Why is this? Why, in a sport that demands great, consistent strokes over a period of hours do players not take the time to work on their mechanics?!
Is it boredom?
A lack of willpower?
Maybe the player is being fed incorrect information, or just has a lack of knowledge of the strokes in general.
These are all good reasons why juniors do not work on their stroke mechanics, but they all pale in comparison to the fact that juniors are Too Cool For School. Go to any court in America and look at how the player is dressed. They have the finest gear, matching shirts/shorts/skirts/shoes and a huge bag holding 3+ racquets. When they walk out to the court, they look like they signed a sponsorship deal. They have all this.....and terrible strokes. The kids are more concerned with how they look than how they play the game!
But, shadow swings are boring! Hitting a ball off the top of the cone will not prepare me for matches! I have to play with someone better than me to improve! I need to rally and play more points!
Before I cover these topics, let's take a look at other stroke and swing based sports to see how they develop their skills.
In baseball, players like Albert Pujols will spend hours everyday hitting a ball off of a tee or taking soft tosses while their batting coach stands right next to them watching every move. When I say he does this everyday, he does this everyday! Go to batting practice a few hours before the game next time the Cardinals visit your favorite MLB team and you will see one of the best players in the history of the game hitting off of a tee for at least 30 minutes before he steps into the batters box. During a game, Albert will walk into the lockerroom and look at his mechanics from his at-bat a few minutes before, from THREE DIFFERENT ANGLES to make sure his mechanics are still entact. Without putting in the hours of hitting off a tee everyday while concetrating on his grip, weight shift and rotation, he would not be able to hit a 98 mph fastball and he certainly would not be a professional baseball player. Albert Pujols is not too cool for the basics!
In golf, any player that truly wants to be good, will spend hours on the driving range and putting green. Professionals will also have a swing coach travel with them around the world. Look at everybody on the driving range. Are they bored? No! They are out focusing on their mechanics, improving their game and having fun at the same time! They improve more on the driving range than they do playing 18 holes with their buddies.
You can take one look at a person in a pool and instantly tell if they can swim or not. The non-swimmer will thrash and splash all over the place while zig-zagging down the lane. The developed swimmer will cruise seemingly effortlessly through the water. How do they develop these strokes? Do they show up to practices and just race people the entire time? Or do they take time to focus on technique drills instead? Do you think Michael Phelps and Ryan Lochte have to race each other everyday for hours on end to improve?
A true beginner in each one of these three sports will go to practice, learn the fundamentals and mechanics from their coach and then go practice on their own before the next practice. They typically will practice these fundamentals for weeks or months before their first competition. After their game, tournament or meet, they will go back to practice and focus on their mechanics to rebuild for the next competition. Regardless of how amazing the person is at their particular sport, they are always working on their mechanics. They never out grow the basics!
Why do beginner tennis players immedately rally and play tournaments before they take more than a week to practice the fundamentals? What good is rallying if they can not keep a ball in play for more than 3 strokes? How does Nadal improve if he is Number 1 in the world and has no one better than him to play against? Why do players take an hour lesson 1-3 times a week and then do nothing on their own?
Moral of the story is that tennis needs to learn from other sports. It's a build up, break down process and you cannot microwave things that are worth while. This means students have to get in the trenches and consistently do things you don't feel like doing. Juniors need to trade in their crooked Volcom hats and replace them with yellow hard hats and understand that confidence comes from CONSISTENT hard work. Pujols, Phelps and Woods aren't too cool to work on their mechanics, are you?