Thursday, September 10, 2009

Happy Feet

Watching the US Open quarterfinal match between Melanie Oudin, the US teenager, and Caroline Wozniacki, a slightly older Danish teenager, I was reminded of the odd tennis habit of Happy Feet.

Men tennis players do this too, with a quick little side-by-side shuffle performed just before receiving an opponent's serve. But some of the women players take the Happy Feet concept to extraordinary levels by doing a high-stepping lindy-like hopping dance, which sometimes can last as long as a minute. The idea I believe is to keep moving on the court so that your body doesn't start feeling rooted to the ground, letting lactic acid start to build up, and you keep yourself mentally aware by engaging in the proprioceptive art of movement.

There doesn't seem to be any direct squash equivalent to this behavior. I sometimes like to bend down and bob a bit side-to-side, just to exercise my quads a bit, and I've seen plenty of others do this, but I can't remember playing anyone whose feet actually got Happy by hopping around the court. You would think the extra movement of Happy Feet would be inappropriate, given that it expends energy. What is it with these tennis players, anyway? Can anybody explain this to me? Or are they all mad?


  1. Pay a little more attention to those pro matches you say you've been watching. Top players do a little hop, called a "split step," before virtually every stroke (except on the service return -- maybe that's what confused you). If you want to incorporate this into your game, and learn many other pointers about getting around the court, pick up Mike Way's footwork dvd.

  2. Yes, I know about the split step, it's a must if you want to get moving quickly without rolling back on your heels. (I actually already have Mike Way's dvd, and it is a good one, well worth the expense!) But what I was writing about was what happens in tennis before the split step, with men doing a little shuffle and women doing the lindy hop. I maintain that it is an energy drain, but is also apparently enough of a psychological plus that tennis players keep on dancing.


Sorry, but due to increasing spam, I've added the Word Verification step. My policy on comments is anything goes, as long as it is about squash and as long as it isn't unnecessarily nasty....