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NetPlay Blog #1

Those seen dancing were thought mad by those who could not hear the music.

~ Friedrich Nietzsche


Introduction


You have probably reached a point of pain in your net game, something has triggered your curiosity about the secrets of coming forward to finish, or you have a solid drive to gain every advantage you can. You want to go to the net to get the most out of an aggressive game. People always use the word ‘secret,’ but it's only a secret if you don't know it. All secrets will be revealed, and everything in this book is born from feeling the pain, knowing the problems, and finding practical, doable solutions that are valid and relevant solutions.


I Know Your Pain!


Here are some of the thoughts going through the minds of players who want to play better at the net:


When I come to the net, I get passed cleanly, watching the ball go by with no chance of getting it, and it tears at my soul.


I do reasonably well at the net, but sometimes, I make a mistake with my volley at critical moments.

(Wide or in net, argh!)


I'm a regular at net, but I sometimes feel like there are some subtle aspects of net play that I am missing. I see other, more seasoned players doing better, and they are not telling me their secrets.


(Subtle angle change)


I want to try to serve and volley, but I need to figure out how; no coaches teach it, and I don't want to embarrass myself trying it in public. I keep hearing you can't serve and volley anymore.


I'm afraid of the net, and I only go there when the ball is so short that I have to go forward or lose the point. I feel like a fish out of water.


Process Of Improvement


This book will give you an overview of the entire process by which you can improve your net play incrementally. Please read it before returning to your favorite chapter where you want to begin your work.


Pitfalls


You will learn the many common pitfalls for aspiring net players and how to avoid them. Players often train to make mistakes, and some strange ideas seem sensible but make them more difficult. Avoid the pitfalls and train intelligently to reduce errors dramatically.


Mental Emotional


The mind and body are connected, so your mental and emotional states play a role in how well you are going to perform. The pain of losing quickly at the net, making a mistake, or succumbing to the pressure of being so close to the net can do funny things to people. This book has many strategies to overcome those issues.


Technical


I intend to teach only a few technical skills with this work; instead, this book intends not to train to teach many technical skills, but there will be some references to where you can find that material. I stay away from teaching overly technical tennis because people get bogged down with overthinking how to do it instead of just doing it.


Mindset


You will first become a better net player in your mind, then adjust your habits until you make it a reality. Say out loud, "I am a net player," "I come to the net often." "You can't stop me from coming to the net." What happens when you say that out loud? You talk yourself into it. Of course, please don’t do it in public with people standing around. I am not wild about affirmations, per se, but we can talk ourselves into things. Affirmations only work if we do what we say we want to do.


Affirmations are like frosting on excrement. If you want to grow into something, show me your calendar. I want to see what you are doing about it. ~ Steve Chandler


Solutions


The solutions in this book blend all-time classic tennis wisdom culled over five decades and the latest in neuroscience research, which I try hard not to stretch too far into esoteric thoughts. When I read something in Neuroscience that affirms something that has already shown social proof, I am confident in sharing that with you. I also make my best attempt to make it accessible to lay people, so please do not criticize me for not being scientific enough. I validate my solutions on a tennis court in my game and with my students. Does everything work for everyone? No!


What Are The Real-Life Challenges?


At the beginning of this book, we will cover the more significant questions: What are the fundamental aspects of netplay? Why is net play the ultimate ‘time and space’ tactic? We will dig into that! We will personalize it with vignettes about who else has succeeded at adding nuance to their net game or becoming a net dominator. We will cover the problems with conventional wisdom in the game and how naysayers still hold tightly to their guns, even though all the data is against them. The content here is going to be very challenging. Take the challenge!


How Do You Do It?


We then move onto the 'how to' and start in the pool's deep end with how to become a full-time serve and volley player. Speaking of moving, if footwork is essential at the baseline, it's even more critical at the net, and you will learn to get your racquet to the ball with your feet. There are different effective movement patterns in the front as opposed to the backcourt. We continue the transition using doubles to help your singles and vice-versa, as being parked at the net forces you to play the net some. I will show you evident and straightforward techniques to make your performance on the net easier to grasp. I want to free you up rather than burden you with tips.

The intelligent decision-making of how to play your shots has a bearing on your effectiveness in addition to the mental and emotional aspects. Some of you can relate to Andy Roddick when he said, "Coming to the net against Nadal is like running on the freeway into oncoming traffic." When you come to the net and get passed cleanly, that moment can be the one that keeps you from playing in the front court.


Age Old Wisdom


There are a lot of great rank-and-file tennis professionals out there to serve you well, and you can use this book as a resource to help you with a template for managing your lesson time. Many great tennis coaches love it when you have done your homework, others not so much. It’s a litmus test for their professionalism. Also, I opened this work up to wisdom from coaches around the world, even not-so-famous coaches, but good ones with great advice culled for you. You might discover that your coach is a better fit than you thought or that they are not.


The Social Dynamic, Being An Outlier


When you take your net game to a new level, you may face some ridicule, real or imagined, because anytime you launch into a new endeavor, there will be some hard lessons to learn. In the book's final third, we go into much greater detail, providing a full menu of tactics to come in, and you can choose something that sounds tasty to you. You might try something new and like it!


Are We Talking About Practice?


“The game that I love!?” ~ Allen Iverson


The most practical thing you can do is practice because you must work to play the net well. Your progress will be slower if you think you will find your way into the net without developing the best habits and skills. If you are a junior or coach junior players, we also consider how early and often for kids to be playing in the front court. A 4'6" player will probably not do well, but they can come to the net a little, and older kids can come in more and more as they grow.


Match Day


Match day preparation is critical for today's match. Preparing and training your body is also essential, and there are unique capacities that you need more for volleys, overheads, kick serves, and volleys that you only need a little at the baseline. The book ends with the most valuable part and where you should begin: a survey of your game, setting goals for growth, and journaling the results.


“Failure to prepare is preparing to fail.” ~ Gen. George S. Patton


***


Bill Patton is finishing up his new book on how to move up a level from your current commitment to net play.

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