I ruined my backhand for eight years by taking tennis lessons.
For eight years I thought I was inept. I was taking lessons but I couldn’t get a handle on the backhand. If I had not come across Jack Broudy’s program I would probably have quit the sport a while back and have taken up pickle ball or knitting or God knows what. Broudy’s instruction focusing on the Core Fundamentals of the Non-linear Game — using a precise rotational motion of the core as a basis for efficient, effortless hitting — has helped my game immensely. It’s inspired. Groundbreaking. A breath of fresh air.
The guy whose lessons I had been using is quite a well-known figure in the tennis teaching world. He’s been a pro player and years back presented instructional tennis tips on cable TV. I bought his book and videos and even took a private lesson with him. He’s quite charming to boot.
But it turns out that his instruction on the one-handed backhand (which I use) is all wrong. “Track the ball with the butt of your racquet,” he teaches. I tried this for years but could not get the hang of it. I couldn’t hit the backhand this way. I emailed the guy. “You do this yourself when you hit the backhand?” I asked. He said yes. I was confounded. I kept his words in mind for eight years and got nowhere.
Then I started with Jack’s program, and for the first time I was introduced to the real fundamentals of the backhand, and not just tips (e.g., “track the ball with the butt of the racquet”). For months I “8 boarded” (in those days the Broudy Board was called an “8 Board”), getting used to the Figure 8 hip rotation that is the virtual cornerstone of Broudy Tennis. Then I asked Jack for help on my backhand. “Push the racquet head forward as you start the Figure 8,” he said. This was as opposite to the old instruction as you could get. Bingo. Suddenly I saw how this small piece of information allowed me to put together a full body stroke. Now I was creating tension from my hips into my arms. There was a sort of spring-loaded effect. As I rotated away from the net to start the stroke, I could feel the tension in my arms and then as I rotated towards the net, I was releasing this tension into the ball.
Jack has various ways of explaining all of this: There is a “contrary motion” at play between your hips and your arms. Your arms are always catching up to your hips. Your body grabs your arm and pulls it into your stroke. Your hips lead the stroke, just as a dog wags its tail (and not the other way around!).
The point is that within less than one minute I was using a full body stroke on my backhand. My hips were leading the stroke and it felt almost effortless. Jack had introduced me to a whole new way of hitting the ball. It was enjoyable. This was a sort of instruction that I had never come across before. This was not linear tennis, as Jack puts it, but non-linear tennis. The instruction was not as simplistic as “take the racquet back sooner” or “swing faster.” This was a bit more complex but easily understandable and do-able by any player.
To this day I am astounded to realize how much time and effort I wasted with the old instruction. It seems that lots of tennis teaching out there is based on rudimentary linear techniques. Broudy Tennis is innovative and based on geometry and non-linear motion. Players are hooking into something greater than themselves so it always works — a true godsend for those of us looking to improve our game and have fun on the courts.
Helene Krupa, Broudy Tennis editor and player