On a quarterly basis, the area tennis professionals get together to share ideas and offer insights to improve their coaching methods and yearly planning. Each pro has an opportunity to discuss the strengths of their programs and their biggest challenges. Without a doubt, my peers tell me that my club is an anomaly because we run weekly men’s clinics. Translation: Men, as a rule, do not have a scheduled weekly team practice or clinic. Naturally, I had to quiz my buddies about this phenomenon because it doesn’t make sense to me. After all, doesn’t everybody desire to get better and improve his tennis game?
Hey, I have to confess that it is tied into our male ego and perhaps it’s a little too fragile? Who knows, maybe the real reason for men not taking team clinics is due to not knowing how much fun they can be and how much one may learn on any given day? As I mentioned earlier, we are blessed at our club because our men’s team regularly comes to practice and have been doing so for at least fifteen years.
So many of my pro friends have rich tennis backgrounds. Several have been college tennis stars and a few have been on the ATP Tour. Their wealth of tennis knowledge is immense and they would prefer to coach their men’s teams so they can play smarter doubles and win more matches. Stronger male tennis players feel that they just need to practice with one another on a steady basis and that will keep them sharp for their next match. The problem with this logic is that it is flawed.
Almost two decades ago, tennis coaching legend Vic Braden pointed out to me that most people who go to golf driving ranges significantly hurt their strokes and scores. Why? Take me for example, I slice too much and if I went to a range without a golf pro, I would hit slice after slice and make my already defective stroke worse.
One of the glaring mistakes that doubles teams do over and over is one of the player’s runs back to the baseline during a heated rally. In most cases, the team at the net is in good position to win the point and there is no reason to retreat to the back of the court. The reason many players execute this move is due to having to cover too much of the tennis court with weaker partners. The fear is that the opponent will hit a good lob and he is the only player who can potentially run it down. The reason this backwards move is ineffective is that the foes will see your tendencies and exploit it by driving the ball at the person (instead of lobbing) as they run back to the baseline.
Another big problem for top players participating in 4.0 and higher is the drop shot service return. If the amateur team is unsure how to cope with this awesome strategy, they may never solve the puzzle and constantly lose their serves. During an effective team practice, experienced and talented professionals make it a point to go over court movement and who needs to cover areas of the tennis court. In other words, with proper communication, pros would offer different solutions to various strategies to help their players win big matches.
In the case of the team who hits great drop shot returns, one great change is to play the Australian formation. Now, with the net player positioned in a different area, the returner must consider hitting the ‘dropper’ down the line which is considerably more challenging. Why? Most likely, he is accustomed to hitting this delicate shot crosscourt over the lower part of the net where there is ample room to maneuver the ball. When we make this bold change, we are sending an important signal to the opponents; we now have a solution to your outstanding strategy! In summary, I encourage all high-level male tennis players to go to their team clinic and learn new concepts to improve their tennis game. Hey, if you attend a clinic, what do you really have to lose?
Doug Browne is the Hideaway Beach Tennis Director and the new Collier County USPTA Pro of the Year. Additionally, Doug has been the International Hall of Fame Director of Tennis this past summer. Doug has been writing a tennis column for the past fifteen years and welcomes your feedback.