10 Steps to a Better Volley

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1 10 Steps to a Better Volley Follow these 10 basic steps to immediately improve your volleys. 1. The Grip Use the continental grip. If you don t have a continental grip on your volley you will be forced to change grips as the ball comes to either side forehand or backhand. This might work at the lower levels, but when the ball starts to move faster, there is not enough time to change grips. Optimally, you should slowly work to get to a continental grip on your volleys. The pressure applied on the grip should be like if you were holding a bird. Don t kill the bird by over squeezing, but don t let it fly away either. If you must squeeze the grip do so from the pinky and ring fingers for the forehand volley and the thumb and forefinger for the backhand volley. This will give you a good feel for the racquet and control over it. 2. The Ready Position - The ready position is the stance you should have whenever you are at the net and not in the act of hitting the volley. For proper balance, lean forward onto the balls of your feet. Hold an athletic stance, which will make it easier to move to the ball. Make sure you are not leaning back as this will create a tendency to lift or fall back as you are hitting the volley. You want

2 to be leaning into the volley as you hit and it starts with good balance, leaning forward in the ready position. The Ready Position Vs When you hold both hands on the racquet in front you with the non- dominant arm on the throat of the racquet you will form two "V"s. The First V is formed with both arms extended in front of you with the connection point being the racquet. The Second V is formed by your racquet and the arm you are holding it with. The ready position should always be exaggerated with the racquet directly in front of you and not leaning in either direction. The tendency for people is to lean their racquet toward the backhand volley. The shortest distance to either volley is if the player s hands in the ready position are straight forward and not angled towards the backhand. Try to be light on your feet while in the ready position.

3 3. The Split Step The split step is a critical component of any volley. It should happen when the opponent is just about to hit the ball. For a very detailed explanation of the split volley, continue reading to the end of the document. 4. The Turn - The turn on your volley should initiate with the shoulders and not with the hands. Keep your elbows in and simply turn the shoulders keeping the "V" created with the arms in the ready position. Make sure your hips turn with your backswing and don t simply take the racket back with your arms, without turning the shoulders. 5. The Backswing - Keep backswing short and compact. I like to use the alligator analogy for volleys. Think of keeping your arms close to your body at all times, like alligator arms. If you can t see your racquet with your peripheral vision on the back swing of a volley, the swing is too long.

4 6. The Posture Attempt to maintain eye level with point of contact bending from the knees and not from the waist or dropping the racquet head to hit low volleys whenever possible. 7. The Hit Less is more with volleys. The racquet should be aimed at the target and players should try to hit on the outside of the ball. Try to hold the angle on wrist throughout the shot, maintain the V created with the arm and the racquet. Beginner players are taught to punch at the volley. I think this works at first, but does not work with advanced volley techniques. If you think of hitting or punching the volley the timing of your shot has to be extraordinary to be able to hit the ball at your target. The elbow and wrist should be still. You should not straighten your arm as you hit a volley but rather you should simply put a swing towards the ball with your arm and intercept the ball at some point during the path. This allows the balls to remain in your strings for an additional split second, which should help with accuracy and control.

5 8. The Swing Path - It is important to understand the geometrical planes of a volley. Players work hard to not break the various planes during the volley swing path. Both planes, horizontal and vertical, are equally important. The horizontal plane is crossed if you incorrectly swing at your volleys from high to low. If your racquet is hitting the ground when you volley or it ends below the level of the net you have likely crossed the horizontal plane. The vertical plane is crossed if you swing across your body or the racquet has come around in front of you to the opposite side (Racquet is on the left side of your body when you hit a forehand volley). Advanced volley techniques dictate that you don t cross the planes, but volleyers of any level can benefit from this simple technical adjustment. 9. The Follow Through - The follow through of the volley is short and compact. The strings should be pointing at the target at contact and at the end of the stroke the racquet should on the same plane as it was at contact. The racquet should not cross the horizontal plane or the vertical place and should not be pointed sideways at the side fence. Additionally, the V created with the arm and the racquet should be intact. 10. The Recovery The recovery step is very important to successfully complete the volley sequence. Depending on how far you had to stretch, you might have to take an additional step to help in the recovery. This should be avoided if at all possible as an extra step takes time away from your ability to

6 get back into your position quickly. After the recovery step get back into the ready position as quickly as possible and repeat the sequence. BONUS MATERIAL The Split Step I am including a special section on the split step, as it is a critical component of correct volleys, especially as players improve and the ball is hit harder. If you ever watch pros play, every single solitary time the opponents hit a ball, the players at the net do a little shuffle with their feet or a split step. Ideally, the step happens simultaneously and not staggered. By this I mean that the feet hit the ground at the same time. It should happen from the balls of your feet, not the heels. The split step serves a very specific purpose, which is to help the player move to the ball quickly in either direction. 4.0s and above should have started to incorporate the split step into every shot. 3.5s trying to move up to 4.0 would be well served by working on this move. The split step should happen when the opponent is just about to hit the ball. The timing is critically important. If you do it too soon or too late you have lost the benefit of the step. The importance of the split step goes back to Newton s Theory of Motion, sometimes referred as the Law of Inertia, which states that an object at rest will stay at rest until force is applied and an object in motion will stay in motion. Therefore, it is easier to move a moving object than an

7 object at rest. For example, if you ve ever tried to push a car, it s very hard to get it going, but once it s moving, it s a lot easier to keep it going. The same applies to our human bodies. Once the body has started moving with the split step it will be a lot easier to move towards a ball than if we are standing still. The 3 Step Volley The 3- step volley is the most advanced way to hit volleys. While most people talk about the importance of the split step, some fail to understand the importance of the 3- step volley at the more advanced levels. These are three steps: 1. Split Step - The split happens when the opponent is about to hit the ball and ideally the step happens simultaneously and not staggered. By this I mean both feet hit the ground at the same time, like when you played hopscotch as a kid. 2. Outside Step - The outside step is where the outside foot pivots or moves first, right foot on a right- handed forehand volley and left foot on a backhand volley. (This

8 is a very advanced volley technique for levels 4.5 and above. All other levels should still employ the 2 step volley) 3. Step- in - The inside foot steps across or into the shot. There is a direct relationship between how good a players volley is and how many steps they take to a volley are starting to learn to volley and often don t have the reactions to step into the volley. Usually they don t have enough time to move their feet to execute the volley and are more preoccupied with making contact with the ball. Thinking of their feet is probably too advanced and complicated for this level. Instead the upper body and racquet moves first and the volley is executed from the waist up. This is ok as we learn to volley since the ball is not moving as fast. At the 3.5 to 4.0 levels, the speed of the ball starts to pick up and players start becoming more adept at stepping into the volley. These players start to see the ball coming to them and start to be able to step across into the volley. They are still not able to do a split step when their opponent is hitting. Advanced 4.0s start to learn to incorporate a split step into their volleys. These players are able to react to hard hit balls and are able to start to identify when they need to change directions. Advanced 4.5 players should start to split step before every shot and should be able to have a consistent 2- step volley routine. 4.5 who want to get to 5.0 would be well served by starting to implement the three- step volley footwork pattern. 5.0 and above should be adept at the 3 step volley pattern; split, outside foot, step into shot. With this they can easily change direction and reach wide balls. If you want to improve your volleys and get your volley to the next level, look at what level you are, what the next level is doing and try to incorporate some of the movement patterns of advanced volleys.

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