In the last issue of New York Tennis Magazine, Coach Tim Mayotte of 360 Tennis spoke about the importance of the split-step and its three components in his article, “Wow … What a Great Split-Step.” They were:
1. Width of base and posture
2. Timing of the split
3. The height of the split
At 360 Tennis in Cunningham Park, we do a lot of work on this “first” movement to the ball with our Sectional, National and Professional players. We use a number of different drill progressions to encourage and teach our players to work on, feel and consistently reproduce an effective split during match play. The following “360 Box” drill would be a great place for coaches, parents and players to begin or improve the split-step technique.
►We take the top piece of an aerobics step and place it on the court (let’s begin at the service line here). Then, we place a cone on each sideline. Next, we have the student step off the box, and upon landing, call out left or right, and the student sprints to touch the cone. We perform a set of 10 repetitions and watch carefully the players landing and initial steps.
►Next, the coach or parent moves to the other side of the net and gently racket feeds (bounce, hit) the student 10 shots which they time off the step and move to catch the ball in the air. Once the student has successfully completed the drill, correctly timing the landing with the feeders contact they will have a good feel for the movement and will be fully warmed up for the practice session ahead.
We now ask the player to have this focus/theme throughout the following practice session and give feedback as necessary. Always looking to encourage and reinforce the correctly performed “split” and with an understanding that one or two good splits is a good beginning. Over time using this method, the player will become very efficient in this movement and should perform it before almost every stroke.
In future articles, Coach Tim Mayotte and I will further discuss this topic of movement and cover topics from first steps, to deceleration steps to recovery steps.