The New Volley Paradigm

Chipping every single day, for four or five or six years, helps the volleys--and vice versa. It's part of being a more complete player and all the aspects feed off each other. If as a young player you get comfortable with all the chips and slices, it also pays off when you are off-balance and out of position. When I see one of my players running off balance in the alley and chip a little short ball crosscourt, I love it.

Part of this process is also learning to hit on the rise; to be up closer where you can pick the ball and go in. That's where the transition begins. And that's another built-in benefit of this approach. If you think you've got to hit on the rise, you work harder to get to the ball quicker. So the attacking mentality can have a huge positive impact on movement in general.

I want players to understand the volley is not something totally distinct or special or unusual; it's what they do naturally in the right situation. This way, that feeling of calmness is much easier to create and maintain.

Going forward and knifing a gorgeous backhand volley is just part of the deal. It's great, but there is no reason to get overly amped up or too excited. Because you are planning to do it again, maybe on the next point. Working with kids this way, I see more development in a year than many players experience in an entire junior career.

The Technical Part

When it comes to the technical volley motions, I believe that the less that goes on the better. I believe that learning a minimal motion is critical in creating the right internal emotional climate. The way I teach the motions on the volley is actually related to the process of creating calmness.

I prefer that players use a continental grip, but I am not dogmatic. I don't teach everyone the same way. I don't think it's necessarily a problem if people change the grip somewhat. For some players it may be necessary, at least at first.

It all depends on what I see. How are the strings approaching the ball? If the player is having problems creating strength and getting the racket to move through the ball, shifting the grip a little bit can help. So I might move a player a little bit toward an eastern forehand or eastern backhand grip.

Good volleyers all share the same form: compact backswings and movement of the racket forward through the line of the shot.

I believe the best volleyers have the simplest technique. Players like Pat Cash, Patrick Rafter, Richard Krajicek, or a player like Greg Rusedski.

On the groundstrokes and the serve, there are more complications and more idiosyncrasies from player to player. But good volleyers look more alike than they do different.

They have compact backswings and they move the racket forward through the line of the shot as much as possible. The contact is early and they don't chop down at the ball too much or too sharply.

I want players to start with little or no backswing. I want them to use the shoulders to set the racket--zero backswing if possible.

As players advance, there is going to be more swing on certain balls. The speed of the ball is going to dictate three options: what I call a block, a punch, or a swing. And I don't mind if people do all three. Eventually they should.

But I think players need to learn things in the right order, with the more compact version first. Like I said, we have this backwards teaching. We teach players to hit with bigger swings on easy balls in artificial situations.

Volley with the Feet

The best volleyers volley with their feet. Unfortunately, most people think you volley with your hands. Obviously the hands are holding the racket and the racket hits the ball. But the hands are used by great volleyers mainly for feel.

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