Technique: The Ball Toss

(The information in this article was taken or adapted from the High Performance Coaching Program Study Guide.)

There has been a long-standing argument about where the ball should be hit on the serve. Should the ball be hit exactly at the top of the toss, or should it be hit on the way down? (HINT: There is NO reason to hit the ball on its way up, except for the element of surprise.)

There is no conclusion about where the ball should be hit on the serve. There is the claim that it is more difficult to hit a moving (falling) ball compared to hitting a ball that is essentially at rest.  I have never seen a calculation showing the effect of trying to hit the moving ball, though.

Are there any obvious disadvantages to a high ball toss on the serve?  If you are playing on a windy day, the compact toss is a great benefit, particularly if the wind is gusty as opposed to being steady.  A brisk breeze can easily push a high toss by a foot or more from its desired hitting point.  You might be able to compensate for this on your toss if the wind is steady, but swirls can drive you crazy.

Are there any obvious disadvantages to a toss that reaches exactly the desired hitting height, but no higher?  If your toss is grooved and it always goes to exactly the correct height, it is a fine technique.  If, however, there is some variation in the height of your service toss, trying to hit at the peak can lead to problems.  If you throw it a bit too high, you can either compensate with timing (wait for it to come down) or hit it when it is higher.  If you throw it not quite high enough, you end up having to hit it when it is low, which will reduce the chances of the serve going in.  Therefore, a higher ball toss seems to be the better choice between a high or low ball toss.