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Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Reinventing My Game - A Temporary Setback

Change is hard, then messy, then good...

I wrote a post in February, Reinventing My Game - The Grip, in which I discussed the thought process and decision to change everything about my grip. I always tell players in my clinics that change will not yield positive results immediately. The reality is that change will likely degrade the level of play during the adjustment period. Then, when it "clicks", all will be well with the world again.

That was my attitude when I changed to a continental grip. I expected to struggle for a while and I did have some trouble with even basic shots like groundstrokes, volleys, and dinks for a couple of weeks. Then..."click"...I got better. But, just as I was getting comfortable with my new game, all of my low backhand shots at the NVZ line became my partner's worst dream. All of those shots - volleys and dinks - were popped up and pounded back at us. I was shouting "look out" frequently.

I tried everything short of reverting back to switching grips to try to correct the problem. I identified the obvious reason as an open paddle face. But I could not determine why it was happening after a couple of weeks of success. So I focused more. And I tried less aggressive shots. And I made certain I was in the ready position. I asked better players how they hit those shots. I was at the end of my rope and ready to change back to a backhand grip.

Then I casually mentioned my problem to a friend and fellow player. His response was immediate - "I can tell exactly why that is happening". He told me that I was standing too upright and not bending my knees to get low. Reaching down while bending only at the waist caused 3 bad consequences:
  • A more open paddle face
  • A swing more dependent on wrist and elbow movement rather than from the shoulder
  • The head (and eyes) stay up
The difference can be seen by comparing the photos below.

I put his advice into practice and the difference in results was immediate. Low backhand shots were going exactly where I wanted. The best news of all was that I could continue with my new grip. It was not the problem.

The case I describe above was specific to one situation. But you and I can take some learnings from it and apply these learnings in the future.
  1. While making changes to one part of your game, ensuing poor play does not necessarily relate to that change. My first inclination was to incorrectly blame my new grip when the problem was elsewhere.
  2. Have knowledgeable players watch your game and freely take their advice. Many players do not recognize when they are using improper techniques. I was fully aware that the right way to hit low shots was to bend my knees. I incorrectly thought I was doing so.
  3. Give advice to other players when asked - sometimes before being asked. Get to know the player in order to get a feel for whether they would accept unsolicited advice. Some players do not take it well.

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