- The Method
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By Gil Kelly
How would you like to become incredibly coordinated in all movement essential to playing winning tennis? What if you never tightened up on your strokes or felt it hard to bend your knees for those low shots? How about being able to consistently get the power of your whole body into every shot?
Well don’t get too excited, because achieving that level of skill obviously takes time. It takes practice and dedication and love of the game. And some players may never attain it. However, if you’d like to have skills like these, read on! The Feldenkrais Method® contains excellent strategies for moving you in the direction of playing your best tennis.
Every time you walk on the tennis court, you carry with you habitual efforts and tensions from your everyday life. These habits may interfere with all of the movements essential to playing your best tennis. For instance one common problem for most recreational tennis players occurs when parts of the body are left out of a stroke.
Research cited by the chairman of the United States Tennis Association Sports Science Committee reports, “The factor in tennis that most limits players success is movement ...in fact, about 70% of the errors that occur in skilled tennis strokes are not due to stroke mechanics per se but to movement.” Efficient movement in most tennis strokes involves ground forces that are transferred through the legs, hips, trunk, and arms in a specific time and sequence. When one or more of these parts are left out, a subsequent body part must work harder in order to achieve the same result.
Just imagine a forehand stroke hit with no trunk rotation. The arm must swing the racket very hard, using much more muscular effort than normal, to generate sufficient racket head speed. This can not only cause unforced errors, but may lead to injury (e.g., tennis elbow or shoulder).
This was a common pattern with many of the more than 50 players referred to me by Scott Borowiak, a respected USPTA tennis teacher in California, with over 30 years experience. He reports that “I have used numerous methods for off court training. If I had to choose the most effective, it would be The Feldenkrais Method applied to tennis. Students whom I have referred to Gil have returned with a better understanding of how to move and swing with much less tension.”
Another USPTA teacher and tournament player, Roger Kahn, reports that, “By working with Gil and the Feldenkrais Method, my posture has evolved to the point where I no longer cause the chronic discomfort and pain that I suffered most of my adult life. I feel able to glide effortlessly with coordinated and powerful movements.”
In these and many other cases, the Feldenkrais Method has been used to specifically enable the tennis player to learn to use ground forces for powerful swings; to generate this power from the hips and pelvis; and to smoothly coordinate these forces through the whole body in proper timing and sequence.
Gil has applied the Feldenkrais Method to helping hundreds of tennis players improve their game since the 1980s through his Whole Body Tennis Program. He has presented to the USPTA annual convention and has been written about in “Inside Tennis” magazine.