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!

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