April 2013 -- The Cardio ball is one of the six components of the Cardio Tennis (CT)session. Without these it is not truly Cardio Tennis. The purpose of this article is to make it clear what balls are to be used during the various aspects of the Cardio Tennis class in order to make it as effective as possible. Let's look at the what, why, where and how. What is the Cardio ball?
The Cardio ball is the low compression/transition ball (red, orange, green).
Why do we call it the Cardio ball?
How long has the Cardio ball been utilized in CT sessions?
- It sounds much more appealing to the adult consumer who perceives a low compression ball as being the baby/kids ball.
- Cardio ball sounds more exciting.
- These balls provide a better cardio workout.
For more than four years.
Where are we using these balls?
There are four segments within the Cardio Tennis session: warm-up, cardio drill, cardio game and cool-down.
Warm-up: mostly red and maybe orange
Cardio drill: orange, green or yellow
Cardio games: orange, in very isolated circumstance green
Cool down: mostly red and maybe orange
The only portion of the Cardio Tennis session that should use the yellow ball is the cardio drill segment. The pro needs to have as many balls as possible to keep the drills moving. The yellow balls are acceptable for this as they can be hit as hard as possible with no need to be concerned about whether the balls are in the court or not. The participants can have the feeling of hitting the ball hard and going after all balls on the first bounce while getting the feel of how a yellow ball bounces. There are Cardio Tennis deliverers that only use the orange ball and this is absolutely acceptable.
Why are we using the Cardio balls?
- It makes it easier to play
- It keeps the players safe
- It allows for cooperative hitting
- Players of mixed ability can play together
- The cardio ball does not “come” to you, you must “go” to the ball, and therefore this forces a quicker first step and improvement of overall footwork
- Because the Cardio ball is slower, one can actually get to more balls
- The ball stays in play longer, therefore it is easier and more effective to train “in your zones”
- The Cardio balls allow for more “touches” and the more touches you have on the ball the better player you become
- Beneficial for advanced players because it is difficult to hit a “clean winner,” therefore the ball stays in play longer
- Most Cardio Tennis sessions are made up of mixed ability, therefore the Cardio ball makes playing games enjoyable and successful for all participants
When delivering Cardio Tennis and an activity is not working, first change the ball in order to modify or progress whatever it is you are doing. Your job is to coach to the highest skill/fitness level and at the same time make everyone on your court feel successful. In any given activity different players can be working with different balls.
During the warm-up and cool-down most CT activities are cooperative ones that focus on control, feel and consistency. These warm-ups should use the red ball or possibly the orange ball. Not only are these balls easier to control, but they are also much softer and easier on the arm than yellow balls. Many injuries occur by hitting too hard initially when the jar of a mis-hit with the yellow balls can cause severe damage to a cold wrist, elbow or shoulder. The multi-colored nature of the red and orange balls also make it easier to focus on the ball and begin to recognize the spin that is being imparted. This immediate development of concentration in warm-up is an important key to the overall success your students will experience throughout the cardio tennis class. Also in the warm-up and cool down we are doing partner activities in signature Cardio Tennis court set-up that is four red courts on one traditional court. The red ball allows players to control the ball better and stay within their court area when attempting activities such as up-and-backs and side-to-sides.
Convincing your students to use the cardio balls during warm-up and cool down is usually not a problem. Where I find my students tend to hesitate to use them is during the games portion of the class. Here are some common complaints:
“I have just been hitting with the yellow balls, now you want me to change the entire feel and hit with these soft balls?”
- Change is good; it is how we get better.
“These balls don’t bounce much, so I am always lunging to reach balls.”
“I can’t get any feel off these balls.”
- Therefore improving your ability to move and take small steps to set-up.
“The game is so slow with these balls. I can’t put the ball away.”
- The low compression balls actually stay on the strings longer, therefore it is easier to develop feel for touch shots like drop shots and sharply angled topspin.
“I can’t hit a volley with these balls without taking a big swing.”
- It’s actually livelier as there are more touches on the ball; putting the ball away is not the purpose of Cardio Tennis.
“These balls are for little kids, not a 4.5 player like me.”
- Attack with your feet and drive through the ball.
“These balls will screw up my timing for my league match tomorrow.”
- The Cardio ball is a training tool for players of all ability levels.
- It teaches you how to deal with emergency situations, variance of ball bounce on different surfaces and prepares you for occasions of hitting balls off a line, off a crack, off a dead spot in the court and a ball breaking in the middle of a match.
Do these excuses sound familiar? I have heard these and many versions of them, and I will admit that I have succumbed to the pressure and played games with yellow balls. However, one of our goals in Cardio Tennis is to be a different form of tennis that is meant to be more fun and a more rewarding experience. It is up to us as coaches to use all components of the CT class to create this experience, and cardio balls are as important as the music, the cardio blasts, or monitoring heart rate in ensuring the experience is a positive one for everyone.
Here are some of the advantages of using the orange ball during the games portion of the class that can help you convince even the macho 4.5 player that using the orange cardio ball is beneficial.
One of the real advantages of Cardio Tennis is to create more flexible and adaptive players. Instead of grooved-in strokes that fall apart when moving or under match pressure, CT puts players constantly in situations where they have to hit on the run, when off balance, and when lunging for balls – just like they will face in a tough match! Therefore adjusting from one ball to another throughout the class is one more way that they become more complete and flexible players.
The purpose of the Cardio balls is obviously to create longer rallies and more interesting points. The games portion is meant to be fun and stimulating for everyone. By neutralizing the importance of power it makes the games more fun and exciting for all levels. This is especially important when the levels of the class are mixed. Another purpose of CT is to encourage beginning players to get into the sport, and having hard balls blasted at them is a great way to turn them off. The Cardio balls remove much of the fear factor, as they are certainly safer. And if someone steps on a Cardio ball the likelihood of turning an ankle is greatly diminished. Cardio Tennis games are about putting more people on the court at the same time and many games are three vs three, four vs four and other unique multi-person combinations. With this many people on a court and a lot of net play, the probability of getting hit is definitely real, and the cardio balls make this much less of an issue.
The Cardio balls also develop more effective strokes. You can take a full swing at the ball and really drive through the contact without always worrying about it going out. It also forces greater net clearance. Even on the volley where it does take more to hit it solidly, you want to encourage players to attack more with their feet rather than taking a huge swing. It will help them realize that placement and precision are more important in finishing a volley than brute force, as even their hardest volleys will come back if not well placed.
We have found that players who use Cardio balls regularly actually become more effective match players. One reason for this is that the balls encourage greater racquet head speed as well as more awareness of spin. This racquet head speed translates into more power with the yellow balls as well as the spin to control it. More effective strokes and more adaptability during matches add up to a winning game. Plus, when you have encouraged players to no longer make excuses about the balls being used, perhaps they will be less likely to complain about the wind, the sun, their partner and many other conditions that they can’t control.
Get comfortable being uncomfortable, it is the way to game and fitness improvement.