Online Tennis Instruction

23:52 Thu 04 Jun 2009
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Since I started playing tennis again, I’ve been looking for tips to improve my game. I already knew it could do with a lot of improvement, but unfortunately there’s even more than I had realized.

I’ve been extremely impressed with the annoyingly-named site Fuzzy Yellow Balls. They have a pretty good selection of videos that take you through more or less everything a beginner could want, and plenty that beginner-intermediate players like me could want, also.

They go through grips, stroke techniques for all the basics, the serve (and both kick and spin serves, the former being crazily difficult in my opinion), and footwork, among other things. If you could internalize the techniques those videos present, even at a basic level, your game would be in good shape.

I particularly like their emphasis on discussing the things that “almost all pro players do”, rather than putting across their own philosophy on the various techniques. I think the videos they have are well done and relatively easy to follow.

It’s kind of annoying that their site requests and email address from you (to send their newsletter) before you can see the videos there, but in fairness the newsletter seems fine and not too spammy so far. In addition, a lot of their videos are available on YouTube if you really want to skip the newsletter thing.

I must say that I really appreciate the fact that this information is available online—ten years ago you would have had to buy instructional VHS tapes, or hire an instructor, and getting analysis of video (including slow-motion) of pros doing things the right would would have been only for the select few.

In going through the section on grips, I discovered that my serve and topspin backhand grips are both basically wrong. It’s true that nothing is “wrong” in tennis if it works, and there are players who have played with some totally weird grips, but at the same time, most players use similar grips because they work.

My forehand grip is apparently Eastern, which is fine with me right now. The Eastern is like the “handshake” grip.

My backhand topspin grip is essentially Continental, the Eastern rotated over one handle facet. However, it should be rotated over one more facet, and that just seems nuts to me—because I’ve used my current grip for a long, long time, and it’s very hard to change that even though I haven’t played that much tennis.

My serve grip is somewhere between Eastern and Continental, where it should be Continental, and trying the Continental grip today just didn’t work. The serve is even more difficult to change than other strokes because it’s more complicated. The Fuzzy Yellow Balls section on serve fundamentals is pretty good, and it makes clear to me that there are a number of things I’m doing wrong—the grip, sure, but also wrist pronation when approaching contact, which I don’t seem to do at all. That’s pretty difficult to just add in there as well.

I did manage to split step pretty consistently when I played tonight, which is an improvement that I got from that site and which I wouldn’t have made otherwise. I did often do it too early, so that I landed before the ball was struck rather than just as it was being struck, but I can work on that.

In any case, I recommend Fuzzy Yellow Balls for the instructional pieces, and I was also impressed by the match analyses they have there. If you play tennis, or are thinking of starting to play tennis, it’s a great resource. I don’t know how many similar sites there are out there, but if you don’t like them for some reason I’m sure there are many other instructional sites online.

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