A unique teaching tennis tool for tennis coaches, players and parents of players.
SlingHopper...It's in the Bag
By Robin Bateman
A unique teaching tool helps facilitate the drilling of tennis students
Settling into one of the aluminum bleacher seats, I watched Gary Gober, a local tennis pro in Macon, Georgia, feed balls to his junior student - a fourteen year old high school tennis player. Gober served the ball then played out the point, moving all around court, even up toward the net.
Wait a minute. Where's the ball basket? The teaching cart? I glanced the length of the court, noticing the small traditional basket nestled between the two players' benches against the fence. Why wasn't it on the court with the coach? A bit puzzled, I watched on. That's it! He fed the balls from the SlingHopper drill bag!. I'd heard about this teaching tool - endorsed by top coaches like Nick Bollettieri and Brad Gilbert, but had never seen it in action.
The SlingHopper Drill Bag-developed in 2004 by USPTA Pro Paul Tobin, patented in 2005 and distributed by Gamma Sports-is a feeding bag initially designed for top teaching pros enabling them to feed tennis balls to high performance students with efficiency and speed. However, made from a lightweight fabric velcroed around the waist, allowing coaches more mobility, versatility, and portability, this "Drill Bag" is now beginning to grab the attention of recreational coaches, high school coaches, parents of junior players, and tennis players themselves.
For example, Gary Gober says adding the SlingHopper Drill Bag to his list of teaching tools has helped to round out his lessons. "I am an independent tennis instructor. I use the teaching baskets to move from one facility to the next. I like the Drill Bag for my live ball drills. I feel it better enhances my ability to move around and rally with my students. The student doesn't lose their focus (or get to rest) as often when I don't have to stop to get more balls. When I have a need for a drill that requires repetition, I can go back to feeding from the baskets."
Bob Bartz, a parent of two junior players; Ryan whose current USTA Georgia standing is 33rd in the Boys' 16s, and Roxy, whose USTA Georgia standing is 52nd in the Girls' 14s, is very involved in his children's tennis. I asked him what he liked about the bag.
"I like the bag," he paused. "...because it...makes up for my inadequacies in skill level."
I shot him a confused look.
"Well," he explained, "When Ryan smokes one by me I just reach into the drill bag for another ball to feed him as though the point were still in play. In other words, there is no downtime."
The beauty of the SlingHopper Drill Bag is that parents don't need tennis skills before they can start drilling with their tennis playing kids. (I noticed, through Gober's lesson, how easy it was to feed and rally). In fact, a printable card equipped with instructions on feeding, along with drills to conduct is available online at www.SlingHopper.com, making it easy for parents to learn to feed like an instructor. In doing so, they will help facilitate the growth of their child's tennis skills through practice.
Another key feature is the bag's lightweight fabric, which enhances its portability. It can be squished inside a suitcase or tossed inside a car trunk for easy travel. What a convenient way for parents to prepare their children for tournament competition, or high school coaches to warm up the team before their matches; especially in clubs whose policies don't allow visitors to bring ball baskets onto their courts.
I can't wait to use the bag to drill my own daughter, who is playing #2 for her high school and can always use the extra practice. With the hourly rate some pros charge, the bag will enable me to supplement her lessons, getting her ready for the upcoming season.
As a player, I'm attracted to the flexibility and versatility with which a coach can feed me balls. While I love stationary teaching carts - especially when I'm working on one certain shot, or a series shots, I was amazed how mobile a pro becomes while wearing the SlingHopper Drill Bag, an approach that puts the pro in a better position to prepare me - the student - for real match play.
During my session with Paul, he maintained constant eye contact even though he moved around the court feeding me balls from all sorts of angles. This enabled him to give real time verbal corrections as I made mistakes. He fed over 35 balls without taking a break.
Players love how they can load up the SlingHopper Drill Bag, and head to the court to practice serves with ease. A player can move freely anywhere along the baseline while simply reaching into the bag for another ball to serve.
SlingHopper Drill Bag National Spokesman, legendary coach Nick Bollettieri, says, "The SlingHopper Drill Bag is by far one of the best teaching aids to come out of our sport. It enables me to quickly move to any position on the court while feeding or rallying. I highly recommend SlingHopper Drill Bags for coaches, players and parents!"
The SlingHopper is easy to use, allows efficient practice drills that simulate match play, is light weight and portable and embraced by top coaches. Why not you?
For more information, visit www.SlingHopper.com
Robin Bateman is the site coordinator for the Tattnall Tennis Center in Macon, Ga, where she coordinates tennis programs and leagues, is a tournament director, serves as a team captain, and assists junior teams competing at district, regional, and section events. She is the editor of the Macon Tennis Connect newsletter, and also updates the website. As a member of the United States Tennis Writer's Association, her published articles can be found in Racquet Sports Industry Magazine.