BY CORKY CRAMER
Along with teaching a player how to crush forehands, it’s a coach’s job to help players learn how to analyze and react under the emotional stress of competition. I strive for the day when my students succeed at getting the job done without my presence on the sideline. Unlike a majority of sports, coaching is limited in most situations, however here’s a little secret that will allow a coach on court from the first to the last point.
Say hello to your new best friend Porta-Coach. Simply look at the palm of your hand starting with the pinky. I’ve assigned a role to each of the fingers on your hand to give you a tangible reminder of how to build a winning game or adjust in the heat of the battle. With the aid of their personal full time on court coach your students will see winning results increase radically.
Pinky-Get it in – 20% chance of victory:
If you want a chance to win, the first thing one needs to do is get the ball in – so keep the ball away from lines. Players often find they don’t need to do more as opponents just keep giving away free points. Once you’ve proven that this is not a problem, move one digit over.
Ring Finger – Get them moving -40% chance of victory:
Once you have established keeping the ball in play isn’t an issue, start creating bigger problems for your opponent. In this phase simply move them side to side, hitting into the corners. Often this is all you need to do to bring out a variety of unforced errors. Your opponent may even throw in the towel from all the running. If during this process you begin to miss balls wide or long simply move back one digit and listen to your Pinky.
Middle Finger – 60% chance of victory:
You may find a player moves well laterally and sometimes it actually gets them going and playing better. That corner ball also opens up the option for a big cross court or an equally dangerous down the line. For that reason, it may be time to add more variety. Players frequently move up to a short ball, however due to a fear of playing the net, refuse to continue forward. This sudden stopping at the ball and having to reverse direction often results in slow recovery back to the baseline. Your opponent will be left to deal with a ball at their feet in the classic “No-Persons Land”. While attempting this strategy, if you hit too many balls into the net simply move back one digit and go back to listen to your Ring finger again.
Pointer Finger – 80% chance of victory:
Shots that determine the height at which your opponent makes contact should completely take them out of their comfort zone. With this piece of the game, a player should be very much in control of the match – this really translates into using spins. Hitting medium speed line drives in the middle of the court might get the job done – but isn’t that what most players love to see? How nasty is the combination of being pushed deep into the backhand corner hitting a ball above your shoulders, only to have to scramble to the service line for a forehand that is only a couple of inches off the ground. Keeping the ball out of their strike zone will undoubtedly lead to free points and easy put-aways. Again, if unforced errors start to show up, simply move back one digit, go back and listen to your middle finger again.
Thumb – 99% chance of victory:
Depending on how you look at your hand, the thumb is either the first or the last digit – this is also true for Porta-Coach. The thumb represents the conclusion to your point. In today’s power groundstroke game the dominant conclusion is the inside out forehand. As a player you have to know what is your best and most confident shot – the one you would bet the farm on. My go-to shot is the forehand volley. I build as many points as possible using the tools the other four fingers represent to put me in position to finish the point with a crisp volley. Find your own go-to shot and work backwards to see how many ways you can get yourself to that moment.
With the aid of your own on-court coach your chances of winning are right in the palm of your hand. Nothing is guaranteed but you will leave the court knowing you did everything you could to get the victory. Next match – finish by giving yourself a thumbs up !
USPTA Pro 1