Backboard Practice is back!

Long before tennis ball machines hit the market, backboard practice was a wisely used training method.  Fred Mcnair IV grew up playing tennis in Chevy Chase, Maryland.  He won numerous junior tournaments, won All-America honors at the University of North Carolina, represented the United States in Davis Cup Play, and was ultimately ranked number one in the world in doubles with partner Sherwood Stewart.  Known for his quick reflexes, effortless footwork, and potent volleys, Mcnair credits his long-time backboard training routines for much of his success. “The backboard is to a tennis player, what the practice-driving range is to a golfer,” states McNair.  The numerous benefits of backboard practice are tremendous tools for players of all ages and abilities.  The USTA and former touring pro Torben Ulrich, have both produced recent tennis backboard video pieces to educate players as to the benefits of backboard play.  Pat McEnroe, in his book Tennis for Dummies, emphasizes the importance of backboard practice in all tennis training programs. McNair believes backboard practice is the ideal tool for developing not only hand-eye coordination, but also for strengthening fingers, wrists and forearms, essential ingredients in any racquet sport.  Moreover, states McNair, “Backboard practice allows a player to identify and hone his sweet spot, that precise are where body and racquet positioning are coordinated for maximum efficiency.” McNair Likens backboard practice to a musician tuning an the fine-tuning a musical instrument.  “On a backboard a tennis player can first develop and then refine all aspects of stroke production.  Foot work, racquet preparation, body movement, hand-eye coordination, body and racquet follow through, and the reading of ball spin and pace must all come together for one to execute the perfect stroke.” In addition to the obvious racquet and physical preparation skills gained in backboard practice, concentration and confidence are also enhanced in this type of setting.  “The challenges of backboard drills were a huge part of my early training” states McNair.  As a child, I used to develop drills where I would imagine playing Rod Laver in a Davis Cup Match.  I would attempt to hit twenty-five forehands in a row, above the net line, on one bounce.  If I accomplished the goal, I would win the first set of the five set match.  Then I would switch to twenty-five backhands in a row.  If I failed, the set went to Laver.” – Til Jones/USPTA
Notes: Fred McNair is now president of McNair & Company, a firm specializing in Executive and employee benefits and Estate Planning, they are located in McLean,VA.