When Learning Tennis - If It Feels Wrong, It’s Probably Right!
When teaching tennis, the phrase; ‘It doesn’t feel natural’ resonates greatly with students especially newbies.
As we know tennis requires copious degrees of coordination, which loosely translated means; To have the ability to perform two or more physical actions at once. E.g walking and talking.
The adjective ‘natural’ is commonly confused with the adjective ‘comfortable’ when learning tennis. For example, to hold and use a continental grip for the serve for most is neither natural or comfortable.
The one-handed topspin backhand, to move and keep the dominant hand on the dominant side to achieve ball elevation and topspin is not an everyday natural action.
The high backhand volley is one of the hardest shots for newbies to master because it requires the triceps and deltoid muscles’ ability to perform in the most unnatural way with the dominant arm reaching and lifting up across the non-dominant side of the body.
The adjective ‘natural’ when applied to bio-mechanics means an action upon which the individual finds easy and comfortable as any other action that may perform every day or on rare occasions when an individual takes to a ‘new’ action with comparative ease without too much prior practice.
It feels wrong
These scenarios can be applied to many other sports and hobbies that require high levels of coordination. I remember by old Karate Sensei who frequently said to the class, ‘If it feels wrong or natural, you’re probably doing it right!’
How very true, and a phrase I use a lot myself during coaching.
Children although still passing various maturity phases of motor skill development, can be moulded to develop their athletic base, problem solving abilities and coordination with decent coaching.
Adults learning abilities subside
Adults however are a different kettle of fish because their learning abilities have subsided. They are used to being in control of their daily activities relatively unchallenged whilst rarely having to learn new skills. In the meantime, their muscles and joints have fused so to re-learn a new bio-mechanical skill can be both mentally and physically challenging.
Small wonder why the phrase ‘it doesn’t feel natural’ is mostly uttered by adults.
But hey, it’s ok to feel some level of discomfort when learning something new. You’ve only just forgotten what it’s like to learn. The task/action may become natural once practised on a regular basis.
However, its equally important to offer my students simple bitesize chunks of progression especially when they find the whole action tough to master firsthand.
Simple progressions are the answer
This is why I utilise the MTI Method which offers an abundance of simple progressions for me to use as I see fit. These progressions can also be found here on this website www.playmoderntennis.com and on our CPD course workshops.
Whichever way we choose to learn or teach, one thing is clear. When learning a new skill, to feel unnatural is perfectly natural!