Shaun are you teaching bowling or serving or are they 2 peas in the same pod?!
Watching the cricket ‘technique zone’ on Sky Sports coverage of England. Shaun Pollock, South African fast bowling legend was telling people his thoughts on fast bowling technique and going through a few drills.
Although a cricket bowl would appear initially to have little if anything to do with tennis, our work with Brad Langevad, Sport Biometrics, follows the pursuit of a unifying theory of movement across all sports and actions in life. Optimal actions follow the same principles (the ‘Langevad Principles’), regardless of the sport or action, and if these principles are adhered to and applied correctly this not only aids performance but eliminates injury.
As well as working with tennis players like Greg Rusedski and Pat Cash, Langevad has also worked with Glenn McGrath on his bowling action, and various top flight batsman, as well as Frank Bruno and Australian rules kickers.
Taking the idea of a unifying theory of movement and returning to our bowling and serving action, the tri-screen picture shows Shaun Pollock bowling (left), Greg Rusedski, flipped on the computer to appear serving right handed, and the Sport Biometrics bowling model (right), all in a frontal still shot at ball release (cricket bowling) or ball contact (serving). The serving action is also very closely related to a front crawl action, this is not discussed, as I thought the article was long enough already!
All 3 essentialy have the same or very similar body position. The feet face the intended target at the moment of release or ball contact, this is what Langevad terms, the ‘Position Principle’, the relationship of the body to the field of action. To some extent the golden principle, that the others all rely on, without it (or get it wrong) the action is almost certainly doomed in terms of performance and injury.
As well as sharing the same feet position, all 3 actions are striving for an optimal arm position at release or Contact with the ball. This requires a slightly bent arm position, the ideal being around 135 degrees (or as much as you can get away with pursuant to the rules of cricket!). This angle typically occurs around a hand shake position on all shots or actions, serving (handshake above the head), forehands, backhands, volleys, optimal fielding/ catching shape, batting, boxing etc. Langevad terms this the ‘Zone’ principle’.
All Langevad’s principles are intricately related, and form a system of technical analysis / applied biomechanics in sport.
The relationship between ‘Position’ and ‘Zone’ can be seen by considering trying to shake hands with someone from a sideways or backwards position. Similarly a serve or bowl is compromised if too side on. This is shown in the side on tennis photo attached. The upper and lower body have different positions and consequently do not sit well together and this places pressure on ankles, knees, back etc. See Agassi (model action) next to junior player. Agassi’s lower and upper bodies have the same relationship to the court, the junior player has her bottom half in one direction and top half in another, compromising performance and making her more vulnerable to injury, also photo showing Pat Cash and Andre Agassi in excellent forehand and backhand position.
Further similarities in the bowling and serving action can be shown in the overall body shape / alignment. All 3 are leaning forward, the spine is perpendicular to the intended direction of force, at release or contact, this is the ‘Balance Principle’ and largely controls the height or flight path of the action.
The head position is looking forward and down having rotated past the arm position, part of the ‘Rotation Principle’. In tennis the head should look away from contact immediately prior to ball contact for optimal rotation and body alignment, see link and videos on Roddick (good) Henman (poor) head position on the serve, https://www.yorktennisclub.net/coaching/technically-the-best/
In accordance with Langevad’s ‘Axis Principle’ the body rotates in 3 different ways or in 3 different planes of motion. When looking at our bowling and serving action, all 3 have the right side slightly higher than the left, the body having tilted or rotated (shoulder over shoulder) on a ‘Cartwheel Axis’, similarly the body is leaning forward and has rotated (head over feet) on a ‘Somersault Axis’, there is also a ‘Twist Axis’ which is rotation from right to left in a right handed bowling or serving action, this is difficult to see from a still but it has occurred. There are different terms used by different people to describe the rotations that make up the Axis Principle, and these can be mapped or graphed in 3 dimensions by using X, Y and Z co-ordinates, personally I prefer cartwheel, somersault and twist, on the basis of simplicity. Langevad in his years of research has used his advanced mathematical skills and mapping using X, Y and Z co-ordinates to find the optimal position of the body and joints at each point of the action. The photo below shows the body alignment having rotated using the Axis Principle, Shaun Pollock’s back foot is a little side on (in his defence he was practising a drill coming down from a step) and his back foot does not quite line up.
In both cricket and tennis, grip and spin, must be thrown into the mix as it is essential to learn optimal grips for different shots and spin so the body can sit comfortably with the arm position. It also allows the bowler or server to move the ball through the air and off the ground in different directions and achieve different tactics. There is no 1 grip for bowling, serving, forehands, backhands etc but rather an ever changing continuum defined by the tactic being employed the height of the ball being played, the flight path and the spin effect being sought etc.
The connection and interrelationship between the Langevad Principles throws into question the LTA’s entire way of teaching technique on their training courses. They strive for the coach to teach children and adults a single ‘teaching point’ in any 1 lesson on a forehand / backhand etc. Whilst this initially may seem a good idea to avoid information overload, due to the interrelationship between the principles this simply will not work and cause weeks, months, years and in some case a lifetime of frustration with a particular technique.
A typical example would be a tennis coach taking the view (correctly) that a child should typically use a continental or chopper grip for a flat serve. If he is only permitted to have 1 teaching point and changes only the grip, in order for this change to be effective the ball toss and arm position at contact must already be correct.
If however which is typically the case the child has the wrong grip and wrong Zone (contact relative to the head/body), simply correcting the grip will likely make the serve worse. Players typically hit the ball too far in front and if this is the case, trying to use the continental grip will simply make the serve go uncontrollably left.
We at York Tennis Academy consider it a huge benefit to work with Brad Langevad on a very regular basis and believe use of the biomechanical principles in our coaching helps children and adults on our programme learn faster, better and enjoy tennis more whilst also avoiding injury.
Biomechanics of Cricket Video and Biomechanics of Tennis Book
We do not teach cricket (we are busy enough with tennis and I have a family to see from time to time!), although the relationship between techniques between the sports is fascinating to me. If you are interested in improving your cricket we fully recommend if you are looking to improve your cricket you purchase Brad’s Biomechanics of cricket video, a crazy price at what is around £5 in GBP, LINK, as well as have him analyse any specific action you want to work on, through online analysis, http://www.bradlangevad.net/books/
‘The Biomechanics of Tennis’ book as well as the ‘How to Teach Tennis’ video is also available from the link above.
Similarly, if anyone wishes for Brad to look at their tennis technique they should likewise purchase an analysis, Link. We offer video analysis ourselves free with lessons, but massively value Brad’s work and impact and encourage people to have him look at their shots as well as ourselves. As long as the coaches are singing for the same hymn sheet in their approach to technique it is helpful to consult and find the best way to develop a players technique as quickly as possible.
Pro10 Tennis Course
Our Flagship Pro10 Course, features 10 weeks on court with me and 10 weeks video analysis with Brad Langevad. This covers every technique in the game of tennis as well as tactics and although, the course is currently 40% off at £600.
Whilst this is more than your average tennis lesson, this cost is for the whole 10 weeks and we whole heartedly believe that the £600 or £1,000 will deliver more improvement than any other £600 or £1,000 investment in improving your tennis. A lot of time has gone into developing, refining and learning to apply the principles, myself around 15 years working with Brad and 3 years as an RPT Biomechanics Advisor to the RPT and it is Brad’s life’s work, a lot of time also goes into producing video as well as on court feedback throughout the course. It is above and beyond ‘teaching what I was taught because that’s how I learned it and I did ok’. To book, click the link, https://clubspark.lta.org.uk/YorkTennisAcademy/Coaching/Course/74ad8af1-9244-403a-9f64-5f77eec8c143
If you would like any further information on this, please let me know.
There are different theories and views about how tennis and other sports should be played and taught, in some ways this makes the game and its teaching more interesting, although based on our research over many years if the principles are not adhered to leads to poor performance and injury.