We have all heard the phrase, “Keep your eye on the ball.”
While the application of this basic fundamental phrase applies itself in all sports, in the sports of tennis and pickleball we actually need to keep our eyes on “both the ball as well as on our opponent!”
I refer to this process as “primary and secondary vision.”
Our primary vision is keeping our eye on the ball. Our secondary vision is keeping our eye on our opponent.
It is vital that we keep our visual priorities in this specific order.
Let me separate and identify the importance of maintaining the proper order of primary and secondary vision.
By keeping my eye on the ball as my primary vision—because the ball is in front of my opponent—I am also able to see my opponent’s movement in the background.
However, if I focus my primary vision on my opponent then it is very challenging—if not impossible—to also keep my eye on the ball.
Now you may be asking yourself why is it important that I watch my opponent?
From watching their movement, if my opponent is hitting a shot from the baseline, I can detect and determine—offensively or defensively speaking—what type of shot they should be hitting.
Along with detecting if they will be hitting an offensive or a defensive shot, if my opponent is up at the no volley zone, aka the kitchen, I should also be able to determine the direction of their shot (either cross–court, down the line, or up the middle).
In addition to observing and downloading all of that information, in both instances, I need to be paying attention to my opponent’s paddle or racquet face at the point of contact with the ball. Doing this should allow me to be able to determine what kind of spin they are applying to their shot.
A practice I do with my Juniors tennis group is to use a brightly colored rubber dodgeball—or a basketball—and have them do specific drills. The purpose of these drills is to focus on primary and secondary vision, as well as to program lateral movement footwork patterns, to ensure proper coordination of upper and lower body balance.
So, keep your primary vision on the ball and your secondary vision on your opponent. Keeping your visionary priorities in proper order will help you to anticipate your opponent’s next shot.
Wayne Clark is a professional tennis instructor with over 25 years’ experience coaching players on all levels of the game. Wayne is also qualified in pickleball instruction and is on staff as an instructor with The Pickleball Academy of Southwest Florida at East Naples Community Park. Contact Coach Wayne by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or by phone or text at 239-450-6161.