August 2012 -- If a child is taught the volley first, as I personally do, three important things will happen. The youngster will learn quicker (as the basic volley is the simplest stroke to learn), have a better foundation when developing groundstokes and, most importantly, will have less fear and more confidence when making that transition to the net. I'm currently doing this with 5-year-olds and have been for years. I alternate between hand-fed and ball machine drills. I do forehand groundstrokes and forehand volley approaches, followed by the same on the backhand side. I then move on to FG + BV and BG + FV transition drills. This helps with movement, and perfecting grip changes and slowly builds confidence. Plus, the kids love it.
In addition, at the pro level, particularly on the men's tour, you see more underspin approaches and increasing use of the drop shot. They're trying to add more variety to their game, but most of them, Roddick as an example, either were never taught or just didn't develop the basic volleying technique. We all know it starts early. Just ask Ivan Lendl. Late in his career he retained the services of Tony Roche, a great net player, but it just didn't happen. Ivan was too late.
People say you can't serve and volley in tennis today because the game is too fast or the racquets are too powerful. But how about Michael Llodra or Lukasz Kubot, Sergiy Stakhovsky and the new kid on the block, Milos Raonic from Canada? You need to start early with kids; even beginner adults can develop the technique, if taught propely. I serve and volley on my senior team and many of my teammates do as well.
I challenge all of my fellow tennis-teaching professionals in 2012: Let's get back to teaching and emphasizing more serve and volley in our clinics and drill sessions. There is so much talk today about putting more balance in our lives, so how about doing the same for our wonderful game? The sport needs it. It will be more fun to watch and play.
Ty Fuller is an instructor, author, administrator and audio/video producer. Fuller is founder and owner of Dunwoody Tennis School in Atlanta.