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Friday, July 14, 2017

Split Step Timing

Its not the situation. Its your reaction to the situation...

We have been talking about movement and, more specifically, about movement from the baseline toward the NVZ line. A fundamental of this movement is the split step. This technique transitions a player from forward movement to the ready position and then toward his next return. 

We certainly have not ignored the split step in our discussions. It is highlighted in Chapter 5 - Earn the Net and mentioned frequently in many other posts. Many of those posts were written early in my playing and learning experience and relied on some old-school advice about the timing. Generally, players were taught to stop and split step just prior to the instant when the opponent was striking the ball. 

Mark Renneson, as always, has prepared an excellent video, Split Step Myth, that analyzes when the "hop" of the split step is initiated by top players. His analysis indicates that the hop starts at about the instant of opponent contact with the ball. That allows the player to land in an athletic position ready to move toward the opponent return. By waiting to start at the instant of contact, the ball direction can be determined so the player can immediately push off in the right direction.

The top-level players time their split step the same whether they are moving forward or standing at the NVZ line. They are younger and more athletic than most of us. Therefore, if you are like me, we have accommodated these "inferiorities" by slightly changing the technique. My experience has taught me that I should move more slowly toward the NVZ line as discussed by Sarah Ansboury in yesterday's post, Speed Kills. By the time the ball approaches my opponent, I may be walking instead of running. This allows me to more easily stop by planting my feet in a balanced position before hopping and pushing off for the next shot. This slower approach can result in more time spent in no-man's land. That is not all bad and practice makes play there more palatable (see Aspen's Advice - No Man's Land).

But why bother to hop? That's the question we will address tomorrow.

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