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The Little Green Book of Tennis

http://www.amazon.com/The-Little-Green-Book-Tennis/dp/1503559041

Harvey Penick’s “Little Red Book of Golf” is one of the best recent examples of coaching a sport. I have patterned my new book on tennis instruction using methods similar to Coach Penick. Drawing from fifty years of teaching and coaching, I share insights from my mentors who helped me craft repeatable techniques for winning. I also share our personal experiences and observations that have proven to be solid advice. Hopefully, you’ll find this book to be succinct and filled with gems for all levels of players and coaches.

The tennis book is NOW arranged from beginner to intermediate to advanced players. Then specific attempts to help coaches, teams, fans, parents, and tennis organizations.   Tennis people can more  logically access the proper tennis lessons

 The other categories the book appears in thirds:  A. TENNIS, B.  TOWNS AND PEOPLE,  C. SUBJECTS DARK AND LIGHT.

 

3RD EDITION OF “LITTLE GREEN BOOK OF TENNIS” and more!

Getting closer to reorganization.  The third edition of THE LITTLE GREEN BOOK  of TENNIS is done.  It is the first third of the new blog site.  Hopefully the new ordering of blogs will make it easy as it goes from beginners, to high school and tournament players, to talented juniors, to college tennis aspirants, and up.  Help for coaches and teams.

We are still working on the mechanics.  The next third comes from PLAY IS WHERE LIFE IS.  Town lore and people  from five small North Carolina towns at the core of this third.

The final source is largely from  A LEVEL OF THINKING.  From dark to light,  serious to entertaining.  This material concludes the twenty some “columns or categories”  each of which reads as an independent “chapter”.   Now one is able to skip from chapter to chapter by choosing and clicking on the preferred column located  to the right on the website home page.

TEN GROUND STROKE FUNDAMENTALS (1)

The most significant lesson a tennis teacher can impart is to have his
pupils “watch the ball” properly. Reams have been written on how to
do this and what benefits will accrue. What then, are the other most
important fundamental ideas in tennis ground stroke instruction and
when do these ideas incorporate themselves?Tennis teachers adopt “nutshell” approaches to express their major
concerns and ideas. Some ideas suit some teachers and pupils more
effectively than others. Gallway’s Inner Tennis is essentially a method book
on “watching the ball” and watching yourself. Welby Van Horn’s major ideas
for beginners are balance, grips, strokes, and strategy. Dennis Van Der
Meer has used understanding the bounce of the ball as a core thought. Jim
Leighton, author of Inside Tennis, emphasized the “gun barrel approach”
and understanding the hitting zone as central ideas. All are bona fide
timesavers in tennis instruction, as are many other valid thoughts.
The following is a brief list, with comments, on the major ideas a tennis
instructor should convey to pupils. Certainly there are other important
ideas, and the level of the player must be considered, but let’s focus on
these major objectives.
• Watch the ball. Many great players have developed themselves with
little or no instruction simply by following this suggestion. Trust your
own mechanism.
• Establish a target. Someone defined tennis as the ability to “hit a
moving target while under stress.” You must “watch the ball” but you
must also have a mental target of where your shot is to go. This is
concentration in tennis. “Look at the ball; where does it go” is an
appropriate oversimplification for advising players. Also, which of
these ideas (ball or target) comes first is a chicken or the egg
argument of some relevance.
• Tracking the ball to the “hit spot.” This is basically movement in
the game. Proper strokes are dictated by proper position. Once the
ball is out of the hit zone even great players have trouble. (Lousy
hit spots dictate lousy strokes!) Once the player establishes where his
shot will be (forehand or backhand) his task becomes tracking that
ball to the appropriate “hit spot.” The human mechanisms: use your
eyes to track the ball and your brain to relay the message to your feet
and legs. This makes movement, i.e., speed, quickness,
and conditioning, essential.
• Adjusting to the descending ball. Certainly the ability to hit in the
rise is important, as is learning to handle shoulder-high balls, but
fundamental hit spots for beginners should be thigh-to-waist high,
and the ball should be descending. Not only is this area the power
zone, but also it encourages low-to-high strokes. The player must
use movement to place himself so the opponent’s shot descends
into his appropriate “hit spot.” Keeping the descending ball in the
perfect “hit spot” makes his strokes much more simple and is underestimated in its ability to eliminate frustration from the
beginner’s game.
• Utilize proper grips. Proper grip is essential from the outset. There
are a variety of proper grips but certainly traditional information
(eastern forehand, proper backhand, etc.) should be part of the
teacher’s basic craft.
• Get your racquet back properly. This must be one of the tennis
teacher’s most often repeated phrases. Early preparation of the
racquet is one of the real clues in tennis. Jack Barnaby in Racquet
Work said these “nutshells”: prepare your racquet, prepare yourself,
and watch the ball. Certainly there is an interrelationship between
early racquet preparation and the speed and effectiveness of
the player.
• Firm wrists in the hit zones. The ability to keep the wrists firm
through the ground stroke hit zones can be likened to the need for a
golfer keeping his lead arm straight. Without firm wrists all kinds of
wrinkles can mess up fundamental shots. Often, poor position on the
ball is the reason for faulty wrist movements. Perhaps Mr. Leighton’s
Inside Tennis has the best statement on “pressed wrists” and the “gun
barrel approach” to the hitting zone.
• Proper finish, or follow through. After the wrists have gone
through the hit zone, the hips and shoulders should turn farther, and
the racquet should be lifted to a firm, high ending. The teacher can
emphasize this fundamental by requiring pupils to “freeze” at the end
of their shots to self-diagnose their shots.
• Return to ready. Beginning players should understand that every
ground stroke varies and to cope with the upcoming variation they
must finish the current shot and regroup their concentration and
head for the best defensive position they can ascertain, generally
near the middle of the baseline. Here again, the player is dependent
on his legs for movement, and he must understand that this is the
point at which he must work hardest in tennis.
• Recycle the process. The player now must be ready to repeat the
above outlined fundamental on either side, for as many times as
needed to win the point. Each shot is similar to, but independent of,
the other. The player must be aware that consistency in shot
production is the major strategy in tennis. The player must also be
committed to repeating the process without error for as many times
as necessary to win the point.

CHECK YOUR GRIPS IN THE “HIT SPOT” (2)

The most irrefutable physical law in tennis is that “the ball will be
directed where you point the racquet at the moment the strings meet the
ball.” This sounds simple enough, but it is a fundamental that is often
overlooked by a beginner who is trying to think of ten things at once.
As a tennis instructor, one can heighten the class’s attention with the
mere suggestion of the proper backhand grip discussion. Almost
immediately, pupils will pick up their racquets and search for this mystic
grip that will cure their frustrating backhand problem. While no grip will
atone for poor position or improper hit spot, an understanding that grip
change reinforces wrist strength is essential.
No matter how one explains this necessity, students have a period in
when the decisions concerning which way and how much the hands turn
are confusing. The same is true of all grips when one progresses to the
point that all strokes have been explained. To cope with this indecision, a
teacher can facilitate grip change understanding by having students check
their grips in the various hit spots.
Thus constant concentration. It is like a golfer putting; he must watch the
ball but intensely concentrate on the cup. Only tennis players move too!
While this seems obvious to parents, juniors may neither understand it,
nor understand how it breaks down under pressure or adversity. Perhaps
beginners would do well to concentrate on only one target. If nine of ten
players are right-handers and the majority of these are weaker on the
backhand side, then concentrating on this target alone makes a junior
strategically sound up to a surprisingly high level.
If tennis is the “ability to hit a changing target while moving and under
stress,” then moving and concentrating are the core of the game.
Parents—you are right, but you need to explain yourselves!Most beginners tend to check their grips in the ready, or waiting, position. By checking grips in the hit spot a beginner can immediately relate grips and their relationship to “the most irrefutable physical law in tennis.” One also can more easily ascertain the value of proper grip to
wrist reinforcement.

TENNIS PRACTICE: YOU NEED A FRIEND (3)

A teacher of sports skills soon realizes tasks include:
• Having a concept of what the skill looks like when correctly executed
• Seeing where others are going wrong
• Correcting execution
• Leading through a proper program to eventual proper execution on
a reflex, or match, basis
Tennis is no exception. A good teacher will set up enough practice balls
so errors are corrected. This is a main task, and good teachers, pros, and
coaches work doggedly at it. There are some common misconceptions on
the part of pupils however. Perhaps it is worthwhile to examine a few of
these. First, no teacher can tell a player how to play. He can only teach the
player how to practice. It’s like a person taking piano lessons and never
touching the keys–the student simply cannot learn without actual practice
on the piano.
Some people conceive of tennis as lessons. Tennis is play. As a city tennis
director I observed people repeatedly taking beginners’ lessons from one
year to the next. When I ask them how they have done since last year they
often reply “oh, I haven’t played since the lessons,” or “I could never find
anyone to play with.”
These people haven’t understood a basic fact regarding improving one’s
tennis game: you are dependent on other people. There are some ways
to overcome this fact, namely lessons, ball machines, backboard practice,
racks of shag or practice balls – yet no one avoids the inevitable. You must
have someone you can count on to play or practice with. Often you hear “I
like to play with better people,” and perhaps to play with an equal is best.
But to play with anyone is better than not playing at all.
Often the most natural practice possibilities, i.e., family member, friends,
neighbors, or rivals, are somehow eliminated because of various reasons.
“Oh, I can’t play with my father, he shouts at me all the time,” is one excuse.
“I can’t stand to lose to her” is another. “I can’t count on them to be there
on time,” or “to play hard when they come” is frequent. At this point I think
the player should have a “heart-to-heart” with their potential practice partner. The gist of which would conclude: “Look, I need you to get better,
and I know you want the same. Let’s set a regular time, keep our mouths
shut, and promise each other we’ll work as hard as we can while we’re on
the court. Also we’ll swap practice hits on an equal basis.”
“Swap practice hits?” What does this mean? It means that if you are,
and have, a dependable friend, you can set up the practice balls rather
than pay a pro a fee for such service (or fail to practice because of an
absent coach). This agreement has enormous potential for specific shot
improvement, yet will go awry quickly unless each person is conscientious
about hitting his share of the set ups. It also helps players to make note
of their weak shots and their friend’s weak shots during play. A sincere
effort must be made by the players to set up the practice balls realistically.
(Communication helps here!) Again, it helps to “blend” shots that go
together naturally. For example, player one practices serving at the
backhand while player two practices his backhand return. Next the
players reverse roles. Drills can be fit together in a limitless number of
patterns and shots, yet some are time honored and should be emphasized.
Even coaching college men who were quite talented, one had to sell
the players on the value of drilling and their dependency on each other
to practice properly. Of course, more than two can practice together. A
coach would never allow absenteeism, tardiness, or the “I just don’t feel
like practicing hard today” excuse. For player A to improve, player B must
extend himself. The entire team’s improvement is dependent on each
member’s maximum effort to extend their teammate into improvement.
A sack or rack or bag of practice balls is a common sight around
tennis courts today. Surely you should hit “tons” of practice services. You
can bounce hit, backboard practice, and work on the ball machine. You can
take lessons from the best, but to really improve, friend, you need a friend!

THE DRIVING RANGE OF TENNIS (4)

A teacher of sports skills soon realizes tasks include:
• Having a concept of what the skill looks like when correctly executed
• Seeing where others are going wrong
• Correcting execution
• Leading through a proper program to eventual proper execution on
a reflex, or match, basis
Tennis is no exception. A good teacher will set up enough practice balls
so errors are corrected. This is a main task, and good teachers, pros, and
coaches work doggedly at it. There are some common misconceptions on
the part of pupils however. Perhaps it is worthwhile to examine a few of
these. First, no teacher can tell a player how to play. He can only teach the
player how to practice. It’s like a person taking piano lessons and never
touching the keys–the student simply cannot learn without actual practice
on the piano.
Some people conceive of tennis as lessons. Tennis is play. As a city tennis
director I observed people repeatedly taking beginners’ lessons from one
year to the next. When I ask them how they have done since last year they
often reply “oh, I haven’t played since the lessons,” or “I could never find
anyone to play with.”
These people haven’t understood a basic fact regarding improving one’s
tennis game: you are dependent on other people. There are some ways
to overcome this fact, namely lessons, ball machines, backboard practice,
racks of shag or practice balls – yet no one avoids the inevitable. You must
have someone you can count on to play or practice with. Often you hear “I
like to play with better people,” and perhaps to play with an equal is best.
But to play with anyone is better than not playing at all.
Often the most natural practice possibilities, i.e., family member, friends,
neighbors, or rivals, are somehow eliminated because of various reasons.
“Oh, I can’t play with my father, he shouts at me all the time,” is one excuse.
“I can’t stand to lose to her” is another. “I can’t count on them to be there
on time,” or “to play hard when they come” is frequent. At this point I think
the player should have a “heart-to-heart” with their potential practice partner. The gist of which would conclude: “Look, I need you to get better,
and I know you want the same. Let’s set a regular time, keep our mouths
shut, and promise each other we’ll work as hard as we can while we’re on
the court. Also we’ll swap practice hits on an equal basis.”
“Swap practice hits?” What does this mean? It means that if you are,
and have, a dependable friend, you can set up the practice balls rather
than pay a pro a fee for such service (or fail to practice because of an
absent coach). This agreement has enormous potential for specific shot
improvement, yet will go awry quickly unless each person is conscientious
about hitting his share of the set ups. It also helps players to make note
of their weak shots and their friend’s weak shots during play. A sincere
effort must be made by the players to set up the practice balls realistically.
(Communication helps here!) Again, it helps to “blend” shots that go
together naturally. For example, player one practices serving at the
backhand while player two practices his backhand return. Next the
players reverse roles. Drills can be fit together in a limitless number of
patterns and shots, yet some are time honored and should be emphasized.
Even coaching college men who were quite talented, one had to sell
the players on the value of drilling and their dependency on each other
to practice properly. Of course, more than two can practice together. A
coach would never allow absenteeism, tardiness, or the “I just don’t feel
like practicing hard today” excuse. For player A to improve, player B must
extend himself. The entire team’s improvement is dependent on each
member’s maximum effort to extend their teammate into improvement.
A sack or rack or bag of practice balls is a common sight around
tennis courts today. Surely you should hit “tons” of practice services. You
can bounce hit, backboard practice, and work on the ball machine. You can
take lessons from the best, but to really improve, friend, you need a friend!

MOVE! CONCENTRATE! WHAT DO THEY MEAN? (5)

These are the suggestions most often repeated by parents to junior
tennis players. Perhaps some players understand. However, sometimes it
looks as if the juniors conceive of themselves being in a hypnotic state of
deep concentration, wiggling all of themselves at once. “Is this what my
parents want? Is this what they mean by move? What do they mean
‘concentrate?’”
A sympathetic mentor sees that while the parent’s sometimes caustic
and impatient requests are well-founded, the junior player quite possibly
might not fully understand these terms as applied to tennis. Let’s examine
them more closely.
Movement in tennis is perhaps the real secret to the game. Ultimately,
the game boils down to quickness and defense against poor “hit spots” or
contact points. Tennis starts in your head (specifically your eyes and your
brain) and moves to your feet and legs quickly. This is ample justification
for conditioning and practice.
A trained player’s eyes and brain track the flight of the ball to the perfect
“hit spot.” Anything less yields a lousy stroke. Move means to get your
racquet back quickly and properly and to get to the ball properly. For all
but advanced players, getting to the ball properly means to be set up so
that when you “step hit” a descending ball will be in the absolutely perfect
“hit spot,” whether forehand or backhand.
A baseliner’s task is to move to defend against poor “hit spots” much as a
basketball player moves defensively with the core thought being, “don’t let
the ball get out of the proper contact point.”
A player will probably deliver a good shot if the player:
• Winds up with his feet positioned properly at the completion
of the shot
• Points his racquet at the target properly during contact
• Keeps his wrists firm in the hit zones
• Concentrates properly
What then, does concentrate properly mean? The most often repeated
phrase in tennis is “watch the ball.” Yet it is quite possible to watch the
ball intensely without either moving or concentrating in tennis terms. To
concentrate properly one must not only “watch the ball” but also focus on
a target. While watching the ball and tracking that ball to the perfect hit
spot, the concentrating player is formulating a mind’s eye target of where
the ball is to go. This is concentration in tennis: “Watch the ball; where does
it go? Where does it go; watch the ball!” There is constant target selection, thus constant concentration. It is like a golfer putting; he must watch the
ball but intensely concentrate on the cup. Only tennis players move too!
While this seems obvious to parents, juniors may neither understand it,
nor understand how it breaks down under pressure or adversity. Perhaps
beginners would do well to concentrate on only one target. If nine of ten
players are right-handers and the majority of these are weaker on the
backhand side, then concentrating on this target alone makes a junior
strategically sound up to a surprisingly high level.
If tennis is the “ability to hit a changing target while moving and under
stress,” then moving and concentrating are the core of the game.
Parents—you are right, but you need to explain yourselves!

BALANCE IS THE KEY TO GOOD TENNIS (6)

Welby Van Horn would use this technique to teach ballistic swing
footwork. Once you have made the ground stroke or serve or volley, hold
your follow through (or ending) to a count of “3,000”). Look at your feet.
Are your balance foot and adjustment foot correct as described in “The
Ballistic Swing” section?
“Balance is the clue to good tennis, and footwork is the clue to good
balance” –Welby Van Horn.