In pickleball and tennis, coaches commonly say “Follow through in the direction you want to hit the ball.” This may sound sensible, but it is misleading and can open players up to problems, including too much grip tension which slows down your paddle speed (and therefore the ball speed).
Why am I complaining about this instruction? Because the follow through has nothing to do with the direction you hit the ball! This is not a typo. The reason the follow through has nothing to do with where you hit the ball is simple. The ball has already left the paddle!
There are three parts to every swing. The backswing, point of contact, and follow through. Here is the function of each of these three parts:
- Backswing – This is the part that of the swing where you build up paddle speed and that converts to ball speed or power.
- Point of Contact – This is a very short event, lasting only 2 milliseconds (1/500th of a second). This part of the swing directs the ball, creates all spin, and determines the arc of the ball as well.
- Follow Through – This is the part of the swing that occurs after the ball has left the paddle. It has nothing to do with direction, but it does play an important role. Picture taking a nice swing at the ball and slamming on the brakes at contact! You would have to grip very tight and tense up your arm and your body. The follow through is needed to promote a more relaxed stroke, which is needed to swing faster (and hit harder!). Equally important is that a relaxed follow through minimizes your risk of injury!
Joe Dinoffer is a Master Professional in both the USPTA and PTR, has been recognized with numerous national awards including the 2019 City of Dallas Humanitarian Award for contributions to inner city tennis, and has conducted clinics and exhibitions in over 50 countries. Joe is the author and editor of 9 books and more than 20 DVDs, has more than 300 published articles in various tennis and pickleball magazines, and has aired many instructional tips on the Tennis Channel. Plus, Joe’s YouTube channel has more than 2 million views and growing! His latest book “Words, Wisdom, and Whimsy” is the second volume of an illustrated series called “Poems from the Heart.” In 1994, Joe founded OnCourt OffCourt, Ltd., a company dedicated to serving the tennis, pickleball, fitness, yoga, and physical education industries with innovative training aids and educational tools. Today, he has designed and manufactured more than 150 creative products being distributed and used in 100 countries worldwide.