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Coaches Corner - tip of the month

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I'm betting that audible breathing, especially very audible breathing, just popped into your head. And you're right, it's the obvious physical "talking-head" component, but by no means the only one, and that's where the nuances get interesting.

One that I'd wager on that is seldom, if ever, even considered or monitored, is playing slack-jawed. Take a few minutes tomorrow and observe your peer's jaw status during shot making. You'll be very surprised to see all sorts of clenched, distorted upper, lower jaw positions right at impact. Not a good thing as it creates tension that radiates through your entire body, including the arm(s) swinging the racket. It's all connected as my massage therapist likes to say.

Then there's squinting to enhance one's vision. No big deal. That's been around and documented for a long time. What actually results is a changing of the eye's shape, and an altering of the light allowed, less, to enter. Just walk out of your house into a bright sunny day without sunglasses or a cap and your autopilot squinting switch will go off.
But that's not it. The latest deal is going consciously bug-eyed to trigger better ball-tracking and visual enhancement, particularly at the ball striking moment. It's certainly not unusual to see magazine and newspaper images of professional tennis players doing exactly this.

Bug-eyes, flared nostrils for tennisAt the urging of one of my students, a true student of the game and whose primary coach has him incorporating this, I gave it a try. No doubt there's merit regarding one's focusing on the ball, but the surprising aspect for me was a quieting of the mind. A thought dissolver.  No doubt, as this technique becomes more familiar, some TV announcer, or writer, or pro will come up with a catch phrase for its practice. I'm going with "big-eyed" for now. "Bug-eyed," although literally accurate, somehow just doesn't cut it.

Now, before getting back to breathing technique, consider player "shot vocalizing." No, I'm not just referring to plain old grunting, or screaming as practiced by some. I'm talking about employing different tonal qualities, even two syllable  enunciations - compared to the usual one - and the like that are linked to the shot making task. Common example: many two-handed backhand pro players make a completely different sound when going to a one-handed slice. Why? Power shot vs more finesse and feel. A more all-out voluminous exhalation morphs instantly into one of relative quiet.

Lastly, while still on breathing, who would ever think about flaring their nostrils – yes I'm serious - for more efficient breathing? For starters, remember that a number of companies in the 90's introduced "breathing strips," a band-aid like stick-on that adheres to the upper nose to stretch and expand one's nasal passages once applied. Football players really embraced them for awhile, college and pros – they looked kinda cool - and so did the Jensen brothers doubles team who preceded the Bryan brothers as the premier U.S. Davis Cup pair.

Nostril flaring, when done spontaneously, indicates the body's auto effort to make breathing more efficient. This is true in both humans and animals. Racehorses epitomize this expansion when under physical duress on the track.

Utilizing this technique during the shot making moment – just prior to letting the racket go during the inhalation stage – ends up, as it turns out, creating a greater " back pressure" that will increase O2 uptake by 10-20%, and simultaneously effect better lung elasticity prior to the mouth-breathing exhalation, grunting phase. Hate that word grunting but it's out there – not a great descriptive.

So yes, there's more to this than just, simply, a talking head that's audibly exhaling, grunting. Realizing an even better brand of your current best tennis can be readily augmented by: 1) playing slack-jawed for greater physical relaxation, 2) going big-eyed at the ball striking moment, 3) flaring your nostrils and utilizing nose-breathing in the final inhalation moment prior to making your shot, and then mouth breathing, exhaling in the ball striking moment.

Keep in mind that learning new techniques takes practice before they become naturally occurring, not more and more and more match play.

Questions and comments are welcome at anytime for all tips present and past via email.

This Tip of the Month is copyright© by Jak Beardsworth Tennis. All rights reserved. Copies may be made only with the permission of and by Jak Beardsworth. Contact him here.

Tips Archive

  • May, June, 2013 JUST TALKING HEADS OR MORE [read more]
  • March, April, 2013 SELF-TALK: Good, Bad, or Indifferent [read more]
  • January, February, 2013 BOOK-A-MILLION: Do Tennis Players Read? [read more]
  • December, 2012 THE KEY TO TOUR LEVEL BALL STRIKING: And How to Learn It [read more]
  • November, 2012 ARE YOU A THUDDER, A TWANGER, OR A PINGER: Racket Dampeners [read more]
  • September, October, 2012 SMART SHOTS [read more]
  • July, August, 2012 TEN TOP STRESS REDUCERS [read more]
  • June, 2012 MAKING YOUR LESSONS STICK [read more]
  • May, 2012 THE IMPOSSIBLE: Accelerating and Decelerating Simultaneously [read more]
  • April, 2012 PLAYER DISCONNECTION [read more]
  • March, 2012 BENDING THE SERVE IN [read more]
  • February, 2012 UNDERSTANDING TERMINOLOGY: Drill vs Clinic vs Team Practice [read more]
  • January, 2012 PLAYING SCARED? [read more]
  • December, 2011 CUTTING OFF THE ANGLE…VERTICALLY [read more]
  • November, 2011 WHY COACHING? [read more]
  • October, 2011 THE EASY BALLS ARE NOT EASY [read more]
  • August/September, 2011 NEVER TOO LATE FOR OLDER DOGS [read more]
  • June/July, 2011 HARD COURTS, SOFT COURTS, and YOUR BODY'S ADAPTATION [read more]
  • April/May, 2011 JAW DROPPNG [read more]
  • February, 2011 TIP 2 | POOH POOHING DOUBLES STRATEGY SESSIONS [read more]
  • February, 2011 TIP 1 | CLAY TO HARD, HARD TO CLAY [read more]
  • December, 2010 JOHN ISNER’S “GOOD MISS” [read more]
  • November, 2010 THE MOST NEGLECTED SHOT IN THE GAME [read more]
  • October, 2010 BALL BOUNCING and the SERVE [read more]
  • September, 2010 TAKE YOUR EYE OFF THE BALL [read more]
  • July-August, 2010 SUMMER SCHOOL COURTSIDE CRIB SHEET [read more]
  • May-June, 2010 THE 2-HANDED JUMP BACKHAND: The Dumbest Shot in Tennis [read more]
  • April, 2010 THE STANDING AROUND SYNDROME [read more]
  • March, 2010 THE ELUSIVE SERVICE TOSS [read more]
  • February, 2010 PREPARING TO START THE POINT: Serving and Receiving [read more]
  • January, 2010 DEBUNKING THE MODERN GAME [read more]
  • December, 2009 RELAX – IT'S JUST A RALLY BALL [read more]
  • November, 2009 DEFEATING THE POACHER [read more]
  • October, 2009 PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE [read more]
  • September, 2009 SERVING SUCCESS: Warming-Up vs Match Play [read more]
  • August, 2009 THE SPLIT STEP: Defending the Court, Rushing the Net, and More [read more]
  • July, 2009 THE THIRD GROUNDSTROKE [read more]
  • June, 2009 HOW MANY HANDS DOES IT TAKE? [read more]
  • May, 2009 THE MOST IMPORTANT SKILL [read more]
  • April, 2009 PLAYING IN THE FLORIDA WIND [read more]
  • March, 2009 Letting them Play for Peak Performance in Clubland [read more]
  • February, 2009 SUPPORTING YOUR GAME [read more]
  • January, 2009 RESPECTING THE GAME: Top 10 Do's & Don'ts [read more]
  • December, 2008 Getting the Warm-up Right [read more]
  • November, 2008 Visualize...Realize: The Mind Body Connection [read more]
  • October, 2008 Reading Their Mail [read more]