The team at Billie Jean King’s Eye Coach are on a global mission to spread point of contact training and as a result grow Tennis. Those in the industry know only too well that participation in Tennis is falling and many clubs are struggling. This is true worldwide except perhaps for Eastern Europe and some parts of Africa. Many meetings, seminars and conferences have focused on why the sport is losing players and what can be done to address it. Part of the decline at least is due to the success of competing sports which can be done alone such as cycling, swimming or going to the gym but this is far from the whole story…
Some point to competition on people’s time such as work pressures, school commitments and the internet – I’m mean Tennis vs cat memes there’s no contest, right?! Seriously though a traditional game of Tennis takes a long time especially if every game goes to deuce but that is nothing compared to how long it takes to learn to play Tennis. Sure, most people can get the ball over the net from the service line and have something of a rally quickly but acquiring all the skills to actually play a match takes months. The simple fact is it is hard to be good at Tennis and, however good the pro is, many students get frustrated before they have had a chance to fallen in love with our beautiful game.
What then is the answer then? Should we write Tennis off as something our parents’ generation did and a complete waste of time only to resurrected on a games console? Surely, we can invent a robot to play for us while we chat with friends and look on? Hold on a minute we must be able to find better ways of teaching and speed up learning. That makes sense but we already have the best coaching techniques in the world and still it is too hard.
OK let’s step back – what are we asking a student standing on the base line waiting for a fed ball to do? First, after the coach feeds, they must track the ball over the net to where it bounces. At the same time, they are starting to take their racket back and adjusting their feet to get in the right position to hit. As the ball bounces they start to focus on the ball and where it will contact their strings. Then they must hit it (bend knees, swing low to high, finish on the other side of the body) and finally the instinctively start to watch the ball going towards (or in!) the net. Do you need a lie down? I do! The fact is when you are learning to do something it is natural to think a lot about the action, however, if your thinking is cluttered it stops your natural instincts from taking over. Far better to say to a beginner – “get ready to go, move to your position, visualise your target, just hit it! These commands tap in to our natural instincts and unleash a power not possessed at a conscious level.
The difficultly with Tennis is that there are two targets and the eye naturally go to the second target (where you want the ball to go) too early. This creates a head shift, in other words while the player is still hitting the ball their head is moving. This breaks the kinetic chain meaning they hit off balance and puts the shot at risk of a miss-hit and therefore potentially an error. With a ball that flies away there is no way to correct this but now with Billie Jean King’s Eye Coach we can dramatically increase the rate of learning by at least 40% leading to fewer errors and less frustration. We do this by eliminating the fly away ball but keeping the rhythm of match play on the machine.
Many 1000s of players and coaches have now experienced the difference of a fast, fun and feeling way to learn Tennis and we would love you to be the next to experience it! This year we were delighted to be a finalist in the TIA Innovation Challenge for the best product to help grow tennis and we hope you will join our mission.
Learn Tennis Faster, Play Better Tennis and Love Tennis More!
Hugo Allen (June 2017)
International Director – Billie Jean King’s Eye Coach
Managing Director – Connected Clubs