ONE THING LEADS TO ANOTHER

Do What They Say, Say What They Mean


In this video Transform Your Volley 2 basic principles of MTM are violated:

1) match what you say with what you demonstrate to your students

2) offer to your students data that helps rather than hinders their progress

Back in 1968 at the Beverly Hills Tennis Club Oscar Wegner noticed that former tour pro coaches, including his boss Pancho Segura,  were not teaching their students they way they themselves played. Since Pancho had no explanation for this he told Oscar to look into it to find the answer. What Oscar discovered led to the development of Modern Tennis Methodology, a simple yet highly effective system of teaching tennis based on the techniques of best players of all time.

Notice how the first part of the instructional video shows the player in the white shirt using his hand to find the ball, with no attention to his feet, and not “stepping in” on his volleys. His racket face naturally moves above and behind his hand as he aligns his hand to the ball. If he focused on his feet he would be taking attention away from this alignment of his hand and the ball. Also notice that he does not need to use forward motion by stepping into the ball to impart force, or use his feet or body position to direct the ball. This section of the video demonstrates how MTM teaches the volley, by developing fast hands that find the ball well and quick feet that get the hand there without conscious thought.

In contrast, the following sections of the video stress stepping in on the ball. It is explained that the contact point on the volley must be in front of the body to hit a clean shot, which is essentially correct. But it is recommended to tie a rope to the tip of the racket on one end and the net on the other end to make it virtually impossible to “take the racket back”. What this actually does is makes it impossible to find the ball with the hand. Instead, with this video’s technique, the player must move his body forward to move his hand close to the ball to find it well.

The instructor talks about a minimal swing on the volley. Depending on the situation, in the MTM volley there is no “swing” per se, but instead a “stop”. The exception would be the “swinging volley”, which is another shot altogether. In MTM it is understood that bringing the racket tip forward decelerates the ball, producing a less powerful, loopier shot. Former USA Davis Cup Team Captain and international champion Tom Gorman, recommended to keep the string bed showing “the ski” to the opponent throughout the shot, IE: keeping the string bed parallel to the net rather than bringing the racket tip forward (“the ski” is a reference to the Head stencil on the string bed.) It should be noted here that moving the racket back into the “ready” position may create the appearance of scooping or bringing the racket tip forward, but it is not, in fact, part of the stroke itself.

This is followed by the advice to lift weights to strengthen the forearm to stabilize and control the volley. In MTM it is not necessary to lift weights but simply to tighten the grip on the racket sufficiently to counteract the incoming force of the ball on the strings. It is actually a rather effortless “feel”. To impart strong force on the volley it is necessary to only pull the elbow inward toward the body on the forehand and move the elbow outward by squeezing together the shoulder blades on the backhand. It is not true that players “struggle when the do come up to net because they’re simply not strong enough to hold a steady position at contact…and this is more or less because of a lack of strength in the forearm muscles and in the arm muscles to just be able to hold it and stop.” Even young children with undeveloped musculature can hit powerful volleys with MTM.

All that is necessary to keep the hand and, therefore, the racket in front of the body on the forehand volley is to keep the elbow close to the body and pull it inward, creating a crisp, powerful contact of the ball and the string bed. In the photos below the player is being instructed with cone markers to step across into the ball. This is not only unnecessary, but it can slow the player down from returning to the ready position quickly, and at the net every millisecond counts!

  

 

Finally, the instructional video in question shows the player hitting against a wall making contact under the ball. This produces the bad habit of popping the ball up from below. In MTM it is not advised to practice the volley against a flat wall, but instead to drill against an inclined board set against the wall at an angle to better “educate the arm” to make contact in front and above the plane of the incoming ball.

For advanced play one can take a lesson from what the pros actually do, such as in the videos below of Cara Black hitting volleys against a wall. Notice how she lets the racket go above and behind her hand and comes from above. Cara went on to become #1 in the world in doubles. Note that as a 16 year old she did not have “Popeye” arms but hit volleys with incredible strength, speed and accuracy.

In tennis instruction it takes only one small piece of false data to lead the player astray. From there one thing leads to another,  compromising his/her potential. With Oscar Wegner’s Modern Tennis Methodology coaches learn to do what they say and say what they mean, guiding their players to their personal best.

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TENNIS TRAINING AT THE TOP

(Don’t) Play Like The Pros?!

Bet you never though you’d hear me say NOT to “play like the pros”, but there are some instances in which it is not the best advice for juniors and recreational adult players to emulate the players at the top of the sport.  Case in point:

In an online tennis “Backhand Power Lesson” Novak Djokovic is shown hitting a closed-stance 2-handed backhand. The video shows 2 examples of Djoko stepping in on the shot. In the first example he rotates his body around his stationary front foot, creating tremendous torque on his right foot, ankle, knee, hip and lower back. He releases by barely pivoting on his right heel as he swings his left leg forward into an open stance.  The “instructor” recommends that a player should get sideways in what he calls “that good power position” then “coil and uncoil” by bringing the back shoulder forward so that the upper body “opens up” at contact.  But he fails to address the stress put on the lower body if the front foot is held in such a locked position.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In the second example Djoko is shown pivoting on the ball of his right foot late in the swing as he uncoils into the open stance finish, but once again the “instructor” misses the opportunity to point out to the viewer the non-optimum element of late release.  Perhaps he is not even aware of it. Is Novak?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Djokovic is famous for his Gumby-like flexibility, but even he could fall victim to the wear-and-tear that the late release 2-hander imposes on the player’s joints.  Djoko generally frees up his stance sufficiently with his speed and movement on the court during a match, but especially in slower-paced practice sessions the release may be a fraction late. Considering the amount of time spent in practice and match play at the highest level of tennis, even occasional strain can take it’s toll.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Andy Murray is a prime example of how chronic abuse of the hip by continually keeping the front foot stationary throughout the stroke can do crippling damage. Note that his right foot never moves in the above example.

PLEASE, DON’T DO THIS!

It is almost inconceivable that players, trainers and medical experts fail to notice, acknowledge and correct this insidious yet critical “mis-step” in tennis instruction and training.

If you desire actual “top tennis training” to help you “play like the pros” at their best, study and train with Oscar Wegner’s Modern Tennis Methodology. Your body will thank you!

 

TOO HIP FOR THE COURT

With MTM You Can Be Hip To The Jive

In a recent comment regarding a video about “working on high forehands” a poster wrote, “She’s getting her hip drive at least.” But what does this mean?

External hip rotation occurs when your thigh bone turns away from the midline, turning your knee out. The muscles involved in external hip rotation include the quadratus femorus, piriformis, gluteus medius and gluteus maximus, as well as several smaller muscles.

Medial hip rotation turns the knee inward and is performed by the gluteus medius and gluteus minimus, as well as the tensor fasciae latae and assisted by the adductors brevis and longus and the superior portion of the adductor magnus. Each muscle of the lateral rotator group causes lateral rotation of the thigh.

In an article by a “legendary biomechanist, highly respected educator, Professor Emeritus, author, sports performance trainer, training and technique consultant, technique analysis specialist and athletic coach” the author stated, “I have found very few who use the hips to produce more force in their hits. This is understandable because use of the hips is not stressed in the early stages of learning forehands and backhands. Nor is their role in developing greater force taken into consideration when modifying or changing hitting technique. For example, in teaching the open stance forehand and backhand the hips are typically ignored.”

The “Professor” goes on to say that, “For maximum effectiveness, it is necessary to separate the hip turn from the shoulder turn.  Since all groundstrokes start from the bottom up, the hips should be the first to be put into motion after forward weight shift.  As the hips begin to rotate forward, the shoulders should remain in the side-facing position.  This produces more efficiency and power.  The greater the separation between the hip and shoulder rotation, the greater the power that can be generated.”  The assumption of “forward weight shift” and “side-facing position” is ill-advised. This is old school thinking which, when combined with currently often misunderstood techniques such as “unit turn”, “kinetic chain” and “open-stance forehand and backhand”, can cause strain and injury to the hips and lower back.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In fact and as noted in the photos above the hips and shoulders naturally move in unison, and excessive oppositional rotation of the upper and lower body is neither necessary nor desirable for creating efficiency and power. The true modern forehand and backhand utilize the laws of physics to generate power easily without undue strain on the body. Although top professional players push their physical training to the maximum, recreational players need not not go to gladiatorial extremes to produce robust groundstrokes. Over-rotation of the hips and shoulders equals over-kill. Modern power lies elsewhere.

The secret to generating power like the top players is actually no secret at all. And it’s not in the hips! One must simply observe the pros and look carefully to see what they are doing, then emulate those basic elements that they all share in common. If you need help in discovering just what to look for, read Oscar Wegner’s FREE e-book entitled “Play Like The Pros”.

 

 

DON’T FOCUS ON THE FEET

Sounds Good – But Looks Bad

What is this guy so upset about? He doesn’t like what he calls “common myths that could be crippling your potential”. In a tennis instructional video on his YouTube channel entitled “Don’t Focus On The Feet” he exposes a mistake made by most tennis players IE: looking up prematurely instead of keeping the head still and eyes focused on the point of contact (POC) throughout the stroke.

 

 

Unfortunately he exposes another BIG mistake that he, himself makes IE: demonstrating the non-optimal tennis technique of stepping into the ball and planting his front foot while he twists his upper body, causing undue strain on his joints, as well as making it more difficult to find the ball well and recover. This very common but potentially damaging mistake is repeated not only by this coach but by many other tennis instructors both online and on the court.

Planted front foot, inward pointing toes, twisted knee

In last month’s post I called into question the American tennis industry’s willingness to address the most important issue plaguing the coaching profession’s future,  not with first aid, nutrition, gender sensitivity or business administration classes, but with understanding, applying and imparting to the public the optimal tennis technique that has been withheld from their curricula for decades.

As stated in their new Accreditation Manual, “The USTA believes that it is time for American tennis coaching professionals to up their game”. If the examples in the TENNIS FOOTWORK photos shown here are any indication, some American coaches certainly do need to gain a better understanding of how to best teach tennis. And a good place to start is with Oscar Wegner’s timeless yet timely tennis teaching technique, Modern Tennis Methodology (MTM). Ironically, Oscar says “Don’t think about your feet”, but here the similarity with the coach shown ends, for his insistence on demonstrating the closed stance is in direct opposition to MTM. As the photo above illustrates, he should himself focus on his feet and the poor example he is imparting to students.

Rejected by Tennis Magazine nearly 50 years ago, Wegner’s revolutionary style of playing and teaching (identified as “modern tennis” because of it’s emphasis on open stance, heavy topspin and bio-mechanically natural, instinctual movement) contradicted old-fashioned technique and eventually became the standard method of play at the top of the pro game. Although given some credence in institutional forums over the years, the American tennis industry has remained cautiously respectful yet unwilling to openly embrace Wegner and the elements of his methodology that remain the hallmarks of professional tennis. It’s time for them to up their game and focus on making MTM part of the future of American tennis.

 

 

 

 

 

TENNIS INTO THE FUTURE

What Lies Ahead For Tennis Coaching In The USA?

The following article describes upcoming changes in the future of American tennis coaching:

“In the near future, there will be a shortage of tennis professionals”

“Accreditation refers to an organization voluntarily complying with standards set forth by an independent third party”

“Certification is a process by which an organization grants recognition of competence to an individual who has met predetermined qualifications specified by that organization.”

“As the accrediting body, the USTA will not certify tennis professionals.”

“Certification will continue to be administered by organizations such as the PTR, USPTA and any other organizations that meet the criteria established by the USTA to certify professionals.”

“We collectively create accountability for adherence to standards.”

“We should work together to significantly raise the existing standards.”

“We plan to launch the new certification standards in 2019.”

This new protocol will most likely elevate the competence of tennis teaching professionals in terms of academic performance, personal responsibility and business administration. But, will it elevate the level of understanding and ability to apply optimal tennis playing and coaching technique that has been missing in American tennis for so long? That element may continue to be neglected by the newly-reorganized American tennis authority still stuck in the past, and left to the intrepid tennis rebels who continue independently to move    TENNIS INTO THE FUTURE.

REFERENCES:

http://www.tennisindustrymag.com/issues/201803/index.php

https://www.usta.com/en/home/about-usta/who-we-are/national/usta-coaching-accreditation-program.html

http://www.tennisindustry.org/cms/index.cfm/news/usta-develops-coaching-accreditation-program/

https://www.usta.com/content/dam/usta/pdfs/20180308_USTAU_Accreditation.pdf#

MTM TURNS 50

Modern Tennis Methodology’s Golden Anniversary

Back in 1968 at the Beverly Hills Tennis Club under the watchful eye of the legendary  Pancho Segura, recently-retired tour player Oscar Wegner began to formulate a new method of teaching the game. Vastly different from traditional tennis indoctrination but aligning with the ways the top players performed at the professional level, Oscar’s new “modern” tennis technology yielded immediate results. Characterized by heavy topspin, open-stance forehand and 2-handed backhand groundstrokes, natural movement and an emphasis on feel and instinct, this new approach was proving to be sustainable as well as applicable for all age and ability levels. It appeared that Oscar was on to something.

50 years later Oscar’s revolutionary teaching style is still brilliantly reflected in the games of today’s top pros, testament to a legacy more valuable than glimmering gold.

FROM REVOLUTION TO EVOLUTION

Beginning in the late l960’s and for the next 30 years Oscar developed a methodology that would be introduced in Europe, South America, the USA and throughout the world via his coaching, books, TV appearances, videos, ESPN tips and commentary. The seeds of modern tennis that he planted in young players (many of whom would become tour pros and coaches in their own countries) were propagated all over the world in a burgeoning revolution of seemingly anonymous origin.

From the 1970’s onward the game experienced a gradual evolution that shifted accomplishment and dominance toward those countries willing to embrace change. Together with improvements in equipment technology and increased levels of training and fitness tennis rose progressively to the monumental heights of agility, power and speed seen today’s top pros.

As in any evolutionary process, the gradual transition from traditional to modern tennis was undeniable in its influence across all levels of the sport, yet Oscar’s influence has gone largely unrecognized and has remained somewhat elusive.

TENNIS THROUGHOUT THE YEARS

This video traces the revolutionary shift in technique that began in the l970’s with Borg and Lendl, was reflected in Wegner’s transformative methodology, and illustrates beautifully its advancement into the tennis of today. The essence of the modern game, rooted in the best players of all time, emerged as a natural progression over the course of time, the essential elements of which have endured even as they are taken to new heights by today’s superstars.

CASE “CLOSED”

Is Today’s Online Tennis “Coaching” Helping Or Hurting Players?

The prevalence of torque applied to joints from a closed stance with front foot planted on both FH and 2HBH is a disturbing development in tennis coaching today, both for youngsters whose bodies are still growing, as well as for seniors who are more prone to injury. The long-term effects of such stresses are invisible in children and young players, but evident in braces and surgeries among adults.

Insistence on turning sideways and stepping in with planted front foot is less effective than facing the target because it complicates the process of finding the ball, finishing the stroke naturally and recovering efficiently. The potentially injurious consequences of teaching to step into the ball and rotate the upper body without relieving the pressure applied to foot, ankle, knee, hip, pelvis and spine appear to elude a great many coaches. Investigation into this aspect of how the FH and 2HBH are being commonly taught nowadays is not only warranted but overdue, and necessary to stem the tide of faulty dime-a-dozen coaching commentaries and videos now populating the internet.

What Is The Source Of The Problem?

There is increasing evidence from medical researchers, doctors, sports science, cross-training and physical therapy specialists indicating an association between “correct” tennis fundamentals and the potential for injury. Yet in most cases so-called proper technique is not clearly articulated. Emphasis is placed instead on lack of fitness, equipment, the jarring and pounding movement from sprinting, stopping and pivoting as well as high-velocity and repetitive arm motions required in tennis. Some explanations include:

“improper or inadequate physical and technique training may be the cause of overuse injuries.” 

“Overuse is common in tennis players from all levels”

“Applying an ankle brace to the ankle can help to reduce the risk of ankle sprains”

“For tennis players attention must be paid to flexibility, strength and endurance of the shoulder muscles…The first aim of treatment is to reduce the amount of inflammation through ice therapy and anti-inflammatory medication prescribed by a doctor.”

“A stress fracture of the back, or lumbar spine, is one of the more common bone injuries in young tennis players…Practising the service should be carefully monitored by the coach…In most cases, complete rest from tennis is the treatment of choice.”

“Sometimes steroid injections will be given into the affected area.”

“Some of the factors that can increase the risk of injury include: technique – using the correct serving and stroke action is important to prevent injury…Take lessons from a qualified coach to develop adequate skills and technique.”

“Low back pain is very common among tennis players. Low back pain may have various causes, such as postural abnormalities, muscle dysfunction (imbalances, shortening or weakening of muscle), overuse, instability, and articular dysfunction in the lower back. In 95% of the cases of low back pain no specific physical abnormalities are found by additional diagnostic investigations that may explain the low back pain; this is why it is called ‘non-specific’. “

“Tennis elbow is usually caused by gripping activities…Make sure the tennis racquet is the correct size for your hand. If it is too small it will cause you to grip too hard.” *

*NOTE: In fact, small grip size & loose hold on the racket is correct
       according to MTM

As noted in the quotes above, little attention is paid to the specific actions that comprise various styles of tennis technique which tend to cause acute and chronic problems. Many sources report that in order to relieve pain players should rest, that once the pain has dispersed stretching is recommended, and that in order to prevent future injuries strength training is necessary, but should be done with caution because if done incorrectly the initial problem will be amplified. Actual examination of tennis mechanics is largely ignored.

Unfortunately, after the injury has been treated in this fashion, players usually return to the court armed with ibuprofen, kinesiology tape and braces but no clue as to what actually caused their problem in the first place, dooming them to repeat their pain or injuries, and in too many cases, leading them to surgery and chronic disability.

 

Unwillingness To Look – A Major Culprit

It is a sad testament to the tennis coaching professions that there is an abundance of misinformation being promulgated both online and on-court regarding optimum tennis technique. Much of this data has been carried over from prior generations of coaching theory. The irony is that the sources of such false data have often been former pro players-turned-coach, who do not teach the way they played successfully in their careers, apparently ignorant of the discrepancies between learned and instinctual methods of play.

The most glaring example of this phenomenon is evident among coaches who continuously repeat statements learned from books, videos or demonstrations but completely ignore the obvious: that the closed stance with stationary front foot is not only inefficient but potentially injurious to players of all age and ability levels. Examples of this “pretzel stance” with players locking their foot in a closed position and applying excessive torque on joints by rotating the upper body around the front leg are alarmingly numerous and tortuous to behold:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Incredibly, coaches proudly post such examples online and receive accolades from other coaches who fail to see (or refuse to admit) such potentially harmful actions. Further, these coaches are highly critical of any attempt to point out the potential threat to the success and well-being of their players, which is met with ridicule and contempt. Some even go to the extreme of claiming that criticism of the pretzel stance is irresponsible and unprofessional! Instead, it is their patent refusal to examine the evidence that is such.

This unfortunate situation is not limited to junior and recreational adult tennis players, but is evident at the highest levels of professional tennis. Pros have surgery, recover, and return to the tour but their teams seem to ignore the possibility that it is fundamental flaws within their technique, not the post-surgical scars from carve-and-stitch medical treatments that need rehabilitation.

A Natural Solution

In spite of this increasing gloom-and-doom condition within tennis coaching today, there is cause for optimism. Modern Tennis Methodology offers solutions to problems caused by false data being foisted on players in tennis forums, online courses, clinics and even by national and international coaching organizations who “train”, “educate” and “advise” tennis teaching professionals. The closed-stance debacle described here can be easily remedied with a mere willingness to examine the evidence, weigh the facts and draw the inevitable conclusion that the natural, instinctive techniques of MTM align with biomechanics and the laws of physics to produce a healthier and competitively superior game of tennis.

Pretzels are good for an on-court snack, but not good for a tennis player’s stance