What's the difference between a blog and a webcam? Both are products of an Internet age, an age where privacy has given way to openness and sharing. Information, such as it is, is disseminated to those who care enough to pay attention.
The difference is a blog is a diary (at best). It is (or should be) an introspective perspective. It is a person talking about themselves, so you gain insight into how they think, how they feel, what's most important to them right at that moment. It is, by its nature, biased to the person presenting the information. Certain facts may be left out either by choice or lack of omniscient knowledge.
The webcam, were it situated in the same person's room, is a piece of technology that allows a viewer to see someone's life. Without sound, the day to day movements are broadcast and chronicled by those who choose to observe. Intention is lost. Thought process is lost. What seems like a person lying in repose on his bed may be someone wallowing in the depths of depression or deep in philosophic thought. The webcam reveals all and yet reveals nothing.
So it can be said of learning tennis. The tools that present itself is the equivalent of the webcam. It is the video recording of tennis professionals. It offers insight into how they do what they do. You can observe, and inspect, and scrutinize. But is it enough? Do you see enough? You can't feel what the players feel. How much information are you getting?
Lately, I've been thinking about the backhand again, and in particular, the one-handed backhand. This stroke seems sufficiently different from the two hander that the thought process doesn't seem the same.
It's very easy to perceive the one-hander has a motion that is initiated by the arm. The arm is the centerpiece in the action. For the casual observer, this feels very true. The arm is the most active part of the stroke.
And yet this hides the fact that it's better to think of the stroke from the shoulders and from the chest. Let it initiate the action. Let it be the source of the movement. By focusing on that part of your body, you involve the torso, so often called, the core, into the shot and let the arm do less work and therefore get less tired. The core, once involved, can assist the shot by providing mass.
Tennis is a game of momentum, but not the kind sportscasters talk about. It's not which team is playing well at the moment and capitalizing on play after play. It is momentum of the physics variety. Mass times velocity. The more you can incorporate the core, a difficult task because the human body isn't rigid, and even if it were rigid, it wouldn't help because the other component, velocity would be lost, the more mass comes to bear.
It is a delicate dance your body must go through, at once optimizing speed by letting your body be limber enough not to slow you down, and yet also working as a whole, so that mass is your friend.
If you understand how to initiate the action with the core, then you can decrease the amount of arm you need. This is a mistake many players make because they choose to re-invent the wheel. But what choice do they have? The information is not readily available. When you learn tennis, you often start from scratch, and despite the ubiquity of the Web and access to information, there's no easy way to find a definitive answer.
It's taken me a while to fully appreciate this, and only because I read it in a forum where someone whose life has mostly been devoted to teaching tennis made the point clear. The torso initiates the one-handed backhand and for much of the hitting, the arm is just along for the ride. It does, of course, play an increasingly important role the closer you get to actually hitting the ball, but again, that interplay between torso and arm, when does one end, and the other begin?
I use words when a visual would be helpful, something that, in effect combines the blog and the webcam. The two together offering not only insight, but a visual illustration.
Given the time challenges of making a video, I will now use words, as paltry a substitute as this may be, like Velveeta for Brie, a travesty, but the best we can do under the circumstances.
Stand in the ready position, and form a U with your upper arm making one side of the U, the forearm the bottom part of the U, and the racquet pointing up, the other side of the U. Turn your body to the left, enough so that eventually your back begins to point to the net.
Using your left arm, lift the racquet so your forearm eventually gets to shoulder height. Use your left hand to lower the racquet behind you, until the racquet head points to the right side of the court (were you facing the fence, it would be to your left). The racquet is nearly completely behind you from the perspective of your opponent.
Rotate your body so the racquet travels 180 degrees around and strike the ball, then lift your arm up as if you are holding a torch for the Olympics way up high.
There are other factors to consider. How high is the ball? If it's low, you bend your knee more and stay down more. If it's high, you lift up your leg and get on your tiptoes. Different situations demand different setup.
This is what makes tennis challenging. There are many situations to take care of under the name "backhand". This is why hitting thousands of balls is needed, so the body learns how to cope with such variety. But behind all of that is the basis for the shot, the skeletal framework by which all variation sprouts from. And this is what you often need in sage advice so you make the move that the pros do, not the one that is easy to see from the eye, but the one that is felt from within.
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1 month ago