I remember hitting a lot as a junior. The majority of the time was dedicated to reinforcing things I learnt in lessons during hitting, being inspired by older players in camp and mimicking them. We could not hit enough!
One particular Saturday afternoon, around age 13-14 if I recall correctly, I remember we hit in the morning about 3 hours, then went to lunch. Those days if you ate anything but “half rof neFreezit”—loosely translated plain bread + juice—you probably do not remember what you had for lunch if that was not on your menu. We hit again in the afternoon for another 3 hours or so. I was so tired that when I went home, I grabbed some food in the house and fell on the sofa in front of the TV for a couple hours. I tried getting up and cramped right back down. System failure!
I remember really well all the people I hit with. Allow me to indulge in some nostalgia here. Age 11-12: Blessing (Strive Tennis), by far a better player, ranked much higher, but got to the courts 6 am-ish in the morning, so we synced in that sense and had numerous early Saturday mornings on court, but the scores were heavily one sided against me. Coach Tendai aka Coach Friday ages 13-15, times 6am. He would let me try to drill Marcelo Rios’ hopping backhands and forehands on the rise, instead of taking overheads or volleys in the air. We called it “horse-kick”! I remember thinking he was the coolest coach in the world! I remember sessions with Freeman at about 16-17, gruelling 6 am runs at the Christmas Pass! At the time we just started flirting with ITF Futures, money tournaments, and US college tennis aspirations. The sessions stood out clearly because of the time, usually 5 am or 6 am, the view on the run, spectacularly beautiful overview of the city from a mountain top, then the run, fantastically punishing! We concluded the day with an afternoon hitting session. Growing up in an academy type setting I had plenty of hitting opportunities.
Understanding the difference between a private lesson and a hitting lesson as one matures in their tennis game is important. If you are dedicating yourself to an accelerated path it helps to understand how to allocate the time appropriately. Hitting lessons are better suited for players with a convincing level of fundamentals. The point is to reinforce good form and technique. The most significant difference between the two is that while a private lesson deals with learning and acquiring the attributes of the game, may it be technique or strategy, hitting lessons deal with effective usage of strategy and tactics acquired from private lessons. For example, a private lesson might answer- the question “how to hit a forehand” a hitting lesson covers the question “grooving and developing a reliable forehand as well as mastering the varieties of that shot, like hitting flatter ball, vs hitting with more topspin”, where the private lesson teaches you how best to hit a service return, a hitting lesson would zeros on the ideal moments to make a compact swing or a full swing on a service return.
Past a certain level of experience the two can blur and even happen simultaneously if one is not working on drastic changes to their form and technique, in which case it may be better to separate the two. From my coaching experience, however, and the way traditional private lessons are structured, it is tough to fit both into 60 minutes.
5 effective methods of taking and or using hitting lesson:
1. Players working on weight management will absolutely benefit from a good hitting session. Hitting lessons work well as a conditioning tool. With a good hitting partner it is easy to work up a sweat and burn some calories while you are at it. The repetitive nature of the exercise is a great tool for muscle tensioning and toning.
2. Good, long hitting sessions are a great way to increase your stamina over prolonged times on the court. Fitness in players’ can determine the outcome of marathon matches.
3. Coordinating hitting with your private privates lessons is the best way to go about it. Complementing the private lesson with hitting lessons in between is ideal. One is taking the material they mastered in private lesson and reinforcing that in a hitting lesson
4. Hitting lessons also make sense when one is shaking off rust. With time removed from the game, it is normal to work one’s way back into playing form by going out and just hitting some.
5. This is one of the proven ways to build mental toughness. Over time, one understands, quantitatively, their capacity and shortcomings and is therefore equipped to make informed strategic decisions before or during a tennis match. Simply knowing that when it comes to my (insert tennis stroke here) I am queen or king of the court, is basis for undeniable confidence in your game, and tennis tends to reward, generously, players who act decisively and executes with conviction and confidence.
The whole point of a hitting lesson is to groove your stroke. The ideal hitting coach rarely misses and you literally have to beg for a water break! They also force you to pick your game up, improve the effectiveness of your shots, as well as become more consistent. At the least, an ideal hitting partner must be comparatively capable and not necessarily better than you. The ideal hitting partner should be exemplary, able to motivate, as well as inspire.