Thursday, October 25, 2012

Tap N Toss

Note: this player is a lefty so she is tossing with her right arm
Tap N Toss is one of two activities I beg my students to use as their regular Tennis Homework (the other is Bounce, Catch). Once my students progress to overhand serves, it is imperative they have a consistent and high quality toss. Tap N Toss is a simple and effective way to acquire one. It can be done indoors with relative ease, so we avoid the excuse of not having a place to practice at home. All they need is a ball or any other item they can toss and catch easily and safely with one hand.

Find a line on the floor, or just imagine one in a space where you can toss and catch safely. Line up at this line as if it were the baseline - face sideways to the 'net' with your non-dominant side closest to the net. Hold the ball in your non-dominant hand. To begin the toss, lightly tap the back of your hand (the hand holding the ball) against the top of your thigh. Extend this arm straight up from your thigh. Arm should be straight - no bends at wrist or elbow. At the top of the extension, lightly toss the ball and catch it with the same hand that tossed it. Watch the ball the entire time, from tap to toss to catch.

That's it. Repeat 10-20 times until you can do this with zero drops. Do not overdo it. Stop if your arm/shoulder feels strain the first few times you try this. The strain should not indicate injury if you are doing this properly; it is just not yet used to doing this motion with this many reps.

Some tips:

  • If you are doing this correctly, you should not have to move your feet at all to chase after the ball. 
  • The ball should not be tossed a mile into the air. You want it to go about as high as you can reach with your racquet extended out in front of you at about 1 o'clock for righties, 11 o'clock for lefties. 
  • Take care not to toss the ball until your arm is at the top of its reach. 
  • Lift the ball into the air in a very mechanical, robotic motion. The less movement of elbows and wrists, the better. 
  • The less your ball spins as you toss it, the better. Spin introduces more chance of the toss going astray. If your ball is spinning madly, your wrist or fingers are too involved in the tossing motion. 
  • Tapping the thigh to start things off keeps your toss arm in alignment, preventing it from wandering around out to the side of the body, often resulting in an over-the-head toss.