By Jo Karaitiana
Director of Tennis – Box Hill Tennis Academy
My combined background as a strength and conditioning coach and tennis coach has molded my coaching philosophy to believe that all coaches must teach players from a young age closed stance first before skipping ahead to coach any other stance in tennis.
Loading- Closed stance teaches players how to load their back outside leg (right leg for a right hander) to be able to push off and transfer body weight and initiate forwards rotation onto their front leg when correctly coached. This allows players to engage their lower limbs (which is the powerhouse of their body) to find rhythm and easy power. Too often juniors associate generating power with tensing their upper body and gripping and swinging hard, when in reality 60% of power is generated through the lower limbs, 25% trunk and 15% upper body. When players learn how to load from their outside leg, this will automatically make learning open stance easier and promote appropriate loading and body weight transfer.
Eliminate extreme western grips- Forcing players to step into the ball from a closed stance position forces players to contact the ball in front of their body which is almost impossible to do with an extreme western grip (try it out if you don’t believe me!). Players with extreme grips feel more comfortable making contact in line or behind their body promoting players to fall backwards when contacting the ball. When the player’s body weight falls backwards, their ability to get any weight transfer into their shot and control the ball is significantly reduced. Teaching a closed stance will force players to make subtle changes to their grip to adapt to be able to hit the ball without you having to talk about a grip change.
Taking time away from your opponent- Coaching closed stance teaches players to be proactive moving forward to meet and contact the ball earlier (further up in the court) than they would with an open stance. This will take time away from their opponent, giving players more space on the court to hit their next shot and not feel pressured to have to play the ball so close to the lines to win the point.
Footwork- Hitting with an open stance can promote poor footwork compared with hitting with a closed stance. When players hit with open stance they can develop habits of taking very few steps to be able to contact the ball. Closed stance forces players to be more active with their footwork and take multiple steps to move away from the ball to create space to be able to step in and push off their back leg to contact the ball. I do want to point out that players should be pushing out towards the ball and finishing past the point of contact. The player’s body weight will finish on the outside leg to easily be able to push back to prepare for the next shot.
Aggressive mindset– Using a closed stance and stepping forward into the court to hit balls makes players more comfortable with moving forward and looking for the opportunity to be aggressive and dictate play. As we are all aware, at the top level in women’s and men’s tennis over 80% of points are over within the first 4 shots, therefore it is very important to develop and install an aggressive mindset when developing players from a young age.
Allistair McCaw who is a world-renowned Sports Performance Consultant and Mindset Coach wrote an article on “Why junior players should stick to closed stance”. Allistair has worked with numerous colleges, olympians, world champion athletes and tennis professionals including Kevin Anderson and Chung Hyeon.
Please click the following link to view the article – Click Here