The Relationship Between Stroking and Footwork
I worked with an adult beginner yesterday. She’s only had a few lessons, and her forehand and backhand shots were still more or less patting the ball back and forth. Until yesterday.
Here’s what happened. We probably spent a good 20 minutes at the start just hitting forehands, first multiball, then live, and she was unable to do more than awkwardly pat the ball back and forth, hitting the ball flat (no topspin). Then we did backhands, and it was the same, though a little better. We did some pushing and serve practice, then came back to forehands, and still mostly just patting the ball back and forth. Then I decided to introduce her to footwork, which we normally hold back on until the strokes are more solid. So I fed multiball side to side as she hit forehands from the forehand side and the middle.
And suddenly she was driving the ball! The balls even had some topspin. She hadn’t been able to do this while standing more or less stationary, but once I had her moving, the stroke fell into place. Presto, instant good forehand! (Well, it still needs a lot of practice, but a lot less pitter-patter.) What happened was that when she was forced to move, she became more aware of getting into position for each shot and rotating the body. When she didn’t have to move, she more or less reached for the ball, which also led to using less body rotation.
We finished the session with something I wouldn’t have expected we’d be doing that session: I fed high balls (multiball), and she smashed. After getting the stroke right while moving, she was now able to smash balls. Quite a transformation!
Regarding that serve practice mentioned above, it was her first time – she’d never served before. When I asked her to show me a serve, she dropped the ball on the table and hit the ball after it had bounced. So I went over the rules and showed how you do it properly, and she picked it up quickly. I also brought out the colored soccer balls for pushing practice so she could get feedback on the spin on her pushes. We’ll work next on putting spin on her serves.
Side note - this is the same woman I mentioned in a previous blog who has an uncanny resemblance to former USA Team member, 3-time Canadian Open Women's Singles Champion, and USATT Hall of Famer Barbara Kaminsky - twice I've tricked locals into thinking she was Barbara, who lives nearby in Virginia. But I think Barbara still has the better forehand!
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