Serving in the Sandbox

by | Mar 24, 2015 | Psychology, Serve-Flat | 8 comments

“The sandbox is a wonderful place 
To pass the time of day;
Where imagination is limited only 
By the child who loves to play.”
–From “Sandbox“, Author unknown

By P.J. Simmons

Anyone who’s been along with me on the “Road” knows that my serve has been a major preoccupation and source of angst. Since embarking on a “Project Serve” in fall 2012, I’ve made progress – but it’s been slow and unsteady.

When I started training at CourtSense in November, I told the coaching team tackling my serve was my top priority. I explained my frustration in knowing in my head what I should be doing while not being able to get my body to cooperate.

They brought out the big guns to help: CourtSense Director of Coaches Carlos Cano and founder Gordon Uehling. Here were the big epiphanies from a recent session:

(1) In an effort to help me get a looser arm, Gordon asked: “Imagine you wanted throw your racquet as far as you possibly could… How tight would you hold it… how would you feel while throwing it?” I laughed and said: “Loose. Really loose. Yeah, I get it!” Somehow the cue to visualize and imagine how I would feel– instead of just telling my body to relax and get looser– really got my brain/body to respond. I picked up 8-10 mph on several subsequent serves according to Playsight.

(2) Carlos quickly discovered that the timing of my racquet take back and initial weight transfer was off by a fraction of a second, which was inhibiting a natural, efficient transfer of energy through the kinetic chain. “You’ve done a pretty good job with all the elements,” he said, “now we need to fix the timing.” I made the adjustment and hit an effortless 90 MPH serve. Here’s a video of him explaining what looked right after the adjustment:

Yes, still miles to go… but making progress!!

(3) After the above– which gave me a huge boost of confidence that I’m making progress and at least on the right track– Carlos said something like: “OK, now it’s time for you to play with it. Stop worrying about perfection and results… Do more observing and less judging. In other words, get into the “sandbox” and play.” He actually said all this in a really poignant way and it made such an impression I asked if he’d repeat it on film so I could share it with you. Here’s the wise Carlos Cano on why we should all spend more time in the sandbox, whether during practices or matches.

Now time to go out and “play.” 🙂


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