I’ve received a lot of comments in response to my current “Myth Buster” series that go something like this: “Why are you bad mouthing teachers who want to say that a certain technique ‘feels like this’ when it leads to improvement?? Who cares if it’s what actually happens!” This video is in direct response to those comments. I wanted to spend a few minutes talking just about that specifically because it’s a really good point and a very important topic. Question – What are your thoughts on the matter? I’d love to hear your opinion in the comments down below! Links to my Myth Buster series of videos: “Carve the Ball” for spin on the serve – Click Here! “Over the Top” for topspin – Click Here! “Wrist Snap” on the serve – Click Here! Candid Thoughts| Related Posts Leave A Comment Cancel reply Save my name, email, and website in this browser for the next time I comment. 24 Comments Laurentiu May 19, 2016 at 3:27 pm - Reply Not everybody feels the same, so science theory must be taught together with the feel theory. Feel theory alone is not fair teaching. David Rondot February 9, 2016 at 2:09 pm - Reply I agree you have to use both. However, I disagree with trying to teach how YOU feel when YOU make a shot. You can't teach feel you can only experience it. My approach would be to observe the player execute the shot and then suggest an adjustment (scientific). Afterwords I would ask how did that feel. If the student likes how it feels they will continue to incorporate the suggestion and over time it will be established in muscle memory. In the end it is easier to duplicate a feeling you experience than remember all the scientific steps it took to produce the feeling. Anja February 9, 2016 at 1:51 pm - Reply Hi Ian, I'm a huge fan of your videos and explanations. Especially your Myth Buster series is excellent. What my different tennis coaches told me and what I observed was happening didn't add up. Then I saw your videos and understood that I wasn't wrong. The coaches were just following myths. Like you, I'm very analytical and want to know each step in detail. However, if it gets too abstract and detailed, I'm also ending up in analysis paralysis. But I'm also paralysed by analysis the other way around: when a teacher uses wrong feel phrases (to me, it doesn't help describing a feeling that is not the right subjective feeling) or uses wrong standard phrases, it just paralyses me as I can't make any sense of it, as it is to me simply not a correct description. Metaphors and feel phrases might help me some of the way, but they only paint a partial picture of what is happening and often a biased one, as they are more open to waste subjective interpretation than science-based detailed descriptions. So I prefer to have metaphors and feel descriptions only to be used as a supplement when the strict science description doesn't work for me. Thanks for your explanations. I also now better understand why I prefer some explanations and coaches to others. Luckily for me, I found a coach that is the right one for me. Not giving me too much info, but just enough and the right one at the right time. Even when I go out and get inspiration from other coaches, I always end up finding out that this one coach is right each time. It's actually kind of scary ☺️. If I ever find myself in the US near you, I'd love to get a lesson from you. Thanks again for Essential Tennis. Keep up the good work. Mark Hubbard June 27, 2014 at 2:12 pm - Reply Excellent video's. I have the same questions as some of your respondents below. As the technique employed is very similar for the various serves, what is the actual mechanism that differentiates them (ball position, approach angle to ball, etc.) and how is best to actually produce them? Cathy Attfield August 16, 2013 at 10:40 am - Reply Just watched your 'carve' video and I really appreciate your clear, 'scientific' approach. If however, 'carving' does not cause top spin or slice on a serve…what, in fact, does? What should we be doing to create these shapes of serves? David July 4, 2013 at 7:19 pm - Reply Hi Ian, love your approach to stepping out of the technique box. Nothing easier to play against that someone who is so grooved into their strokes that the anticipation is a no-brainer. Teachers are stuck in their conditioning from the way they play or think you should play and create robots of themselves. The feel of the strings on the ball is very important, however, if you can´t communicate the mechanics of that action the pupil is lost in the mire of meaningless words. I really wish you would follow up on why a guy like Santoro got so far in his career with the unorthodox strokes, rhythms, feel and science behind it. There are reasons to carve the ball and many different ways to carve it. Maybe a good segment for your followers would be an analysis of the many trick shots that can be employed to distract and play with the opponents mind set. Again, stepping out of all those predictable learned grooved strokes into a really fun way to play the game by knowing how and why the ball acts the way it does scientifically and using that as a skill to employ for the pleasure of seeing the guy across the net shake and scratch his head while he fumbles trying to figure out what is happening to him. Sorry to say, I enjoy it maybe too much, as I have to turn my back to him so he doesn´t see my big smile. It´s a tickle, to me. Specially, in doubles when the server stays back for a carve just over the net into his alley or an exaggerated, three oclock to nine oclock carve over the net man as a lob that flies off the court past the alley. Anyway, maybe a segment on so many of the playful shots that you never ever see very much of in amateur or professional tennis just for the fun of it? Lynda sheehan June 22, 2013 at 8:47 pm - Reply I like science. Jack Kimball June 12, 2013 at 12:41 pm - Reply I think I understand about science vs. feel and the myth about carving around the ball. My concern is how to implement pronation without carving around the ball. I will try to make a simulated serve before serving to get the picture in my mind. Hopefully this will help form the correct motion. Another thing I do not fully comprehend is what are the components of eh "kick serve. I don't understand the distinction with a flat or spin serve. Would you help with this please? Thanks! Jack rob perez June 4, 2013 at 10:56 pm - Reply ian- my two cents is that people "feel" this because they're told that's what they're doing. before they hit a ball this feeling is in their head so of course they're going to "feel" that. i think we need to get away from the old system, the old language. i believe that makes tennis much more difficult than it needs to be. i think a science based curriculum/language will help students understand what they're doing. then, when something falls apart on the court, they can make adjustments. ian – you've got the facts right in front of you with the images. now it's question of how do tennis professionals communicate these facts. keep up the good work. chris June 4, 2013 at 10:16 pm - Reply Thanks Ian, sounds like a pretty reasonable approach to me, use the explanation technique best suited to you. Josh June 2, 2013 at 9:56 am - Reply Ian, Excellent video as usual. Trying to carve the ball for slice has given me shoulder problems with occassional success in getting the ball over the net. Seeing Fabio's serves and pros serves is really an eye-opener. I am going to go to the courts and do what you suggest in this video. I am sure my slice will work without hurting my shoulder. I am so excited and can't wait to get on court. Bruce Wallace May 31, 2013 at 3:32 pm - Reply Very reasonable discussion. The trick, obviously, is to find the right balance between the science and feel. I guess that's one of the many reasons that trying to master a difficult sport like tennis is fun – if it were easy everyone could do it! Walt May 30, 2013 at 9:07 am - Reply Ian, you're left handed. Whatdaya expect?? Science! Science! Science! Professional teachers need many different ways to explain the science with the feel without giving misinformation. Giving any student misinformation is dangerous. Can't tell you how many times I've seen that misinformation passed on to others in the true belief it is correct … friend to friend, parent to siblings, beau to beau(s), and yes, professional teacher to student. Jim Fawcette May 29, 2013 at 5:43 pm - Reply Good commentary. Some perspective from another field, for what it's worth: When I was taking solid state physics 100 years ago approximately, we modeled how "holes" moved inside semiconductors. Holes are the absence of electrons; it's easier to track a few holes than millions of electrons. Think of it like tracking the empty spots in Chinese Checkers. I said to the prof, "But holes aren't real." He said, "Electrons aren't real either. They're both just pieces of models. If the models work use them until you get a better one." . Bob C. May 29, 2013 at 8:20 am - Reply Hey Ian, great video–again. Couldn't agree more. There's only one problem: you say try to find a teacher that can come at a problem or technique from different angles. It reminds me of the old saying, "Los Angeles, city of angels. Try to find one." This is not a criticism of your video or your point. It's just to point to the reality that most clubs allow only one teaching pro, so the members are stuck with whatever is on offer. And on top of that, what most coaches have to offer you can do without. You have to go through a dozen clubs before you find one "pro" who actually knows what he or she is talking about. So what's my point? Do what Ian says and look for a good coach–there are a few out there. Meantime, do your homework. Study and learn tennis online with Ian and Will! The more you can coach yourself, the more you'll get out of coaches, the good, the bad, and the ugly. Bob C. Toronto Grahame May 29, 2013 at 4:46 am - Reply Hi Ian Going back a few years to the beginning of my tennis experience, my local club pro told me to experience the slice serve as an attempt to peel an orange with my racket using just the same curving movement around the ball which you demonstrate in this video. I attempted to use this technique for about 3 years – with very unsatisfactory results until I literally stumbled on the solution whilst trying out topspin serves. This curving imagery is so prevalent – so many coaches use it. Once again you have just nailed the topic and I am really relieved to know that my own approach now is on a much better track. On the wider subject of good coaches, they are really hard to find! Also, as a rec player you seem to have to undertake to learn a lot about the game in order to be sure the person you hire knows what they are talking about and can apply this knowledge to you relevantly and easily. Also, many rec players are time poor – they just want to be told what to do so they can get on and practise – ie this is what they pay for! To answer question 2 of your survey – what is the best thing you have put out? IMO it is this series of mythbusting videos because they don't just apply to one thing but have an impact across the whole of tennis. Thank you. john May 29, 2013 at 12:34 am - Reply Ian, I can not leave a comment on your "over the top" video. Here is what I wanted to tell you. Ian, for me, that is the most important video I have ever seen. I hurt my shoulder a while ago trying to, "Carve around the ball." I can carve around the ball and it will only get to the service line, not even to the net!!! A tennis coach once told me to carve around the ball and I did. He then asked me what I was doing and I told him I was doing what he wanted me to do. He couldn't figure out what I was doing wrong. I know what I was doing wrong, I was taking lessons from him 🙂 I am a music teacher and I teach people correct technique, kinda like you. When they see the pros doing it and me doing the same thing they get it. Thanks for showing me the CORRECT way to hit. I look forward to trying it this week. Maury May 28, 2013 at 4:46 pm - Reply Teaching the science, the videos (seeing), and the feel are a great combination to promote learning. Thanks Ian. dane crouch May 28, 2013 at 3:38 pm - Reply ian, i like your comments. i do think the combination of the two can go a long way in many cases. one or the other could work in some cases. i have participated in martial arts for many years. i have seen many students pass thru the school and there are such a wide variety of personalities, characters, and individual perceptual abilities. a very few 'naturals' come through. to watch them progress in amazing. you tell them what to do and they just move properly with little effort and teaching. then there are the more technically minded students. they get the movements technically correct, but they are stiff and lack fluidity and speed. we have mirrors in the school (like a ballet class) so that you can see yourself. this gives you the ability to observe yourself. it is sometimes a little annoying to see. 🙂 what you 'feel' like you're doing is often NOT what your are doing. so sometimes the student has to re-train what they need to 'feel.' what a trick! but i have seen it done. i was an example of the reverse scenario. i came from a very high level ping pong background. my forehand was the modern day forehand of today way back in the late 70's and early 80's. i ran into no one on the court i could not hit forehands with all day long. but i was going to improve! i got Vic Braden's Tennis for the Future and studied the life out of it. All of that scientific information and 'myth busting' that he taught, i took to heart. unfortunately, it put me into a situation of mis-correcting my strokes to the point that my forehand lost it's beauty and became a mechanical nightmare. i am like you in many respects. i love to analyse. i love science, because science is the quest for truth in the midst of varied perception. i was taught from my sifu that learning martial arts (kung fu is basically translated as 'special skills') is a 5 part process. 1. you know nothing. 2. you learn something 3. you practice what you learned. 4. you polish what you practiced. 5. you know nothing again. as he says, 'in battle, if you think, you die.' the final product boils down to feeling and reaction. i studied your service course and learned much, but i found myself lacking… i couldn't produce the spin i needed to get the ball down into the court with power. i took jeff salzenstein's service course and discovered another approach that helped me along with the a bit of a different technical aspect. then pat rafter explained what it 'felt' like to hit his serve. the light bulb turned on and my serve is working better than it ever has… and on a daily basis, match after match. i think the info from all three were the key to helping me out, and i don't think that any of them would have stood alone to fix me. keep up the good work and i will look forward to your next in depth study. yin yang… equal parts of both, with a bit of the other inside each opposing part. Lenny Harris May 28, 2013 at 2:58 pm - Reply Excellent presentation, Ian. Your teaching approach resonates very strongly with me. I especially appreciate your even handed discussion of the feel vs. science considerations. Btw, I'm personally definitely in the science camp. (Although I'd be the first to admit, it hasn't done much for my game.) If you're ever in the Raleigh, NC area, I'd love to meet you and take a lesson. I suspect that even a 78 year old pusher with a troublesome, unreliable serve like myself would likely have lots to gain. Regards, Lenny Harris jeff s cherry hill, nj May 28, 2013 at 12:54 pm - Reply Hey Ian, Count my vote on the "less feel in the discussion the better." Telling me how something feels, does not give me the slightest insight as to what was done to achieve the feeling. Describing the feel without describing the method of getting it, opens the door for development and reinforcement of bad fundamental mechanics as long as the resultant feeling is achieved. Plus here's the inescapable point to me: if I have not felt the desired feeling before, how do I ever know what it feels like…? To this day, my best forehand & backhand shots (power & spin combined) do not feel like I came over the top of the ball, they feel like I started at the bottom and ripped the cover off the back, never touching the top of the ball. A few more of these Myth Busters and I'll become the first to recommend your stuff becomes a must do basic training manual for all teaching pros!! Just this weekend my pro was telling me to come over the top more and more and more. Thanks for all your insights & knowledge! Jeff Ian Westermann May 28, 2013 at 1:04 pm - Reply Those are really good points, Jeff. What you describe is basically exactly how I approach learning new things myself: how can I re-create this if I don't even know what's supposed to happen?? That being said, others DO learn more quickly with a strict "feel" description, and so they prefer that approach from a teacher. I definitely won't ever say that one is necessarily "better" than the other, only that we all have different preferences and so a good teacher needs to be able to approach things from different directions. Thank you so much for the feedback! Pam May 28, 2013 at 12:14 pm - Reply Your myth busters series is brilliant! In particular your videos on the wrist snap and carving the ball have cleared up a lot of misconceptions for me. Like many women, I do not have a natural overhand throwing motion which makes mastering the serve difficult. I have been given a lot of well intentioned but misleading instruction about serving. With your help. finally, I am starting to have a "real" serve. Ian Westermann May 28, 2013 at 12:17 pm - Reply Awesome, I'm so happy to hear that, Pam! Have you gone through my free 5 video serve course? If not I definitely recommend you do. It will shed a lot more light on subjects like this.