Reviewing “NET NOTES – Common sense ideas to lift your game” by Howie Burnett, Tennis Director of the Island Country Club in Marco Island, Florida.
ISBN 1-4392-6557-7 ($14.50 on Amazon)
Many tennis professionals have written instructional books over time. Well known players like Jack Kramer, Don Budge, Alice Marble and Bobby Riggs come to mind pre-open era. Modern era authors are for instance Vic Braden (“Quick Fixes”), Oscar Wegner (“Play Better Tennis in 2 Hours”), and Dennis Van Der Meer (“Book of Tennis”).
All those books have one thing in common: Trying to establish the author’s authority to teach tennis and then write about it in a systematic and methodical way. And then there is Howie Burnett. Doesn’t own an International Tennis Academy. Isn’t making the rounds on the speaking circuit all over the country. Hasn’t coached a Top Ten player (yet). What establishes this man as an authority in teaching tennis and writing about it?
Howie Burnett is a decorated member of the United States Professional Tennis Association (USPTA) with 38 years of coaching experience. Pro of the Year in both USPTA and USTA (United States Tennis Association) he used to be part of a coaching team on the USTA Player Development Program. His main authority for writing NET NOTES comes from coaching thousands of junior and adult players and college varsity athletes. The intriguing reason for picking up NET NOTES is the fact that he does not write about a systematic approach to learning tennis from ground strokes to volleys and serves. Neither does he put little emphasis on items that have nothing to do with game skills and winning strategy, such as types of grip or open / closed stance. It’s the down to earth, match play based approach and the strategy tips that make this book such an interesting read.
NET NOTES is divided into 5 sections, a compact resource for winning more matches.
- Practicing & Work Ethic
This section contains information about tennis lessons and player expectations, practicing the return of serve, the usage of baseline shots as basis for a solid game, and honing skills from every part of the court. The paragraph What’s in your toolbox? ends with the advice that tennis is “…a game of emergencies… so make sure your practices reflect the concept held as truth by first responders and train until you own it!”
- Doubles Tactic & Logic
Tactical choices and shot placement are part of this section, as well as keeping the ball out of your opponents’ reach. Interesting paragraphs about overcoming the “…fear of No Man’s Land” and the importance of reading your opponent. The chapter Great players know when they must go on the defensive ends with “If you play low-quality offense when high-quality defense can be employed more effectively, you’re not playing good tennis.”
- Basic Singles Logic and Some Technical Essentials
How do you get from rally to attack mode? What does it mean to have an explosive and immediate first reaction? Brushing the ball for topspin effect. These are some of the items being explained, in addition to the importance of footwork for the “most dangerous of shots”, the overhead. Howie writes “If you attack they will lob as sure as the sun shines in Florida.”
This short section concentrates a little on the Tennis Code of Conduct and the importance of not slowing the match down but keeping the game moving along at a reasonable pace.
Howie ends the book writing about trying to never underestimate shots that appear easy and describing that tennis court competence builds confidence, not the other way around. His conclusion is “Doubles is a team sport and demands a firm understanding of good positioning and sound shot selection to succeed at any level. Learn the strategy of the game and you’ll always be in demand.”
NET NOTES is an easy to understand resource for the beginning player starting out and the experienced player wanting to get better and win more matches. Howie Burnett has an excellent comprehension of the importance of court positioning, shot selection and player choices in a tennis match. The compact, 50 page format allows a player to place the booklet in their tennis bag and have it handy as a valuable resource.
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