Monday, July 13, 2009

Shadow Stroking

It was the third and final match between Richard Felix and I. Richard’s father was the Battalion Chief of the Dept, They couldn't be more different, however. Chief Felix bore a remarkable resemblance to Humphrey Bogart, he was gruff and straightforward, inclined to growling, sneering, and shouting. Richard was mild tempered and looked like a statue of David.All the women I’d ever seen him around fell in love with him. Including my girls, Mary 10, and Michele, 8.He was dark, but his profile really was perfect. Richard was extremely athletic, his brother was state Tennis Champ, and Richard was his hitting partner.

I was thirty, Richard was 25, he started off his banter by saying, "Well, Old man, This may be the end for you. I am young, and strong, you are old." It was typical monsoon weather. Richard and I kept up a friendly dialogue while we played. For Richard, this was a revenge match. I'd beat him last time, and I won the last couple of points in a way he didn't feel right about.

It was 15 love, I was serving.I powered the serve into the ad court and Richard blocked it back to my forehand.I hit a hard forehand return which only cleared the net by a couple of inches, but was deep anyway, landing just in front of Richard's feet.He slammed it back at my left side, wide.I lunged and felt an incredible pain shooting up from my left foot.I fell on the green cement grasping my foot and moaning.

I'll have to finish the story later.

This is a lesson on shadow stroking, practice for those players that want to retain or refine their play while they are injured.

I did these drills with what turned out to be a torn ligament.

  • Take your racket and stand near your bed or wheelchair.
  • Imagine a tennis ball is coming at you and practice your strokes.
  • Check to see that you are using the proper grip.
  • Practice forehands, checking to see if your follow through is correct.
  • If you are able, bend you knees for imaginary low shots and practice turning your body and uncoiling into the shot, imagining the ball has landed just in from of you and you hit it at waist height.
  • Practice your backhand.
  • If the ball is struck properly the face of the racket will be perpendicular to the net at contact.
  • Practice your serve, (if the ceiling is high enough).
  • Practice releasing the ball rather than tossing it.
  • Practice coordinating the serve with the toss.
  • Don't hit the ball if you are indoors.
  • Halt your service motion at the top of the stroke.

All of these actions create engrams, also known as muscle memory.

The better your technique is here, the better it will be on the court.

Although you cannot keep human emotion completely under control, and you are aware, during a match, where you are, the trends of the competition, how important different points are to you and your opponent, I always tell students, "Concentrate on your technique. Watch the ball. Try to hit each shot a little better, a little more effectively. Players make errors when they are thinking about their opponent, of thinking ahead to the next game or set."

Injury can be a blessing, it allows us to dissect our techniques and perfect them without the distraction of an opponent.

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