By Dave Neuhart, Tennis Director, Green Island Country Club
“Watch the ball.” This cliché is probably used more than any other on the tennis court. If you are struggling to make good contact, it’s not due to a lack of watching the ball but simply because of hand/eye coordination. If your eyes are open, you already see the ball. Even the worst players still will swing at the ball since they see it approaching. The reason for not hitting it solidly in the center of the racquet is not lining up the ball.
Ophthalmologists have explained to us that as the ball gets nearer we begin to lose sight of it; the ball becomes blurry. We hit the ball through the mental process between our brain, eyes, and hands. This is an actual skill that varies day to day. Fortunately, it is a skill that can be taught and developed. Beginning tennis players gradually improve their hand-eye coordination to a certain degree by themselves. They hear or feel the ball striking the racquet frame and with this awareness, they gradually improve how they line up the ball more into the center of the racquet.
Watching the ball becomes less of an issue as your tennis game improves. Why? Three things require your visual attention and awareness: ball, court, and opponent. It’s not necessary to constantly worry about the ball since you need to be aware of the location of your opponent and what they’re doing, plus the openings and target areas for your next shot. Triple vision is stressed in other sports but the fallacy of the need to “watch the ball” still exists today. Contacting the ball out in front of you will always help you use your peripheral vision, to encompass all three aspects of triple vision. When watching a professional tennis match, notice how they are staying aware of all three factors during competitive play. This is one of the many factors that allow you to become more instinctive when playing the great game of tennis.
Hometown (City/State): Columbus, GA
How did you get involved in teaching tennis? Played college tennis at Southwest Baptist University. Started by teaching in the summers from college at parks and recreation departments. Then after college took a position with PBI and that began my teaching career.
Diehard fan of what sports team? Kansas City Chiefs
Best part of your game? Volley and backspin backhand
Dream doubles match would be me and… Roger Federer
When I’m not teaching tennis I’m… Planning for our next event at the club. Days off are spent with my wife, Lori.
My favorite tennis memory is: First would be attending the US Open in the President’s Suite with my wife and the Southern Board. Second would be having a private conversation with Jeanne Moutoussamy-Ashe, Arthur Ashe’s wife, about Arthur’s tennis and life. I have looked up to Arthur all my life. They are two of the classiest people ever. I learned a lot from Jeanne.
My favorite professional player is: Roger Federer
#1 reason why I enjoy teaching & coaching tennis: I love the joy and excitement on students’ faces when they get excited about what they have learned. My goal is to have that happen with everyone I teach, every day. I want to make sure they have that “ah-ha moment.”
What important tennis message do you want to promote? Tennis, contrary to a lot of thinking, is an easy game to learn if taught properly from the start. We start up close and learn the fundamentals before working your way back. I feel if the student doesn’t get better and have fun, it is the professional’s fault, not the student.