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Ask the High Performance Lab - Mar. 20

May 25, 2008 12:25 PM

PLEASE NOTE: The medical opinions in USTA.com's Ask the High Performance Lab are responses intended for the average player. Please consult with your primary physician before beginning any new exercise program.

Mike Nishihara has been named Strength and Conditioning Coach for the USA Tennis High Performance program. Nishihara is based at the USA Tennis High Performance Training Center in Key Biscayne, Fla.
The health and fitness advice for this week's column come from Mike Nishihara, Head Strength and Conditioning Coach for USTA Player Development. Mike has worked for the USTA since the spring of 2004 and has worked with a number of top tennis players in his career, including Pete Sampras, Martina Hingis and James Blake.

Q: As a fellow professional coach, I need advice on implementing good footwork drills into match play situations. I coach 12 year old juniors and they perform footwork drills very well in practice but when playing points, they just don't seem to step up to that level as performed in the drill?

Can you kindly advice what method you implement to solve this? Thank you for your advice!

Nishihara: Some players will transfer the footwork skills they learn during practice to competition better than others – just as they will transfer tennis technique better than others. One thing that helps transfer skills is repetition. Remember, “perfect practice makes perfect.”

Have the players repeat the footwork skills over and over so that eventually they perform the proper footwork naturally, without thinking. Another thing that seems to help is using the tennis ball as much as possible in the drills.

When a player competes he/she must react to the ball, not someone’s finger point, whistle, or verbal cue. Incorporating the racquet in the drills may also assist in the transfer of skills gained in practice to competition.

In general, the more tennis specific the footwork drills, probably, the better the transfer.

Q: I am a 44 yr. old female who coaches at the collegiate level.

I run (3-5 miles daily) and lift weights (twice a week) to stay in shape and am also on the court usually 2-5 hourrs per day hitting with the players or giving lessons.

My question is that I am constantly sore in my upper legs and elbow area. I have been a runner for the past 18 years and played tennis all my life, so I don't understand why I am constantly sore. I feel I should be past that stage! The soreness seems to have gotten worse this last year.

Is this just all part of aging , or am I out of shape?

Nishihara: As someone that just turned 44, I am envious that you have the time, energy, and discipline to devote to tennis and fitness. First of all, considering your activity level, I would feel pretty confident in saying you are probably not out of shape. So, is the soreness just a part of aging? Maybe. Maybe, in that all the activity has contributed to overuse injuries. Time, not age, and the activity or activities has produced overuse injuries. For example, it is not unusual to see overuse injuries in junior tennis players.

The soreness you feel describes what accompanies overuse injuries – probably mild muscle spasms and tendonitis. Instead of running 3-5 miles daily, mix in some lower impact or non weight bearing cardio like biking and swimming.

Make sure to warm up properly and cool down and stretch well after activity. These steps alone may alleviate your problems.

As for your elbow, many factors may contribute to the pain – grip size, string tension and/or stiffness, racquet stiffness, technique, forearm strength, flexibility of the wrist, overuse.

From the fitness standpoint, strengthening your forearms may assist in alleviating the elbow pain. Stretching the muscles of the forearm and increasing the flexibility of the wrist may also help.

If you would like to submit a question that may be answered by our Health & Fitness team or want to share an idea for a future column, please click here.

Click here for USTA.com's Health & Fitness Archive.

Also, click here to visit the new USTA Player Development website!



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