Deuce Box: How to Maximize Your Ball Machine Session

Wait - do I have cheekbones? Who knew?
Wait – do I spot cheekbones? Who knew?

Ever since my “snowbird” pal Elise went back north for the year, ol’ Momover Lady has been a tad sad.

Lately, she and I had been getting into a groove of playing actual, bonafide tennis. Serve and all.

Sidebar: I can’t decide whether I want to learn a “backscratcher” serve – which is fast and furious – or the more traditional style. Hubby is lobbying hard for me to dig in and go the old-school route. And two out of the three coaches at my club agree. But Coach Patrick, the one I spend the most time with, is Mr. Backscratcher. ‘Tis a puzzlement…

Anyhoo, Cardio Tennis got canceled today, so rather than just blowing off any racquet contact, I decided to head to the club and work with the ball machine.

I did two rounds, serving in-between – a mix of backscratcher and traditional.

I definitely put some effort into it, but there were plenty of balls that didn’t make it over the net. That got me thinking about the best way to maximize my machine sessions, so I decided to do a little recon.

First I found this interview / podcast with ball machine expert Stan Oley. (You can even fork over your email address and receive 14 handouts of ball machine drills. I may do that, considering how lonely I am. Also, can you believe there’s an actual ball machine expert?)

Then I found a lot more helpful intel on the World Wide Interweb, including:

This link

This link 

This link

So, rather nicely, I synthesized and distilled all that for you.


5 Ball-Machine Tips for Newbies + Wannabe Vikas

1. Place the machine at different points on the court. Don’t get too attached to parking that puppy in the same spot every time. I was doing that. Not anymore.

2. Set targets. No willy-nilly winging it. If you’re carving the time out of your packed mama-skedge to make it to the club or local court to hit, make it count.

3. When you’re setting up your ball frequency, give yourself some time.¬†It’s better to hit five shots with precision and focus than ten kinda half-ass. So space out them out so you have just enough time to recover and get ready for the next one. You want to be moving at a fast clip, but not tripping over your feet. As you improve, you can increase the speed.

4. With the other variables – spin, height, direction, depth – mix it up from session to session. I’ve decided to start bringing a little notebook to the club to keep track of this jazz. Super geeky, yes, but I can’t rely on my feeble Mommy Barbie brain to remember.

5. Use the ball machine in addition to – not instead of – your lessons and practicing with actual humans. Why? Because machines help build strength and muscle memory, but they don’t teach you how to think on the court.