Coaches corner: February 2
This season, Texas men's tennis head coach Michael Center and Texas women's tennis head coach Jeff Moore, two of the top coaches in collegiate tennis, will take turns sharing a variety of tennis tips which are based on the training programs of both University of Texas tennis teams. Additionally, the coaches are eager to answer any specific questions you might have about your own game. If you have any questions for Coach Center or Coach Moore, feel free to submit them and check back with TexasSports.com for the coaches' response.
Jenny Malone from San Antonio, Texas
Jenny - Our players miss a lot of easy overheads, too. When they arrive on campus as freshmen, we immediately address the problem in, what some might say, an unorthodox manner. Instead of tackling the issue directly, we teach them how to increase the RANGE on their overheads. We want them to develop the mentality that any lob that comes their way will be put away! They have usually spent too much time in the junior ranks practicing SETTING UP for their overheads which inadvertently results in lazy feet. The key to hitting an effective overhead is to always put yourself in position to move through the shot even if you can get there early! To enhance your movement, prepare your upper body initially by turning your shoulders half way rather than all the way and keep your racket up, but to your side rather than taking it all the way back. This will enable you to not only move more quickly, but it also helps your racket “find” the ball before rolling the shoulders and giving it a whack! An excellent drill that we have used for years is called “Crazy Overheads.” Have your coach or practice partner feed you lobs that force you to move up, back, and both ways laterally and MAKE YOURSELF hit every ball as an overhead.
Dave from Austin, Texas
Dave - The most important thing a young player should do is have fun. Don't be too serious at an early age. The second thing is to let them learn how to control the racquet head. The more comfortable a young player can become in having control over the racquet head, the better feel they will have with the ball. I am already dropping balls to my two-year-old. As he gets older, we will play games to see how many times he can bounce the ball. The things that should not be done are worry too much about technique or make it too structured.
Josh from Chicago
Josh - I suggest using a wall if you can't get on a court. The wall never misses and you can practice different shots with different spins. I spent a lot of time, as a kid, in my garage hitting off the wall. I drew a net on the wall and played games. You can also practice, in your house, controlling the ball with your racquet head. You can make that as difficult as you want. We will be in Illinois this weekend to play, so come out and support the Horns.
John Smith from Austin, Texas
John - We have a very young team this year, but our expectations are very high. We currently have three nationally ranked players. Roger Gubser, Travis Helgeson, and Callum Beale are all ranked in the top 100. We play a very demanding schedule and, like all the teams at Texas, we want to compete for conference and national championships. We have some great talent who will continue to improve throughout the year. Please come watch us. I think you will enjoy this team.
John - Our team is currently ranked No. 9 after an excellent win in our opener against Tulane. If our players can continue to be hungry to improve, we have a chance to advance to the Sweet 16 of the NCAAs or beyond. However, first things first, we need to win both the Big 12 regular season AND tournament titles in April. Last year the tournament title got away from us. Our top three players currently are: Kendra Strohm from Tucson, Ariz., Petra Dizdar from Split, Croatia, and Katie Ruckert from Vienna, Va. Come out and see us this season!
Martin Garvie from Richardson, Texas
Martin - We practice tennis 2 to 2 _ hours a day (on average). Our fitness training consists of workouts 3-4 days a week for about 1 hour. The number of workouts depends on the time of the year and when we are playing matches. Each player also has a private lesson for 1 hour each week. Some players choose to have 2 lessons. Overall, the players put in about 3 _ to 4 hours a day.
Martin - NCAA rules allow us to coach our athletes a maximum of 20 hours a week. This includes on-court practices and off-court activities such as strength training. Our athletes strength train - with our world-renowned strength coach Angel Spassov - four to five times a week during the preseason and three times a week during the season. The breakdown of emphasis on the court varies depending on the time of year, but we are ALWAYS teaching and virtually everything we do in practice simulates match play to some degree. All of our drills are designed with a tactical component in mind even when we are doing technical instruction. For example, there is no such thing as a generic forehand. Every forehand is different depending on your court position, etc. Because of this, a simple drill, like crosscourt forehands, must be done within the context of tactics - “What am I trying to do with my forehand?” This approach facilitates the gradual embedding of appropriate tactical mindsets so that the player is thinking more about WHERE to hit the ball during a match rather than HOW to hit it (which can cause “paralysis by analysis”). To best prepare our players for the realities of match play, we design practices that create a positive transfer of learning from practice to competition as opposed to learning from practice to practice. The short answer: It's all connected!
Nick from Austin, Texas
Nick - I have actually received this question from a lot of people. Last year we had a pretty full roster and some guys did not get to play. Like all sports, everyone wants playing time, so we lost a couple of players because of the lack of playing time. Antonio (Ruiz) chose to leave Texas to seek out other academic opportunities. I am not able to discuss the details, but we wish him the best.