Monday, March 8, 2010

Book Review: Secrets of a True Tennis Master: Welby Van Horn and His Tennis Teaching System

Secrets of a True Tennis Master: Welby Van Horn and His Tennis Teaching System, By Edward Weiss (Wilson Printing, 2007).

About the Book and the Author
Secrets of a True Tennis Master sets forth a masterful paradigm of tennis teaching from legendary coach Welby Van Horn that still carries value to this day. The book is written by one of his former students, Edward Weiss, a former Division III All-American, and now a corporate lawyer in Connecticut. Weiss has done a beautiful and thorough job in explaining the Van Horn system over 13 Chapters and 296 Pages, profuse with illustrations and photographs. Van Horn's theory is based on certain tennis instruction fundamentals, and a system of checkpoints to help students master the game.

About Coach Welby Van Horn
Welby Van Horn is the legendary tennis coach called one of the most successful coaches in all of sports.See:The Right Way to Begin, Frank Deford, Sports Illustrated, April 28, 1969

In tennis, Van Horn has been called "that rarest of breeds" - one of the few great tennis players who then became a great coach. As a professional player, he was ranked in the world's top ten as both professional and amateur in the 1940s. He was the youngest male player at age 19 to reach the U.S. Open Finals at Forrest Hills in 1939. He played Jack Kramer, Pancho Gonzales, Don Budge and Bobby Riggs. His biggest win was over the great Bill Tilden, then Age 52, in July 1945. 

As a coach, Van Horn amassed an amazing record of teaching 100 nationally-ranked American junior players, including top-ranked Charlie Pasarell (ranked No. 1 USA player) and Victor Amaya (ranked No. 14 in the World.) 

In his book, Off the Court, Arthur Ashe wrote: “If I had to send my kids to somebody to learn the game, I would send him or her to Welby Van Horn. He has the best track record. You don't get that by accident..."

Van Horn opened a renowned Tennis Academy in Boca Raton, FL and was inducted into the USPTA Hall of Fame in September 2008.

The Welby Van Horn Tennis System
The Welby Van Horn tennis system is evident in all his players - a fluid classical style and all-court game.

Van Horn believed that that there are four (4) fundamentals to the game and that they should be taught in a particular order. The four (4) elements are in order of priority: 1) balance, 2) grips, 3) strokes and 4) strategy. Let's review these very briefly in reverse order to better understand Van Horn's thinking.

*WINNING STRATEGY through ball control which is through STROKES; which are then from correct GRIPS, which are then based on good BALANCE. In other words, you can only control the ball and racket, if you control first your body and it's balance mechanism. Thus, good balance is the first fundamental, and can be learned and practiced even without a racket.

In Welby Van Horn's words: "Balance is the key fundamental. It is what makes the expert game look so easy. Proper balance means an economy of motion: achieving maximum results from minimum effort." Van Horn's system emphasizes use of checkpoints in helping players achieve their maximum balance as a platform for strokes and volleys.

For much more on the Van Horn tennis teaching system, see the book: Secrets of a True Tennis Master. 

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