TENNIS RECOVERY-THE MISSING INGREDIENT

MURRY CAN’T FIND HIS WAY HOME

In a November 2018 online tennis article entitled “Can Murray Find His Way Back From The Wilderness” the author wrote about “career-threatening injuries” and used Former World #1 Andy Murray as an example of how a player’s career can be affected.` He claims that athletes in all sports attribute mental strength as a key factor in setting them back on the path to recovery.

Going “beyond the physical”, as the article suggests, is certainly necessary for full injury recovery, especially at the professional level where the stakes are so high. But in the case of Murray a key factor in his technical game has, tragically, been completely overlooked. No matter how mentally strong, patient and dedicated in approaching his rehabilitation, his potential for resuming a top position in the ATP rankings would remain very unlikely without diagnosing and addressing the underlying cause of his injury.

Sadly, just weeks after the above-listed article was published Murray announced his retirement from tennis:

I spoke to my team and I told them I can’t keep doing this and that I need to have an end point, because I was just playing with no idea when the pain was going to stop,” said a tearful Murray.

PROGNOSTICATION

Early in 2017 Oscar Wegner actually predicted that Murray would struggle to regain his position of prominence in professional tennis unless he modified his backhand technique (see video below). In New York during the WTCA Conference that same year Oscar was dismayed to witness Murray’s first coach still recommending conventional closed-stance technique during an exclusive early childhood tennis coaching seminar.

BLIND FAITH

It is ironic that all the expert coaching Murray had over the years did not catch the missing ingredient that Oscar Wegner has so openly warned about over his many decades on the tennis scene. Was it blind faith in his coaches, doctors, trainers and physiotherapists that prevented him from changing the very correctable element of his technique that certainly contributed to his hip problem?

As in the lyrics of the 1969 classic Steve Winwood song, Andy Murray waited so long to reach the top, only to fall because he didn’t have the key:

Come down off your throne and leave your body alone
Somebody must change
You are the reason I’ve been waiting so long
Somebody holds the key
But I’m near the end and I just ain’t got the time                                                            And I’m wasted and I can’t find my way home

Original Album Cover “Blind Faith” featuring “Can’t Find My Way Home” Steve Winwood, Eric Clapton, Ginger Baker, Ric Grech

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THE REAL SECRET OF SPANISH TENNIS

In a 2-part article entitled “The Absurdity Of Most Online Tennis Coaching Courses” (see full text below) American Chris Lewit makes some valid points, but his premise is not true across the board. Lewit, himself an online tennis coach in Vermont, is a self-described “dynamic, innovative leader in the high performance tennis community…playing #1 for Cornell University and training and competing for several years on the professional tennis tour…Chris is one of the leading experts in the world on Spanish methods of training, having studied for the last 12 years in Spain with many of the legends of Spanish coaching.”

ATP Statistics-Chris Lewit

ITF Statistics – Chris Lewit

Chris Lewit Cornell University-Lettered In Tennis 1998

His stats belie his claims, however.

Upon the publication of his book, “The Secrets Of Spanish Tennis” in 2014, an invitation to meet Oscar Wegner in person, become familiar with MTM and learn the story of it’s success in The Spanish Tennis Federation was declined by Lewit. The contribution of Oscar’s revolutionary coaching style, which he introduced in Spain over 40 years ago, was unacknowledged in Lewit’s book and seems to have been forgotten by those who Lewit assigns as legends of Spanish coaching, omitting an important part of Spain’s tennis history.

Until 1968 tennis was divided into professional and amateur circuits, so those paid to play were not permitted to participate in Grand Slam tournaments. But many players who went on to excel in the so-called Open Era had also played the non-professional international tennis tour, unflatteringly coined “shamateurism”. It was here that Wegner gained insight from many stellar players whom he befriended, practiced, played and competed with (i.e. Emerson, Stolle, Osuna, Rosewall, Mulligan, Santana, Roche, Laver, Newcombe and Drysdale) and later influenced the development of his unique “modern” tennis teaching method. This experience together with his astute analysis became the foundation of his teaching method. While the techniques themselves were not “new”, the way Oscar synthesized them into a workable methodology was unique and highly successful.

 

Among other things Lewit contends that online coaching must be followed up with personal feedback; yet Oscar had successfully helped players and coaches dramatically improve their game just by reading his books and watching his TV appearances and videos. This is because the data contained therein is simple, straightforward and effective. AND it is true data that efficiently identifies the basic components of the modern game of tennis which are applicable to every age and ability level. These universal principles, which can be correctly learned and applied with ease, have been producing amazing results for decades, yet have been patently ignored by the tennis establishment. Nevertheless, thousands of players and coaches have attested to the efficacy of MTM, assimilated mostly from indirect learning, well before the internet even existed.

 

Oscar’s instruction in his groundbreaking 1989 book, on Brad Holbrook’s Tennis Television Show and his ESPN Tennis Tips instructed millions around the world on how to transition from conventional to modern tennis. Once established as a method for reaching people globally, Oscar initiated one of if not the first “online tennis academy”, which introduced countless coaches, players and parents to modern tennis technology.  

It is also important to note that false data from any source is detrimental to the progress of tennis players, and it is this fact that is causing the greatest harm to players and coaches. Tennis IS an easy sport to learn and master sufficiently to enjoy for a lifetime of recreation. The vast majority of people who take up the sport will not enter the serious competitive arenas of collegiate, Olympic or professional tennis, yet all can benefit from Oscar’s direct and effective Methodology, from young child to senior citizen to top pro.

So although I agree that the tennis teaching industry has been overrun by online hacks I also caution ALL coaches to do their due diligence by studying carefully Oscar’s sage advice and not over-complicating tennis instruction with false, misleading and unnecessary data. Tennis IS easy, let Oscar Wegner and MTM show you how!

www.tennisiseasy.com

 

 

The Absurdity Of Most Online Tennis Coaching Courses – Part 1

The Absurdity Of Most Online Tennis Coaching Courses – part 2

 

 

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.

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#