Improve Your Overhead Smash...With A Football!

There's one shot in tennis that you can practice over, and over, without ever stepping on the tennis court. That shot would be the overhead smash. Practice is as simple as tossing around the ol' pigskin!

The overhead smash is the same basic motion as a football throw. The movement back to an oncoming lob is the same thing as a Quarterback dropping back for a pass. These football similarities are a main reason why Teaching Pros like myself see the competitive boys hit the smash at a much higher level far sooner than their girl counterparts. The boys have simply thrown a lot more football by the time they start playing tennis matches than the girls. 

A football is a great tool to gauge throwing quality because the thrower can tell immediately if the throw was correct. If they see the classic spiral as the ball travels to the receiver, the throw was well executed. If there's little rotation, or an “end-over-end” motion, that throw needs some work! Here's Carolina Panthers QB Cam Newton showing off a perfect form throw in slow motion:

Cam Newton Football Throw

Now let's go to a clip of ATP Grand Slam leader Roger Federer of Switzerland hitting overhead smashes in slow motion:

Roger Federer Overhead Smash

Just visualize Roger's racquet as the football, and you'll see that Federer's arm is moving in the same way that Newton's did. The same result as well: devastation!

Junior Competitors and Adult recreational players alike often do not practice this shot very much because they don't have playing partners who can give them 2 things:

• hit-able overhead feeds
• consistent and hit-able returns off the overhead

In other words, this isn't as easy to pull off as the typical ground stroke rally. With the football throwing method, tennis players can work on their overhead with anyone they can find to toss the ball around...even if that partner has a terrible throw themselves, the tennis player can still work on their form. So grab a football and work on on the typical 3 and 5 step drop back throws. You should find those same motions help you end a lot more points with a smash!