By John Cervantes, Founder/Board Member at San Francisco Junior Tennis League
One hears a common refrain in nearly every sport -- “watch the ball”. Sounds easy; however, it does not come naturally to most people.
In life we are aware of our environment as well as the task at hand; we look where we are going. In sports -- tennis, baseball, squash, and golf -- we are supposed to block everything else out and watch the ball we are about to strike. Watching the ball is counter intuitive and is a learned behavior.
So, no wonder it takes training and practice to “watch the ball”. Here are a couple of exercises that will help players improve this skill:
1. When the ball is coming to you, see if you can make out the spin, seams, or shadow on the ball. If you can, you are becoming aware of the ball, instead of focusing on the surrounding environment or player. This is the first step in learning to focus on the ball you are striking.
2. Focus on the moment that the ball hits your racket. If you can say “hit” at the exact moment that the ball strikes your racket, you have learned to see the contact point. Most players will say “hit” prior to hitting the ball, which results in hitting the ball off center. A one-degree variation translates to a three-foot variation. The more accurately and consistently you can say “hit” at the right moment, the fewer mishits you will have.
In the next edition of Courtside San Francisco we will address how seeing the “bounce” on your side of the net may improve your footwork and spacing prior to hitting the ball.