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Reading the Racket Face

Myth - Watch your opponents racket face to determine where he is hitting the ball.

Truth - Excuse me!  For sure you will watch your opponents racket face, speedily determine where it is going, and off you will go like a speeding bullet in the direction of the ball!

To understand the answer to this myth you must first understand what I call "the teaching paradox."  One of the most important and most difficult concepts to master as a teacher is the cause and result relationship.  In whatever field you teach in you must understand the difference between what are causes (something that brings about a result) and what are results (comes about because of something else).  If you teach a result as a cause you will confuse and frustrate people.  It is the job of a teacher to sort this out for the students.

Watching your opponents racket face to determine where he is hitting the ball is just such a case.  Watching the racket face is a result not a cause.  Watching the racket face is the result of many hours and months of practice playing the game of tennis and watching your opponents hit over and over and over again.  One day out of nowhere you begin reading your opponents shots a little better than you did a month ago.  I guarantee you did not accomplished this by the isolated act of watching the racket face.  Can you see the problem?

To have someone teach you a result (watching the racket face) as a cause will confuse and frustrate you.  You will keep thinking, "I am watching the racket face, but I cannot determine where the ball is going.  I always seem to be too late. I guess I just do not have the ability to be able to read the racket face."  Now you know this is not true!  If you relax and simply keep watching your opponents hit a lot of shots eventually the repetition will improve your ability to read the shot. Watching the racket face is a result caused by hours of practice, so you might as well relax and enjoy the process.

Example:

I am constantly watching my students up at the net trying desperately to read the racket face for a lob.  I observe them closely as they read lob off of the racket face only to be pummeled with a groundstroke into their stomach!  So much for watching the racket face.

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