Footwork: Artful & Efficient

Footwork - Artful and Efficient

This is a must see video.

The absolutely crushes it (pun only slightly intended!) with the feature which explains why Roger Federer’s footwork is the basis for a nearly flawless game.

This is not about tennis.  This applies to all sports. This is an insightful illustration/description of fundamental movement skills and basic physical literacy that *any* athlete must obtain to optimize their performance.

NY Times - Roger Federer's Footwork

Let me spotlight a few things I think are worth thinking about…

Forehand Section

Coach Geoff MacDonald (Vanderbilt University tennis coach) narrates the exaggerated ‘heel-to-toe’ foot placement that allows Roger Federer to maintain balance and slow the acceleration of his body. This action is the same movement pattern used by a basketball player dribbling into his/her jump shot using stride stop (e.g. left-right or right-left). It’s also the same action used by a high jumper as they attempt to transfer their horizontal momentum into vertical force.

Jab Step Section

What in tennis Coach Macdonald refers to as a “jab step,” is the same action taught by speed specialists (like Lee Taft) as a ‘plyo step‘ and ‘hip turn‘. It is, in fact, the same footwork that a basketball player uses to change direction out of a defensive slide. Teaching a drop step is old school basketball. (Just because we were taught it, doesn’t mean that it’s right.)

Backhand Section

Let’s focus here on the action that is described as using “…his legs like a slalom skier … to absorb the tremendous movement forces and maintain dynamic balance.”

First, without evening knowing of Coach MacDonald’s pedigree, I’m assured in this sentence alone that he’s an effective tennis coach because he’s “painting a picture” with his words. Second, this action is the same in any sport where there’s a lateral change of direction required. And last, do take notice that as Roger Federer explodes out of this direction change, he uses a crossover step (whereby his left foot crosses over his right to move laterally the other way). Again, in basketball, far too much time is spent in slides than what actually happens in live game action with an athletic offensive player.