March tip of the month: exploring timing?

In last month‘s tip, we explored the role of timing in the quest for successful execution and this month’s tip is a continuation of that theme.

I had suggested that much of the frustration players feel during competition is due to the lack of understanding of the importance and difficulty of timing. Regardless of the technical difficulty of a particular stroke, timing has to be spot on for success.

So, what is timing and what are the skills necessary to improve our timing or perhaps, a better question is how do we interfere with our ‘natural’ ability to time a ball.

I describe timing as the ability to bring racket and ball together at just the ‘right’ time.

Obviously, we have no control over the ball so there is not much we can do there, but watch it come and move towards it.

The racket, however, we do control, so what are the difficulties involved in bringing the racket to the ball in a timely fashion.

Most people, I would guess, would say movement (feet) is the greatest problem in getting the racket to the ball, however, I respectfully, disagree.

The mind would agree with that reason because it leaves us in control. In other words, if we can get our feet into position, we will be able to hit the ball perfectly. It is something tangible we can do to take control and because of that there is comfort in that.

The reality of timing is more subtle and much less tangible and therefore can lead to much discomfort.

I would like to suggest an alternative. The feet not being in position is often a symptom, not the root cause of errors in timing. If the player is an athlete or is physically able to be in position to hit the ball, why does that not happen? Very rarely is the actual physical movement the problem.

The greatest difficulty, in my opinion, is waiting for the ball. The hands can move much quicker than the time it takes for a ball to travel from one side of the court to the other and yet many players look rushed when they play.

However, to prepare the racket to swing and then keep the hands still and wait for the ball to arrive seems much easier than it actually is.

Why is that?

Next week: What are the hindrances to swinging freely. Why is it so difficult to wait and what can we do about it?

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