Rick Macci is second to none when it comes to his ability to get results from players seeking that extra edge in high level stroke mechanics that transpire to high level tennis. Just ask some of his players such as Maria Sharapova, Serena and Venus Williams as well as Andy Roddick. Rick’s background of teaching himself tennis resonated with me as his work ethic (he still teaches 10 hours of tennis lessons a day) and overall joy of the sport (his willingness to spend time on the phone with me says a lot!) is a true testament to his character. He seemed to be the perfect fit for my quest for knowledge to share on teaching yourself tennis. After our talk, I was proven correct with many great takeaways that I would like to share with you. I do hope the information provides useful to you but to get the full picture of Rick’s coaching, please check out his book: Macci Magic: Extracting Greatness From Yourself and Others.
The Big Picture
Rick wants you to consider your athletic assets before considering how to approach the task of teaching yourself tennis. Based on how well you move and track the ball will determine the approach you should take when learning the sport. There isn’t a “one size fits all” type of style so try to see what your strengths are (such as fast feet, powerful shots, etc) that can allow you to tailor your game to those strengths. He also encourages you to watch others play. Our first language as babies was visual so use that to help imitate proper stroke mechanics. When doing this, think “imitation through relaxation.” More on the topic of relaxing below.
Your Best Allies To Use In Your Game
There are three big takeaways that Rick thinks are important for those trying to teach themselves tennis. First, using the ground is a very important aspect for creating explosive power. Playing practically any sport requires an understanding of the relationship between the ground and the player. More specifically, in Newton’s third law of motion: “for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.” To use this in tennis terms, a player that wants to swing with force needs to understand the relationship of themselves and the ground. When you push down on the ground, the ground will push back up in the same force. To put this in perspective, Usain Bolt puts around 1,000 pounds of force on the ground for every stride he takes. This is the same concept in creating a kinetic chain (by pushing down on the ground) that starts in the feet and works its way up to the hips, stomach, shoulders and finally the racquet. Rick emphasizes the importance of knowing how to use the ground for this explosive power. Without it, you are left with very little force behind each shot.
The second ally Rick emphasizes is relaxation. As you progress lower in level, there is more and more of a tendency to get tight during swings. To alleviate this, Rick has his players try a few tactics that might help you as well. First, try smiling. The very act of smiling allows your body to relax (just try talking while frowning and than smiling and you’ll see what I mean). Also he sometimes has players talk while hitting or even sing. This keeps players from tightening up as they swing through the ball. There is a reason why pros make it look easy...the swing it self should not require a lot of effort!
The last ally that is important in improving your game is fast feet. Rick likes to call it “pop the popcorn.” This is how your feet need to be consistently moving throughout the preparation of waiting for your opponent’s next ball. Think of it as a boxer. If you ever have seen professional boxers, there is one thing in common with them all. They move their feet. Why? If they don’t they will get knocked out! Keep moving to keep you in the point by getting to the ball faster.
So What Do All The Top Players Have That Others Do Not?
I had to end our talk with asking what players like Andy Roddick had that separated themselves from the other competitors. His answer was clear and concise: competitiveness. The top players had a drive in them that made them want to win every point of every drill or match they played in. Their desire to do what it took to win was something that is not in many players but the ones that do have it can go far with that regardless of their strokes. Looking good vs. winning is another way he illustrates this point. Many players want the perfect stroke but when it comes down to scratching and clawing their way to a win, they don’t see that as a must to win. The champions do and that is what makes them so great.
Tip from a reader: Thank you to Ethan for recommending a place online to find reviews and important info on tennis gear. Please check out http://tennisnerd.net/
Upcoming Articles (in no particular order)
Singles strategies that work
Interview with Scott Ford: Getting into the zone by choice not chance
Interview with Adam Blicher: Soft Skills
Playing high altitude vs low altitude tennis (and which pro would do best at a mile high)
What does it feel like to have a fluid swing? Check this out!