Posts Tagged Frank Adams

Starting New Habits Is Easier Than Breaking Old Habits

On March 31, I wrote about the difficulty of changing bad habits. And how I read that it is better to create a totally new habit, which leads to new neural paths and doesn’t demand the near impossible re-routing of an existing muscle-memory routine.

So it was perfect that after months of frustration, during which I saw that my serve and ground strokes were not as powerful as many of the men I was playing with, I was prepared to give up what I had been doing and try something—ANYTHING—new. Here is how I learned about, and have begun using, a totally different way to play tennis that is working beyond my wildest dreams.

Rob Ober, a top tennis coach I know at the Kent School in Kent CT, asked me for the first time if I wanted to hit with him, to help him get back in shape for the beginning of his season. I said yes enthusiastically.

(I have known Rob for six years, when he coached my daughter on the varsity team. But when I asked him to give me lessons, he directed me to his #1 player. However he is now giving lessons and can be reached via email:

We stopped after an hour, and Rob made some comments about my swings and stance: “You should keep your feet planted and use an open stance. Your chest should face the net on a forehand. You do pivot 90 degrees on a backhand, but bring the racket head back quicker by holding the throat of the racket with your left hand. And when your ball goes into the net, you know you are lurching forward, which is a mistake.”

Aha! I thought. I had originally learned the classic way to hit, by turning my body perpendicular to the net and raising my racket before swinging. I had no effective backhand. Then I was introduced by Frank Adams (a coach for 50 years) to a very unconventional way to swing that had me turning slightly away from the net and dropping the racket. There was no need to bend my knees, and that style gave me such an improved backhand, that I embraced it immediately. But I saw after a couple of years that both of my swings lacked power. Frank can execute it, but I didn’t generate the power he and others with more conventional swings did.

Now here is Rob, a top coach who roomed with Andre Agassi at Nick Bollittieri’s Florida Tennis Academy, offering me a third method. I jumped on it.

What a joke. The first time I tried it with a better player who always beats me, I won just ONE GAME in three sets. Usually I win two or three, and sometimes four in ONE set. But none? Or just one? Over 60% of my strokes went long. Terrible!!! This fellow told me that keeping my feet planted was a mistake. Maybe I missed one of Rob’s vital points.

I watched the pros on TV and saw that they pivoted their feet after the swing, so I tried that the next time, and had a better result. But still not great. Then I was playing at the school, and Rob came in with his students, and I barely had time to tell him the results. He said I had to also bend my knees and rise up, just like a basketball toss, so that I can transfer my weight into the ball. And keep the face of the racket facing the net—never the frame pointing at the other side—so that a top spin will be created.

The next day I tried that in a strong game in which I am one of the weaker players, and by god, I was a new man. I hit a much more powerful ball, it went in more than out, it had spin. I was ecstatic.

It turned out to be much easier to learn a completely new way to hit the ball than to keep on trying to slightly change the old way. I was creating new circuits and new muscle memories. Rob also told me to look at the ceiling after I served, rather than watch the ball or the seams. Finally I learned that when I bend my knees on the serve, I should be bending DOWN for more power and not leaning back on just my right leg. A major difference that I never appreciated. My serve is now also “more better.”

I can’t wait to play again this week and create more comfort with the new ways of hitting. And it was so easy to adopt a completely new way to swing. Now if only I can discover or be taught new ways to do things in the rest of my life. I guess that is where teachers, coaches and self-help books come in pret-ty handy.

Rob also said, “What people do not realize is that the first movement in any stroke usually determines the outcome and effectiveness of the stroke.” Maybe I can apply that to daily personal and business life as well.

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Frank Adams’ Natural Tennis Video Shows How To Hit The Ball

Although I could barely win a squash point in 10 games yesterday, I played the best tennis of my life today. I think the squash helps my net game. But I was also able to return serves better, and I am practicing lobbing as well. My partner and I won two out of three sets today—so that makes just three sets we have won out of 11 played against two very tough opponents.

Frank had just taught me last week to focus on my feet, especially when serving, so that your upper body is relaxed and able to hit the ball fluidly, without tension, and consistently. It works.

The video that demonstrates Frank’s unique natural way of hitting tennis balls has been edited. You can see it above. You may recall what I wrote when the filming took place. This was lots of fun. Hope it improves your game, regardless of the sport you are mastering…

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One New Technique And I’m Playing My Best Tennis!

I’m still exhilarated, incredulous and giddy. Yesterday for the first time ever, I won a set against my tennis coach, who was really trying. He’d won the first set we played 6-3 and assumed he would coast to a predicted second set victory. After all, I’d never taken more than four games from him in a set during two years of competition. But I triumphed 6-2, breaking him three times (he broke me once).

It’s not my win that I want to emphasize. It’s the idea that one tiny variation in technique can lead to such astonishing improvement and success. In all pursuits, whether making money, career advancement, personal relationships with spouse/partner/child, we all wish it could be so simple as merely making one small change that is a tipping point to achievement. Well I had it, and it made me speechless.

It was all so random: a friend who is a far superior player invited me to be a last-minute fourth for his doubles game—I accepted happily. This was the first time he’d called, and we played against his club’s pro and teacher. After two sets, the pro left to give a lesson, and my friend found another player to fill in: this 20-year-old used to play on the University of Michigan tennis team.

You may have guessed that I was frustrated with my performance—I was way outclassed. I wanted to hit better, more powerfully, in the court more frequently, use top spin. I wanted to compete at this higher level with guys in their 50’s or under 25. WHAT DO I HAVE TO DO TO IMPROVE ???

That night I finished a book about Nadal and Federer’s great Wimbledon final in 2008, when Nadal won the cup for the first time in the fifth set. In one of the later pages, I read about Nadal’s grip that has his hands perpendicular to the strings. The next morning I grasped a racket, and it looked like a Western grip that my coach had said I should avoid. He and my original coach had both insisted that I use a Continental grip that is more like shaking hands with the racket. But what did I have to lose? I defied my experts, challenged their experience and authority, and forced myself to suck up the awkwardness of this new approach.

various tennis grips

It was miraculous. Suddenly I was hitting the ball with the sweet spot 80% of the time. The vibration I was putting up with for each shot disappeared. I had top spin on my forehands and a hard hit ball without backspin on my backhands. The balls were falling INTO the court much more often. And I was feeling like a player. I couldn’t believe it. Everything had come together.

I opened some cans and practiced serving. I was accurate and delivering a faster ball. I hit with a friend, and I felt like I could execute my vision. At my regular Monday doubles game, my partner was surprised how much better I was playing. He said I was hitting balls with confidence. We won two of the three sets.

And then Tuesday I played Frank Adams, who has been guiding me for two years and others for over 50. He had taught me his unique style of play, and I loved it. But now I was modifying his approach, and I was excelling beyond my belief and imagination.

He helped me figure out that by changing to a Western grip, I was hitting the ball sooner and at a lower angle. The ball’s trajectory was closer to the top of the net and falling down into the court consistently. He acknowledged that clearly with the stroke that I had, these alterations were perfect for my game. What a discovery. A revelation. A thrill. And a victory.

So there are lots of lessons here. Sometimes the answer to a problem can be a simple solution. Sometimes you have to question the experts and what they are saying. You always read about people discovering their own style. Writers breaking through tradition to create their own original and personal voice. Famous painters who stop copying their predecessors and uncover their unique use of color and brush. Well I had jumped to my highest level of tennis skill so far. Fantastic.

Of course this is only a tennis game. But it feels sensational. I can’t wait to take on more players and see how I do. Sort of like a young gunfighter, I will seek out the challenges. Frank said I had improved more than 100%. Three friends assumed that Frank was sick or injured. But he wasn’t. He just said he was surprised and that now his juices were flowing. He can’t wait for a rematch next week.

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Frank Adams’ Innovative Tennis Swings Filmed For Possible TV Airings

Two days ago I was part of a film shoot describing a different way to hit a tennis ball. What fun!

Frank Adams coached players for 50 years. But after three decades, he figured out a movement he calls Natural Tennis that is based on the same arm swing you do automatically when you walk down a street or catch and throw a ball without thinking. He thinks the way the pro’s hit—and amateurs try to imitate—is difficult, stressful on the joints and terribly misguided.

Dean Adams films me demonstrating an old-style swing, while Harry Moses (center) directs

Frank’s friend and neighbor, award-winning producer/director Harry Moses of documentary movie and “60 Minutes” fame, was in charge of the shoot, and I was one of the converts who briefly demonstrated my before-and-after-Frank swings. I also described how much my game has improved. Frank not only showed his innovative moves to the camera, he also taught two women who don’t play tennis how to do it the Natural Way in just 10 minutes.

The plan is to edit the two hours of footage down to three or four minutes that is presented to The Tennis Channel as a possible special or maybe a few of its One Minute Clinics. Frank’s son Dean is a professional filmmaker who is working with Harry on the editing and operated the camera.

Harry (left) and I laugh with Frank Adams during a filming break

This filming all happened hours after Nadal won the French Open. Frank has often admired Rafa’s athleticism, but claims this champion is too extraordinary to be copied by mere mortals. The injuries he and other professionals endure are all part of Frank’s evidence that the ideal way to hit a tennis ball is NOT how it’s generally being taught.

Although I have only been learning tennis seriously for three years, the first 12 months was just two hours of lessons a week attempting to hit a ball with multiple confusion. For a forehand, I had to: turn my body 90 degrees to the right, adjust my feet, extend my left arm and aim my left hand at the ball, raise my racket, bend my knees, watch the ball, swing with top spin, follow through, delay looking across the net, shift my weight to my right foot with a giant step, grab my racket at the throat with my left hand, make sure my racket hits my shoulder.

Whew! I was often exhausted. I could hardly remember to follow all these commands. My brain is just not able to recall them and direct my body to act. I have enough trouble simply watching the ball until I hit it.

Frank’s method worked for me instantly, so I adopted it. My backhand improved dramatically, and my forehand is more consistent. I am such a believer that I have also helped Frank edit the manuscript for his book and participated in the creation of multiple-exposure pictures that will illustrate Frank’s moves in print.

It’s all very exciting, and has accelerated my skills and playing level. My only apology is to my first-year coach, a young woman formerly 120 in the world who taught me the modern method so patiently and passionately. I know she thinks I have gone over to the Dark Side. But she definitely instilled in me her love of the game, the benefits of practice, and the need to jog around the court two or three times to warm up before every session.

It's a wrap! Karen Merritt (far left), Wanda Heckel and Ed Letteron were also filmed in the shoot

Some of you may remember my earlier posts about Frank’s method and that I also made simple videos of his moves that are on this site as well as on YouTube. Reaching a wider audience would capitalize on Frank’s insights as well as assist the many players who are struggling to emulate their tennis idols.

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Tennis and Squash Report: Victory At Last! And Then I Was Smashed.

In spite of sore muscles near my right elbow, I have been playing some racket sports. Now that I am back to my old serve, I am improving my game.

August 3rd—an hour of hitting with a beginner.

August 6—4 hours of tennis. Slaughtered my regular opponents in doubles and singles. Then lost two doubles sets with the age-50’s group, but made a good showing.

August 8—1¼ hours of squash practice and games. Getting back into it. Won 3 out of 4 with a former opponent who used to always beat me…although she hadn’t played in a year.

August 9—1¼ hours of squash practice. Really starting to whack the ball well and place it too.

August 11—Tennis victory: beat the old guys (93 and 86) both sets, 6-4. 6-3. A real achievement. So my team has now won three sets out of 12. Those guys can place and lob so beautifully. Decades of practice. Though they can’t run fast or far, they can still reach the ball and return it perfectly over and over. My own game was definitely better, with fewer long balls and some amazing “gets.” My partner played really well too…so we beat ‘em both sets at last. What an effort!

One benefit of an arm that hurts is that I am guessing this ache is the result of not hitting the tennis ball properly. Read the rest of this entry »

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Terrible Tennis And My Glass Is Half Empty

OK there is a Life Lesson to be learned in my tennis playing of the last 10 days. I can’t wait to benefit from it.

Basically I have been losing consistently, and with four different partners, so I can’t blame it on the other guy. There have been four days of playing plus two practice sessions, almost 12 hours on the court, and I can’t seem to do what I need to: make winners rather than unforced errors—I hit the ball long, and I can’t fall on it with my body the way I want to for extra power. I also find it difficult to keep watching the ball until it hits my racket—I look away just before impact to see where the ball is headed.

Lost all of the regular doubles games, a couple of singles games, and four out of five matches in a 4 ½ hour tournament with the age 50’s set (including three of those in tiebreakers). I am very frustrated, cursing out loud, grumpy, angry and real, real pissed at myself. Even though I was complimented by a couple of guys much better than I am who hadn’t seen me play in a while and couldn’t believe how much I had improved.

Not sure how to overcome this setback. Read the rest of this entry »

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Tennis Report

Hit with Frank Adams on July 20 who pointed out lots of mistakes in my strokes. I have to fall on the ball, so that my body weight adds to the power, and my arm does not do most of the work—my elbow is starting to hurt from the stress.

Frank also told me how to gain power in my serve: start with my foot parallel to the base line (rather than at a 45 degree angle) and then rotate my body clockwise as much as I can, so that my back is more towards the net. This twisting/coiling is like a spring that gets unwound and generates way more force to the ball. It sure did work! Even had a lot of spin. Can’t wait to practice it and use it in a game.

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Some Natural Tennis Videos by Frank Adams

I made some simple unrehearsed videos of Frank Adams demonstrating his natural tennis strokes and philosophy. You can read more about Frank in earlier posts: May 27 and April 27. Hopefully his manuscript will be published in the near future, and then everyone can learn about his totally innovative way of playing, teaching and thinking about tennis. There are four more of his videos on YouTube under Frank Adams tennis.

The first video below shows Frank demonstrating how the natural, unthinking effortless motion of swinging a shovel can be used to swing a tennis racket.

This video shows how Frank hits the seven basic tennis shots: low forehand and backhand, high forehand and backhand, forehand and backhand volleys, and overhead serve.

Here we see Frank focusing on the forehand and backhand volleys and also tying the basic natural movement into the other five strokes.

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