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Footwork for Tennis

Mar 16, 2020
image footwork for tennis

Effective tennis footwork doesn’t just happen. There are athletes who have more natural movement and co-ordination than others.

Take Lleyton Hewitt for example. I remember asking him one day if he ever did any tennis footwork drills when he was young, he said never.

It just came naturally to him. For most players, during their developmental phases, their footspeed and lower body coordination seem way off.

I cannot count the number of times I have heard a parent or coach say, their kid is slow to react, their footwork is bad and their coordination is out.

They look lazy on the court. Seen or heard that before?

If you are reading this thinking, yep that’s my kid or kids, you are not alone. 
To briefly explain this, it comes down to a few things;

Bones, muscle tissue, connective tissue, and neural pathways are developing. We cannot expect a half-built race car to fly around the track.

Most young players do not work at high enough intensities to encourage quick coordination growth.

Most young players have not developed the right mindset to encourage their optimum movement (movement starts with your thinking towards it).

Most young players are lazy. It’s almost a rite of passage! It is our job as educators and motivators to get them through it.

There can definitely be an over-emphasis on footwork patterns and moving certain ways.

I have found it always works best when you see what you have to work with (natural ability) and go from there.

Don’t put everyone in the same basket, so to speak.

How to Improve Footwork For Tennis

One area of footwork for tennis that I feel every player can benefit from and help deal with some of the points above is – Footspeed and coordination.

Footspeed – Basically how fast you move your legs/feet doing certain drills/exercises.

Coordination – How fast your neuromuscular system can respond to enable you to move quickly.

In effect, the coordination cap determines the footspeed. Your body can only go as quick as the communication between the moving parts and your central nervous system can handle.

However, it is an area that can be rapidly developed doing certain basic drills, with the right intensity.

So what is important is to place players in certain environments where they are challenged to the point where they are “just hanging on”……the point where if they go slightly quicker they will lose form and technique – their coordination will crumble.

This is how we open up the pathway and encourage coordination growth.

So how will improving foot speed and coordination benefit you as a player and their footwork for tennis?

I cannot answer that specifically for everyone. The benefits are that vast.

Here is an overview:

For older athletes, it will improve their small controlled steps – Slowing down, stopping, and their first step speed.

For young athletes it will encourage a positive rapid mindset towards movement, it will increase and encourage the communication between moving parts and the brain.

For high-end players, it helps to fine-tune preparation steps, recovery steps, general court movement, and tennis agility.

Try these specific tennis exercises above in video and see how fast you can move within your coordination threshold.

Circuit format. 10 seconds on 10 seconds off x 4 sets. Rest for 1 min between circuits.

Points to focus on;

  • Move as quickly as possible, until you feel like you are going to lose control.
  • Make sure you stick with the time intervals. Be ready to go each time!
  • Count how many reps you get out, then you have a target to chase. 
  • You will have a slower/weaker side. This is normal, focus on improving it. 
  • Hold good posture. Like you are on the court. There is no point moving quickly with bad posture. 
  • Remember the mind controls movement. Think "quick" and let yourself go. 
  • Give it 100% intensity. 


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