The importance of balance by Steve Shea

THE IMPORTANCE OF BALANCE BY STEVE SHEA

· 2 types static and dynamic balance.
· Easily trained only needs 3-5 mins 3 times a week.
· Importance of split step & Centre of Gravity (C of G).
· C of G lower in women then men. (wall test).
· Wider base/lower hips = lower C of G.
· Change of direction requires strength and balance. The actual change of direction occurs when the player shifts their C of G to the edge of the base of support.

Is it possible players are over taught with too much emphasis on trying to follow mechanical step patterns? The following drills are designed to help players find the right combination of steps so that they develop balance in a natural way. The techniques can be used with players that are just starting, as well as those who are at a much higher level.

Drill 1:Backwards Forehands

The best exercise for developing the feeling of great balance on the forehand is to hit while walking backwards. It forces the player to take smaller steps to keep his balance as he moves backwards. Players frequently hit better walking backwards than they do moving forward.
The beauty of walking backwards is the uniformity of step size. Once the player has the feeling of taking measured, balanced steps, he can translate this naturally into moving forward. More advanced players utilise a wide base, the difference is that they can do this with good dynamic balance while less experienced players can not. However players at levels will improve balance by taking time to do this drill.

Drill 2:Groundstroke Stances

Good players need to be comfortable hitting from all types of stances. To develop this have the players learn to hit standing on either leg. Having players hit with just one foot on the court will help them understand the balance between the feet in the various stances. This helps them hit with greater flexibility and confidence. If you ask a player to hit first standing on their left and then their right, you will see that they are almost always better at one than the other. This drill will help the player learn to centre themselves and understand their dominance issues. Have the player balance until the ball hits the back curtain.

Drill 3: Balance On The Diagonal

Frequently players have to move to the ball on a diagonal. Its important players train to move more realistically, and that training these patterns will result in more balanced movement in match play.
To work on diagonal movement on the baseline, place dots in front of and behind the baseline close to the singles sideline. Have the player start at the baseline. The coach or practice partner then points to either dot. The player must move to the dot, set up and hit a shadow stroke then recover. Do it on both the forehand and backhand side.

Drill 4: Forward Movement
Another problem with training mainly lateral movement is that it doesn’t prepare players for the actual sequence of movement on short balls in the midcourt area. Players frequently turn sideways and try to run forward.
But if you watch professional players who are skilled in all areas of the court you will find that they generally move to the ball in the most efficient way possible and they run directly forward. They turn on the last step with the right foot for forehand or the last step with the left foot for a backhand. This allows them to reach the ball faster, to hit with good dynamic balance and move through their shot towards the net if necessary.

Drill 4: Walking Volleys
Players often have trouble with their volleys because of poor footwork. Some volleys are hit with little or no foot movement and on others; footwork is the key to success. One way to work on the player’s volley is to simply walk towards the net and volley as you walk. Good volleyers almost always take a step (sometimes it is a very small step but that depends on where the ball is) with the outside foot (right foot for a forehand and left foot for a backhand). Walking helps you to learn to do this.

Drill 5: Balance On Serves
Players sometimes are off balance on their serves, usually due to poor/erratic ball toss. Sometimes it can be because they cant hold a good “set to launch position” under the ball. Have the player serve and balance on 1 foot until the ball hits the back fence. This is great for correcting the ball toss and having the correct racket speed into contact and not after contact. The progression on this drill is to try and balance until the bounce. Get the player (on 2 feet) to hold the trophy position until the ball bounces twice after the toss (don’t hit ball).

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