In my previous post I proposed that throwing a football as a kid might lead to a weak tennis serve as an adult.
There are two other sports, however, that kids play every day and might actually help to improve their serves and overall tennis games as adults.
Those sports are volleyball and baseball.
Why do these two sports offer good prep for tennis? Both teach players to focus on the ball.
The volleyball serve might be the best practice for the tennis serve in terms of keeping an eye on the ball. In volleyball, the server first selects the intended direction of the serve, then tosses the ball and watches nothing but the ball until it is struck. Thanks to the rules of volleyball (bump-set-spike), the server doesn’t feel rushed to react to the opponents and is free to completely concentrate on the service motion.
So, while the tennis service arm and shoulder motion might more closely resemble the football throwing motion, the mental and visual focus is much more closely aligned with the volleyball serve. And in truth, many tennis players find learning the physical motion of the serve to be much easier than overcoming the urge to draw their eyes down to look across the net.
Whereas volleyball can help your tennis serve, baseball is inherently designed to improve your tennis stroke.
A baseball batter learns early on to keep a sharp focus on the incoming pitch. In fact, it’s a necessity if they hope to be able to collide their exceptionally small bat with that small, fast moving ball. And because there is no need to assign any attention to the players in the field, a baseball player’s mind is completely free to focus on making contact.
When a baseball player transitions to tennis, they’re used to watching the ball all the way to their bat, or racquet as the case may be, and they do it exceptionally well.
But don’t take my word for it. Ask your tennis friends what sports they played growing up, then watch how they play tennis. It’s a good bet you’ll find ex-volleyball players with good tennis serves and ex-baseball players making consistently solid contact on ground strokes and volleys.