Written by Ian Westermann
Ground Strokes — 21 April 2014
Jammed Groundstroke Solution

Do you get too close to the ball on your forehand or backhand groundstroke over and over again? If so today’s video tennis lesson is for you!

In my experience teaching passionate tennis players many chronic problems can be fixed by simply learning what it feels like to do the opposite of what the problem at hand is.

That’s what I suggest for positioning issues like this: break out of your rut and purposefully see what it feels like to make the opposite mistake.

From there you can build your positioning awareness and hopefully start building a brand new habit of correct spacing between yourself and the ball.

Comments? Questions? Leave them down below. Thank you so much for watching!

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  1. Thanks for the vid. I have a question though. After I've been hitting a while and I get a little tired, I always seem to lean my upper body back when hitting a backhand. How do I avoid leaning over so much? The direction of lean is normally backwards in a closed stance (parallel to baseline I guess)

  2. I frequently jam myself. I think that's mainly b/c I played a lot of racquetball when I younger. (Yuck!) I get jammed most often when the ball is hit right at me and I feel like I'm in good position when, in fact, I need to move out of the way so I can extend my arm properly.

    Lately, I have been pretending to catch the ball with my non-racket hand. I move to — or away!! — from the path of the ball and extend my left arm like a shortstop gloving a backhander. I stop moving when I feel like I'm in position to catch the ball with my left hand. That usually puts me in a better position to hit the ball at a decent strike point that's not too close to my body.

  3. Won't work for forehand jams but as a one handed backhander, I use my other arm as a measuring device. I still use only one arm to hit with, but using the other arm, I am not as likely to bend my elbow. I still only use one hand to hit with. It has decreased my backhand jams.

  4. look forward to improving my serve

  5. Thanks Ian, nice video. Hubert

  6. Ian,

    Thanks for all your teaching. The video on crowding the ball prompts me to ask for another lesson, one on how to get away from the ball when you are jammed on serve. If you have covered that in one of your video packages, could you direct me to it?

    Also, I would like to send you a check in appreciation of all the free videos I have looked at. Could you give me an address I could send it to?

    Thanks much, David Gerstel

  7. I have a question from your previous video about how tight we should grip our racket when we make a forehand groundstroke. You said that we should not hold the racket so tight that the racket will not twist if we make contact with the ball off-centre. If we do that, and if the ball is hit close to the bottom of the frame, wouldn't the ball tend to hit the net if we allow the racket face to twist down– if we didn't tighten our grip on contact with the ball? In the other case, if the ball is hit near the top of the frame, wouldn't the ball pop up if we allow the racket face to twist up?

    Thank you,

    Ed

  8. We tend to choose a tennis racket based on those used by our favorite professional player. Obviously, this is not the correct way to choose a tennis racket. Please advise on how to do so based on the following factors:
    1. Skill level
    2. Style of play
    3. Player's size including weight and height
    4. Any other factors

    Looking forward to receiving your advice!

  9. You think this drill would work for a t-rex 2-handed backhand?

    I like your overall teaching philosophy of breaking habits by over-correcting and being forced out of your broken comfort zone. Changing what we feel as players.

    • It absolutely would, Beth. The same concept applies!

  10. Thanks ian good stuff again.

  11. OK, thanks. Now can you take this playing against defensive folks a bit further? defeating lobbers without playing a lob to lob game! Taking out of the air at shoulder height? I observe this to some degree at the club with harder hitting younger players against older seasoned players (sporting the odd brace here or there), even at the 3.5 4.0 level. Sheesh! Thanks, Jan

  12. Great drill, Ian! Thank you so much! Now I can tell my students that are T-Rexing all the time how to fix it!

  13. Excellent initial drill, Ian! What I would do for a follow-up is to have the player set up too far from the ball-machine bounce and require them to make at least two adjustment steps to hit with full extension. Then have them position themselves directly in the path of the ball and make the requisite adjustment steps for full extension. I hazard the notion that while people get the hang of the first drill their focus will tend to be on the awkwardness of the positions they find themselves in, and not the root cause, which is premature assumption of a fixed stance with feet rooted in concrete.

  14. great way to break lazy feet when playing. Steve

  15. Hmmm…Wouldn't know anything about hitting too close to my body ;-)

    Seriously though, great advice. Giving yourself, what feels like way too much space, is an effective way to break the habit. This was an extremely hard habit to break on my FH! And I think the problem also goes hand in hand with not making contact far enough in front of your body as well.

    In my experience, you have to address it in stages. Stage 1 is with ball feeds where you don't have to move much to get into the right position (like in the video). Stage 2 is maintaining spacing it when you have to run for a wide ball. Step 3 is to do it in competitive point play and matches, where your instincts tell you to "get to the ball" and out of habit you get too close.

    A turning point for me was to internalize how relaxed and easy a swing with proper spacing feels AND seeing a much different shape, better pace and greater depth to the shot, without having to swing any harder. Your mind then associates hitting a good shot with the feeling of a free swing.

    Another great way to practice this is with mini tennis. It's almost impossible to take a full, relaxed swing and put a ball 3 feet over the net that lands halfway in the service box. If you're too close, you'll pop it up ridiculously high or spray it long.

    • Great stuff, Amadou. Thanks for sharing your experiences!

  16. Brilliant! A great way to put the ball machine to a new use. Thanks, Ian! e.b.

    • You're welcome, thanks very much for watching.

  17. Yes, I liked it!
    It is very important hold a comfortable position for an effective shot!

    Thanks!

  18. This video doesn't demonstrate how to hit a good return when jammed. The ball never came into your body, which was essentially the question you were supposed to address. Maybe I don't know what "jammed" means. I was taught to raise my elbow, which causes the racket face to drop into my chest area and allows me to block the ball.

    • The point of the video was to show how to break out of a habit of mis-positioning oneself and getting jammed by the ball repeatedly. Jammed = contact point too close to the body, the direction that the ball is traveling (towards the body, away from it or neutral) is really irrelevant – it's vital to position yourself at the appropriate distance from the ball.

  19. As a rec player I have a difficult time hitting an inside out forehand deep or
    on an angle that pulls my opponent off the court. I am not sure how my body suppose
    to face to create the angle,

    Thank
    Vito

  20. Nice video demonstration, Ian!

    I will say this, however. In my experience, if I have players set up or prepare for the incoming ball with a semi-open stance (as you did), which is essentially found by making a V on the court and aligning you feet along the inside edge of that V shape, the players can then more easily adjust their positioning "on the fly" — neither over-committing, by closing their stance too soon and potentially getting jammed, nor remaining open-stanced too long and never getting a full core and shoulder rotation, as well as never fully transferring their weight into the shot.

    I've really got to quit giving away all of my secrets!!!

  21. Thanks, Ian this morning I got jammed up a lot! I was playing against higher ranked ladies and one of them figured out that I could not hit balls that she aimed close to me. Can you do a lesson on footwork that shows how to move away from the ball? Thanks.