I hope all is well.
Like many players my FH is fine when practicing and doing drills with a coach but unfortunately it falls apart in competition. My FH is even fine when doing random drills. As a friend pointed out, if I’m not the player attacking first I seemed surprised and caught off guard when the FH rally starts. I have two major problems as I see it. 1) I get caught out of position 2) I have issues with tracking the ball off my opponents racket. No matter how many times I tell myself “watch their racket” I instead watch the flight of the ball I just hit. These two habits seem to go hand in hand.
My questions: How can I break bad habits that have become ingrained for so long? Should I shelve competing for a bit and focus on technique? At the age of 66, I’m afraid the brain plasticity just isn’t there but I’m not ready to join the Senior Leagues.
Great to hear from you again. Before I get to your questions I’d like to talk about how you can read the play better. The reason that you have trouble watching the racket is that the game is too fast to make these decisions consciously. Instead of trying to watch the racket, you need to have a broader awareness of the opponent as a whole. If you are only watching the ball or the racket you are missing out on a lot of information coming from the players positioning and body. Also, the aim is for this to happen at the subconscious level.
If you are getting caught out of position, it could be that you are watching without action. You should always be moving. Try preparing for your shot with the ball. Almost as if the ball is pushing your bat back as it is coming towards you before your acceleration forward.
How can you break bad habits? On this question, how about a mindset shift. You don’t break bad habits. You can only build good habits to replace them. Habits can be built at any age. There are many studies showing that your neuroplasticity will stay with you. All be it to a lesser extent than when you were a teenager. Try to make your practice match the scenarios in your games as much as possible. Focus on the process and not the result and prepare yourself to feel uncomfortable for a while.
Should you shelve competing for a while? In my opinion, this depends on how often you are practicing. If your practice to matches ratio is low then perhaps staying away from competition for a while is a good idea. This will give you time to reinforce good habits.
One final piece of advice. If the same problem has persisted for a while. You need to change something in your practice.
I hope this helps. Keep up the good work.
I got the same issue. What I am trying is the following. In a training session do 3 things for 5 minute period. First is a TOTAL focus on the ball. Then total focus on the bat contact. Then total focus on opponents body position as he hits the ball. I feel if I do this for a while over time I will be able to relax and have a broader body awareness as Dan has suggested.
The other thing that Dan mentioned is be bouncy with your feet. Do a backhand and do a mini bounce then another backhand. Always be moving and bouncy. this helps me react a lot faster and it works very well.
Wow thanks for the thoughtful response, theres a lot to unpack. I’m fortunate enough to play/practice almost daily and play 3 to 4 tournaments per month. My goal was to hit a USATT rating of 1500 this year and after the Covid 19 lockdown eased I really went for it and managed to get to 1580. I decided to get more agressive with my FH and now find myself in a 100 point pendlum of up and down hell. After a previous question pertaining to your FH vs Chinese Style Forehand , Ive tried to mimic yours and keep it compact. I play longpips on my BH and had a lot of sucess attacking with my FH, that is until I started playing better players. A perfect example was this weekend when I would push with my BH pivot to attack only to watch my opponents ball head down the line because I was out of position and totally misread him. When my attacks worked they worked very well but I was out of position way too often and dropped 100 points over the weekend (down to 1408). I am moving more but not nearly enough because I constantly have to remind myself to breathe and move.
The advice to form new habits, although simple, is quite frankly eye opening and a brilliant way to reframe a solution. Bravo.
Ive added a link with a screen capture of my results since the pandemic ease showing my progress (yay) and the wall Ive hit(sigh)
Thanks for the great tutorials and as always stay safe