Grand Slam mixed doubles is the one area of professional tennis where men and women compete against each other, but for practicing, both genders tend to use male hitting partners at the sport's highest level. In this month's edition of Coaches Q and A, Harold Solomon of the Harold Solomon Tennis Institute in Fort Lauderdale, Florida comments on the benefits of junior boys and girls practicing together.
Q. Should boys and girls practice together?
A. We always have the boys and girls at our academy practice together. It is a given that boys and girls hit the ball differently. Boys tend to hit the ball with far more top spin than the girls and a boy's second serve, which is usually a kick, will jump up far higher than a normal girl's second serve.
Having said that, boys and girls can benefit from working together.
Girls’ balls tend to be flatter and go through the court more. For boys this can help them with their preparation and footwork. Boys can work on taking more little adjustment steps to get ready for the girls’ balls and getting their rackets in position earlier. Boys will also have to bend more and use their legs more to get down for the girls' shots.
Girls can practice moving up to the ball and taking it earlier since the boys shots tend to jump up more than they go through the court. Since boys hit the ball harder, the girls will have to increase their foot speed to be effective and since the guys will attack the girls' second serves, it puts more pressure on the girls to go after their second serves instead of just getting them in.
Girls will need to learn how to initiate right from the beginning of the point so that they can get in control and not let the boys' quicker speed of shots and feet come into play. It is also effective for the boys to work on serving and volleying and coming into the net when playing against the girls. The girls tend to pass well and have effective returns of serve, so many times we will make the boys play with one serve which puts pressure on their second serve and forces them to think through the point instead of just blasting for winners.
Finally, there can also be a good dynamic of both the girls and boys trying to impress each other, which we have experienced will make them work harder and more effectively.
Sunday, August 23, 2009