in this sport of technique, and proper athletic setups. I see so many Junior's here in this country who have broke down because of poor nutrition, athletic setups and the end result poor techique.

    +++ What coaches really need to see +++

    Whats really more applicable at this stage to be showing on a site like this (instead of them hitting balls) is excercises like squats (I'd like to see it with a stick in their hands), dowl work, shoulder isolations, lunges, pushups, 10 yard sprint, ankle rotations, one foot jumping and box jumps, and the other activation excercises you use.

    Every weakness is a players stroke will always be 100 percent inter related to what's happening in their bodies functionality.

    And of course before I even looked at her functionality and skills on the court I would want to know how she's looked after on the nutritional front. Because, really, its over if the kid doesn't like good food, or know how to eat. That's so important.
    Last edited by hockeyscout; 05-05-2016, 07:23 PM.


    • #3
      A couple of things…Uniformity of Motion

      Originally posted by bowt View Post
      Hey Guys,


      mary-june is 9 and a half

      wondering what you think she can improve / change on her forehand

      I know she uses closed stance at times when she shouldn't

      In the early stages of development I think that you are wise to emphasize a more closed/neutral stance. I am assuming that these are fed balls. She's making all of the initial check points…good preparation, backswing, transition to the ball*, follow through.

      1…Step to the ball…try not swing while backing up.

      2…Catch the follow through with the left hand upon completion of the swing over the opposite shoulder.

      Both steps to encourage uniformity of motion, transfer of weight and engagement of the left side of the body…building a foundation from which to build upon.
      Last edited by don_budge; 05-05-2016, 11:23 PM. Reason: for clarity's sake...


      • #4
        Follow up

        Originally posted by johnyandell View Post

        great question. since I am not a developmental coach and haven't seen hundreds of kids I am not absolutely sure. I have seen dozens of kids at Macci's who have some version of that backswing at early ages. Brian Gordon feels strongly it is the way to go... other coaches say yeah but the kids lose velocity...

        It doesn't hurt to experiment. I have had good luck going back to some of my old girls' high school team players and compacting backswings... check out the current and the previous articles in my forehand series--or revisit Brian and Rick...

        Just posting John's reply to you from his own thread. I didn't want to clutter up his personal thread so I thought I would post here.

        I do work in development, day in day out. I also work in the early stages of performance.

        I think it's ambitious to expect all kids to pull off an ATP forehand, be it boys or girls. The first port of call for me, and the coaches working under me, is to reduce the backswing and keep it within the plane of the body. We find most can do this in lessons but then when left to their own devices they start to develop oversize backswings again. We don't worry about this and keep plugging away until it sticks.

        Once we have reduced a backswing we then, on a case by case basis, make a judgement whether to try ATP or not. A lot depends on the child's ability to focus and make sense of it. We don't believe in flogging a dead horse if the child is a bit scatty or is poorly committed. An ATP takes application and concentration. Some kids have that, others don't.

        What we have learned over a couple of years of doing this with many children is this: 1) A reduced backswing alone (without the ATP bits) stabilises forehands in young players and they become more consistent. 2) Very little power is lost, if any, in reducing big backswings as timing seems to become better 3) A smaller swing sets things up nicely to move onto to the ATP forehand.

        Another thing we have learned with both boys and girls is they can still have very good and effective forehands without going for the full ATP. Drawing the racket straight back then forward again can be a simple and effective way to hit forehands and can work to a good level.

        Another thing we have learned is that a kid can hit all the positions of an ATP yet still not have a particularly powerful forehand. In this sense a players innate ability and timing seems to count for a lot.

        The big thing an ATP gives a kid if they can pull it off is easy topspin. Topspin can be turned on like a tap with power to boot. It's the most effective way to hit forehands if kids can do it.

        These have been my findings over a couple of years in dealing with a 100 or so kids.


        • #5

          Awesome post and report!


          • #6
            THE MAIN PROBLEM

            The issue you think is the issue, is never the source of the problem. With the big backswing - the last thing you EVER want to address is that big back swing. If you do, its a mistake in my opinion.


            Front end issues are caused y backend issues, and backend issues are caused by front end issues (probably the easiest way of explaining it). So, the big backswing is likely caused by poor hip functionality, poor ankle mobility, unstable hip positioning, questionable foot placement, knees out of allignment to far forward, collarbone in the wrong position or the weight not being on the proper muscle groups (big and small) at the appropriate time. Athletes try and overcompensate due to imbalances, and that is what needs to be fixed first, as opposed to focusing on the racket. The racket is never the issue, ever, or the cause.


            I had a real solid kid in our village who at one time was a top five player in the country. He was 6'1, 180, and had the potential to be a top 100 pro. At 15 he started experiencing shoulder pain, and dullness in his knee. His dad did a tremendous job with the child on 99 percent of everything, but, the 1% he did not know was his achiles heel. I never said anything to the guy ever because its counterproductive, and I had my own deal. The guy kept telling me, I overthought sports, and when we'd go out he'd be bored because my MMA fighter and I would be talking about what we needed to do to get his hip dropped one more inch. The MMA guys kept telling this guy his son would blow out his knee and shoulder, and that the dad should get me working with his son of movement, athletism and footwork. But, the dad (who was a real good coach) insisted over and over again tennis was a "unique" sport, and it was best we left it to the "tennis experts." So, we did, and it was interesting the end results.

            HOW DID IT ALL PLAY OUT?

            The kid just stopped wanting to play at 16, and at 17 he was out of the sport and giving lessons because of pain in his knee and shoulder. They all thought he was soft, and faking it, but we all knew better. The father was not willing to adapt, or work through that rough transitional phase in his son's career either, and make a move to Germany, Spain or really get engaged in what was going wrong with the process. This father (he is a real good coach and player in his own right) did do a superb job, but, he was a single guy, unmarried, girls, party, fun life and I am not sure he was absolutely commited as a tennis pro which in the end was likely his achiles heel (as he learned in this past year). My team and I would be at the courts at 4:00 am preparing for 5:00 am practice, and he'd show up at 8:00 am, and be battling heat all day, and shirking it when it came time to his kids education - socialization due to those late starts to the day. By 1030, the heat would come, and they'd be on autopilot.


            This year his dad gave me a call, and asked if I could take over, and work with him son as (a) everyone has seen the kind of player my older daughter has developed into, (b) how much our MMA fighter has improved and (c) the fact his son started to feel healthier again, and wanted to make a last ditch run chance to work out on the Challenger Tour.


            Problem is, I told the dad - the boys shoulder, and knees, they are done. Rehabbing them could have been done at 15, but not at 20. I agreed we would take a look. Hitting a tennis ball is pretty punishing, and if you're not set up well from day one it will all come crashing to a halt sooner or later unless you are made from steel (which, a few guys are on tour I must say).


            With kids, you give them a broom stick handle, get them to put it above there heads and have them squat for you with a 12-12 foot stance with feet shoulder width apart. That'll tell you all you need to know. Young kids need to work on perfecting squats and lunges # 1, and know how its done correctly. Teaching this aspect is the most complex science in sport. The Russian hockey programs of the 70's were better than ours because the coaches focused so much on teaching this to their players from a very young age.

            THE SQUAT TEST

            I gave him an empty bar to squat. He did not know grips (false, suicide, clean, cross arm, ect), which is a bit scary. When he had a bar on his back, he naturally wanted to start with his hands really wide (just like your tennis players want to do the same and take big backswings). So, right off the bat I know he has poor shoulder mobility. Whats happening here from the get go with this guy is his compensation (placing his hands wide on the bar) is taking away from his stability, core tension and worthwhile stability from the engaging muscles in his trunk.


            In tennis, the ability to engage every small muscle group in a sequential manner will determine your end outcome on the tennis court. Knowing how to assess an athletes functional movement, and finding issues in the chain without a racket is the only way to have a chance at improving anything in the mechanics of how to swing a racket (or shoot a ball, throw, pitch, bat, drive a hockey puck, sprint, run, move laterally or throw a javelin)

            HOW DID THE TEST GO?

            So, I got him doing a sqaut for me, and the bar path (and again, you can use a wooden broom stick) started to fall forward, and move away from the center of mass. Right there, thats all you need to know! This athlete will always be out of position when hitting a tennis ball, and never ever, never, will be able to master the fundamentals to be a top end pro. They will always be injured. So, from there I know what I know, but, what I don't know if what is causing this shoulder mobility (and his shoulder issues). TRIED tried to bring his hands in on the bar, and he could not physically even bring his elbows into the correct slot I wanted. Bingo. I literally could not pull this guys elbows in-towards his hips, and push his elbows forward!


            Again, opposites, front side shoulder appears to be the issue, but, the problem is actually behind the shoulder. When I finally got this guy into the best position I possibly could (and, BTW, he has not even sqautted yet), for the first time in his life his lats and lower back could be engaged and firing. HE WAS so week in this area.


            His hips were fair, but, he could not get them ever into the right slot due to the issues in the back, and this had a residual effect in the front as his collarbone would dip, and the knees would shoot over the toes causing knee issues.


            Who wants to be that trainer continually asking their athlete to (a) switch grips (suicide, false, full, clean, cross ect, and trying foot placements), adjusting foot placement (toes forward, toes out, wide, narrow, 12-12, neutral, flare, 15-30 ect) and continually asking your athlete to "Chest Up" and "Head Position" for twelve useless reps. Kind of reminds me of tennis instruction, and it won't solve your inherent issues which I have outlined above anyways.


            And, after arming so many balls his shoulder was just shot, as was the knee. I am sure we would have found a lot of damage if we explored closer. Now, the dad understood the ATP 3 deal, but, physically you need to be set up so you are capable of delivering the goods. He'd preach dropping the slot position and try and force it. But, not understand hip speed and placement was what put the racket into the slot position (not the hands). He could never get to the point where the chain was connected, and would attempt to do things though that his athlete was just not set up to do physically. IF YOU ARE not set up correctly, you will be playing old man tennis. Won't work. Games evolved.


            The window of opportunity closes so quickly for athletes. And back to my point, the big backswing is usually never the issue, its a bit more complex. By the way, its the same issue with MMA fighters. Train the hips correctly, and the hand speed magically falls into place.
            Last edited by hockeyscout; 05-07-2016, 02:29 AM.


            • #7
              And, that is it boys. Spend about 100 hours looking through this site. Now, I am offline. Got a busy summer ahead, and my MMA fighter will be moving into my house for the next three months so I can prep him for making the move to America. Its good, he likes being a sports house and two kids see how a another professional goes about business, so its good. And, they can compete and try and keep up with the baddest man right now in the country and a heavyweight champ. Not a bad deal eh? Will send video of my athletes next time I come on here in four months. They've all progressed, and I think one of my athletes winning the MMA championship of Russia has really spurred them on. We're lucky to have mentorship. Especially, a guy who wins. At one time he was losing matches he never should have lost. So, they've seen him grow and evolve. And, this MMA guy likes to play paintball and fish, so its like having a son around! Lifes good guys, TTYL. Its going to be a big fun summer camp this year at home (like always).
              Last edited by hockeyscout; 05-07-2016, 02:31 AM.


              • #8
                Thanks for your posts Scott & John I really appreciate your feedback.

                I feel the same way that developing an ATP style back swing doesn't have to be an immediate thing but unsure on when exactly to implement changes. Potentially could be strength and related to an oversize racket for her size. Even tho it is a WTA style her back swing is compact.

                Thanks for your feedback hockey scout I do think her hip flexors are weak but they have improved tremendously and I know she does physical work at the state training academy. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IS5gDdOwiBc - video from little over 1 year ago you can see the massive improvement.

                I dont know exactly how she can improve her hip rotation could be an inherent athletic thing.

                Do you advice more physical exercises perhaps squats (I'd like to see it with a stick in their hands), dowl work, shoulder isolations, lunges, pushups, 10 yard sprint, ankle rotations, one foot jumping and box jumps, and the other activation excercises you use.

                I currently always begin squad sessions with:

                Allistair McCaw Dynamic Warm-up 4 basic dynamic flexibility activities:
                • Walking lunges
                • Hamstring and reach
                • Side Lunge + Drop squat
                • Quad walk with calf raise
                • Run down the side and side step along the baseline
                Last edited by bowt; 05-07-2016, 06:22 AM.


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