Estimated reading time: 4 minutes, 55 seconds
If in a match you find your child running around corner-to-corner and opponent dictating the game, one of the problems could be that the balls that your child produces are not deep. Yes, we have said this already, but the last sentence was worth repeating.
As we are on our forehand series, we will spend some time on FH side. Tennis court is a reasonably big play area as compared to other racket sports. In fact, it is the biggest. When you see your child running around on the court, they are burning their precious calories, and in a long match, it is not going to help the child.
One factor which can lead to all this can be the depth of your child’s shot. Interestingly, if you have also played tennis, you would have noticed that it is not that easy to understand how big is the tennis court after all and how much power and spin you need to keep the balls deep but inside the baseline. Imagine a growing child and their level of understanding in these matters. They usually think I need to just keep the ball in.
However, not every ball is going to land deep and even pros can’t always hit deep but in junior tennis (U-12 to U-16) it matters a little more as juniors can’t run all day like a pro. They are going to get tired.
Besides, if a typical four ball rally is made up 2 orange, 1 yellow and 1 red ball from your child, you can safely assume that your child has given at-least 1 good chance (1 red) to the opponent to attack them. If the above rally is made up of 4 yellow balls that is awesome and the chances are that your child will get an opportunity to attack first in this case.
If it is made up of 3 reds and 1 orange. That is a weak rally from your child’s perspective. You might find your child running corner to corner defending and now watch that calorie burning fast. If this continues, you can expect more unforced errors from a tired kid. As a parent, our observation could be that the fitness of our child let him down which is a fair observation but there could be things beyond fitness which can play an important role in overall performance.
Therefore, we urge you to please take time and do plot your child’s rallies and see what is the composition of depth they have in their shots.
We can do that by trying something like this –
2y2o1r that simply means we have 2 yellow balls, 2 orange and 1 red balls produced in a rally having a length of four balls. You can further chart it as 2y2o1r:15-0 assuming your child is serving. 1o3r 15-15. Well, this point was lost.
You can also think of any other way of charting this but make sure that you are keeping an eye on the FH ball depth your child produces.
Don’t worry too much about the score initially. Score at times does not reflect an accurate picture. Sometimes even after producing proper depth, the point might not turn out to be in your child’s favour because of some other reason. At least you would know if your team has to work on the depth producing capability of your child or not. It takes a lot of work to figure this out and that job you as a parent need to do. You must strive hard and give this input to your team to make your child’s practice time very fruitful and focussed.
How long your child has been training? If it is more than three years a fair depth % in rallies should be visible. A right amount of orange with some dashes of yellow is not that bad to set a benchmark. Strength in the shots will come with age. It is practically the same shot, which will travel, faster and with more spin with age.
Now to the question of how a child can produce these deep balls. Your team must have an answer for this. It’s a fact that with correct FH grip & technique a good depth can be achieved but there is a feel factor to it. After the grip is decided (hopefully it is close to SW grip), it is the right time to check if your child has an understanding of height, speed and spin that they can put in their shots. Have they been trained in such a way that they have understood and have a feel around these three essential aspects of FH? Height – stands for the height of the ball from the net. Speed – what speed that ball can achieve at the desired height. Finally Spin – how much spin is needed on that shot to generate enough height and speed. While reading some the previous lines(marked in clay colour), you must have felt it is confusing. Imagine how challenging it might be to develop it. Now make it as an expectation from a growing child.
It is a matter of feel for the correct height, speed and spin. Not more not less. This can be accomplished by careful training in this area.
We will try writing more about these factors in posts to come but for now, check the following –
1) Chart some matches, practice matches and drills and see the % of depth composition from the FH side of your child’s shots and present it to your team for further introspection.
2) Ask your child if they understand the concept of height, speed and spin and see what they have to tell you. Thier answer will give you enough hints about what they think. Now see what they produce on courts by doing point 1 above.
3) Observe while training if your team gives enough importance to these facts when it comes to building your child’s FH around height, speed and spin.