THE BEST CHOICE

Perhaps a problem harder than experience for women coaches was
society itself. Title IX may rule the gym but not the home. Women who
coached early on now had three jobs: Teaching, coaching, and running the
home. Unless you had a husband willing to help at home it was extremely
difficult for these young, often very capable, wives and mothers to coach
long. There was a period of time we lost a lot of potentially great women
coaches. Many survived. Many men saw the light and began to share the
load. All things being equal, women should coach women’s tennis. Until
we get to “equal,” I’d rather my granddaughter play for a competent coach,
male or female.

THE COURT IS BIGGER

The next “myth” about women tennis players (often posed by men) was,
“they should go to the net more.” The men coaches would corner me and
tell me “about girls and the net.”
Once, during practice, I brought the women over to observe the men in a
drill designed for aggressive approaching and volleying. The women were
very courteous.
I then asked the men, “What would you change if this court were five feet
wider and five feet longer?”
Immediately one of the guys said, “We couldn’t go to the net as much.”
I ushered the women back to the “girls’ side” and explained, “If you are a
little smaller, not quite as quick and maybe not quite as strong, then the
court is bigger for you, or for most women. It makes sense not to want to
go in as much and that’s okay.”
Later I asked the guys if they’d still go in on a larger court? “Yes, but with
more caution.”
There is a situation where you can take a “percentage advantage,” by
going to the net and pressuring the other player. You have to design your
skills at attacking and learn to identify the proper ball to go in on.

ANSON DORRANCE

Men are from Mars; women are from Venus. How do you identify these
differences as far as coaching goes? The best source for a “crash course”
on the subject would be to consult Anson Dorrance’s book on the subject.
Dorrance, legendary women’s soccer coach at UNC-Chapel Hill, does a
clinical job sharing his discoveries. I found one of his first suggestions to hold truth immediately. You’ve got to give the girls about 20 minutes prior
to when practices start to discuss the day. Seriously. This is actually part of
practice. And if you view this as a waste of time, you’ll probably witness a
lousy practice. Once they “air the day” they’re ready to go. Try it.

BE YOUR OWN CHOREOGRAPHER

One personal idea that I tried was the theme: “Be your own choreogra-
pher.” I tried to encourage our women to design their own practices based on their needs. For some reason they have trouble with this. Once my
assistant Bob Owens had just been hitting ground strokes to one girl after
another, corner to corner. Imre Kwast, a Dutch player, came close to me
and said, “That’s what the ‘gulls like!’” And it’s true, they like to be directed.
I banged my head against the wall, trying to encourage them to design
their own practices, but “they are different” this way.

THE EASTER BUNNY

One day I asked Imre, “Do you have Easter in Holland?
“Why certainly,” she said, surprised.
“Do you have the Easter Bunny?” I asked.
“Sure,” she giggled, “We have the bunny too.”
I asked the team, “What’s the best thing that could happen to you in an
Easter egg hunt?”
Where was this going was the look on their faces.
Finally one girl answered: “If you know where the eggs were hidden it
would surely help!”
“Exactly,” I replied. “I’ve watched teams for 40 years, I know where the
points are, and I’ll tell you.”
From then on they called me the Easter Bunny. When I’d see them
execute a point I’d advised them on, I’d whisper “bunny point.” Other men
coaches contended: “They’ll practice all week on something I’ve taught
them but come to match time they forget it.” I’d smile to myself every time I
got to say “bunny point.”
This test was given to all team members. Richard Dutton always won.

EASTER BUNNY TEST

Here are some “hidden points.” Fill out and return. Best papers, men and
women, will be rewarded.

The page numbers in parentheses indicate where the question is
answered.
Answer in 35 words or less, based on fall practice:

  1. “Hone your return” (page 29).
  2. “Churn and Burn” (page 88).
  3. Seven volley spots (page 87).
  4. Use your legs to volley (overhead) (page 87).
  5. “Recoil” (page 88).
  6. “On the rise” (pages 89, 106).
  7. “Andy Moll” Drill (page 56).
  8. “two and in” (pages 43, 46).
  9. “Shank” target (page 85).
  10. Going in (pages 46, 89).
  11. Backing up (pages 46, 89).
  12. Which knee is down on a low backhand volley (right-handers)?
    The left.) (page 117).
  13. “Hit-turn” serve (overhead) (page 19).
  14. “Doubles is a one-two game” (pages 29).
  15. “Duties of all four doubles players” (pages 31, 32, 33).
  16. Where is the underspin ball best used (which shots)?
    (pages 29, 36, 58).
  17. “Touch and tighten” (page 88).
  18. Short corner (significance) (page 36).
  19. Cardinal sins in doubles (page 34).
  20. “Chip and Charge” (page 58).
  21. “Chip and Rip” (pages 42, 58).
  22. They approach cross court. Your response: (Down the Line)
    (page 89).
  23. “Spot specific” on volleys (too!) (page 56).
  24. “The most important ground stroke” (Cross-court backhand if
    both players are right-handed) (pages 29, 41, 42).
  25. Get the return out of “the hole” (page 59).
  26. “The Cagey Cage” (page 84).
  27. The values of hitting on the rise (pages 57, 58).
  28. Borg’s speech (page 25).
  29. Don’t change the “line of the ball” (pages 29, 43).
  30. Who serves first for us in doubles? (The server who gives our team
    the best chance to win. This may not be the best server.) (page 59).
  1. Double faults are: (See answer at bottom of test.
  1. Know when to “pull the trigger.” (See answer at bottom of test.)
  1. “The harder they hit it, the … ” (easier you swing … pages 21, 88.)
  2. “Z” shaped return (pages 90, 117).
  3. Compare the “hit spot” for a backhand two-hander to a one-
    handed backhand slice (pages 23, 86).
  4. “Pulling the top spin backhand” (page 56).
  5. “Learn the court” and team policy on dropping a questionable ball
    (page 53).
  6. Two rally suggestions: (1. Hit ground strokes off the first bounce
    only. Second bounce hits are not legal, plus first bounce makes you
    hustle to the ball and hit some awkward shots. 2. There is no need
    to hit balls that are out of bounds. Just knock them down, or let
    them go, and start a new inbounds rally.)
  7. Recommended technique on backhand overheads (page 87).
  8. High volleys—down and at an angle. Low volleys—straight and
    deep and they get to hit it one more time (pages 41, 87, 88).
  1. Double faults are double trouble in doubles

Helpful Hints from the Coach

      1. The most important thing to remember in tennis is to “look at the ball”: Point of contact concentration. (There comes a time when in order to win you must forget about how you’re hitting and concen- trate on where you’re hitting. Don’t work on strokes when playing an important match. Concentrate on point of contact and where to hit. You have to assume your strokes are right. “You can’t hit well when thinking about how to hit.”

2. Correct one error at a time. Don’t ball up your mind trying to do too many things at once.

3. Move in as far as you can on volleys. If you can get on top of the net – be there. Don’t hit it up if you can take one quick step in and hit it down.

4. Volley low balls deep. Angle high volleys.

5. When playing at the net and on the right hand side, use a continental grip . Many good players volley on both sides with a continental grip.

6. Use your left hand to adjust your grip from forehand to backhand. It is good insurance.

7. Don’t cut your shots too fine. This is to say don’t try to hit within 6 inches of the line when a ball inside 3 feet will do. Don’t make it any harder than you have to. Many players do all the work to get the set up shot and then blow the shot by trying to hit a great shot. Finish the point. Put the cap on it. “Good players, don’t miss easy shots.” Short overheads are the most common spot for this error.

8. You can work on your weaknesses by forcing your self to execute them in play – practice situations. For example, if your second serve is weak, play your practice matches with one serve only. Or, if your patience and consistency is hurting, force your self to practice with- out coming to the net. For backhand problems – avoid running around it in practice. Force yourself to execute your weakness.

9. If a player is a weak volleyer, yet strong baseliner you can often draw him in by hitting short balls. Probably his backhand approach will be weak. Hit a short ball, to his backhand; his weak backhand approach might give you an easy pass.

10. Basically a player has to decide whether he is going to play offensively or defensively. Many college players can be beaten simply by keeping it back in, or “skyballing” them to death. Develop a game suited to your ability. Don’t try to do things you can’t do percentage-wise. Then add new wrinkles when you’ve mastered your play.

11. Often you can open the way to a weakness by hitting to a strength. For example, a player with a weak backhand will often run around it. If he overplays the forehand hit it sharply to his forehand for a placement, or perhaps to move him wide to the forehand, thus forcing him to hit a backhand on the second return.

12. Often a player’s apparent strength is actually his weakness. For example, many players have a weak looking but steady deep backhand; and, while their forehand is well paced and looks good, is actually a poor percentage shot because the player tries to do too much with it.

13. One strategy that works well often, particularly against slow, lazy opponents, is the “drop-shot and lob” strategy. Drop shot them and when they lope up to the net simply lob over their heads. Do over and over again.

14. “Never change a winning play – always change a losing plan.”

15. Pressure pays off. Some players can’t stand it. It takes a lot of ability to apply constant pressure but it pays big dividends. Take the ball on the rise to apply pressure. Move in and take the court away from him.

16. Some players employ the “center theory” against certain players. If you approach down the center you eliminate passing angle. This often works against weak but accurate angle hitters. Some slow court players hit well on the run but can’t get anything on a ball hit straight at them. Players with a great return of serve should often be served at “down the center.”

17. One of the most difficult shots to get any pace on is a high or medium lofted backhand that is deep. Matches have been won in this one strategy. The best place to return a high backhand is to a high backhand. Some big hitters are completely frustrated by this simple shot.

18. Against net rushers, low chips with angle often frustrate them. If you can chip it low they often have to volley up and it opens them for an easy pass.

19. High spin serves at the backhand are often effective (Roswell vs. Roche, U. S. Open 1970)

20. Welby Van Horn – Balance is the clue to tennis (a)You have to know how to hit it (b)You have to get to it so you can hit the way you know.

21. It might be good to approach on your short forehands only. If your backhand approach is weak, crosscourt it to eliminate angled shots as you back up.

22. Cross courts get you out of trouble.

23. Approach down the line; Approach crosscourt at obviously weak passing shots.

A “BUNNY” FOR MEN

Once I became better at conveying “movement to the hit spot” my
players at all levels got better quickly. And the one-handed slice may be
the one most helped by proper “hit spots.” A lot of good college men had
forehand trouble because of a subtle flaw in “hit spot.” Whereas backhands
are tougher to learn, my guess is many young boys could hit forehands
with any number of “hit spots.” Backhands, they internalized early on,
must be hit “right there” or in the perfect backhand hit spot. Then as they
advanced a ball, they tried to hit in a faulty forehand position let them
down and caused a lot of frustration. Once I could convince them of this
error and the principle of perfect “forehand hit spot,” they’d get better too.

PULLING THE TRIGGER

Peter Van Graafeiland was the nicest kid I coached. That’s saying a lot,
but Peter is a “sweetheart.” And he did struggle. It’s tough to watch the
good kids take a pounding. I finally figured out how to help Pete. He didn’t
know “how hard” to hit it when bad judgment led to over hitting, taking
unnecessary chances, and “pulling his trigger too quick.” Once we taught
PVG how to keep it in play patiently until he got “his shot” he improved
quickly. I was delighted. Pete was characteristically grateful. “Don’t pull
your trigger until you have your shot” PVG.

SOME OBSERVATIONS, SUGGESTIONS, DILEMMAS, AND DRILLS (ON COACHING WOMEN)

First the two big problems: Dress and choosing between two.
As for girls and dress? I only coached girls three years. I’m no closer to
having any clue as to how to handle their clothing preferences.
Girls will force you into lose-lose situations. This centers on making you
choose between two players.
I quickly found two solutions:
Refer these questions or demands to my noble assistant, Bob Owens.
Bob is real sweet and fatherly. I’m not.
Coach Tom Morris pointed his “Lieutenant” out to me.
The Lieutenant was a girl on the team who didn’t put up with “that
garbage.” She understands, by nature, how to handle these situations. Find
your Lieutenant. The Lieutenant should help you convince them the team
is not a “social club.” Team Rule: If anyone catches two girls standing at the
net idly talking during challenge matches, they should drop racquets and
run for a while. If this continues to be a problem, all girls are forced to join
in (running, not talking).
Girls don’t like you to single out one girl for high praise.
Girls really want to learn, and they are appreciative. They will trust you
until your suggestions are bogus, or you overcoach them.
My guess is most talented boys and girls have little trouble finding
someone to take them under their wing. Most boys’ high school teams find
coaches pretty easily. The “limited girl” has few “allies.” That’s why if you are
a good coach and try to help them, you may be the first capable person
they’ve confronted. That player drinks in everything you say. I usually liked
coaching that person.