Tennis Prose



Boxing Training Helps Tennis

Maria Sharapova trained boxing for nine months when she was 12.

Serena Williams has trained boxing off and on during her career.

Andy Murray, Caroline Wozniacki, Gael Monfils, Elina Svitolina and many others have employed boxing training coaches.

And just this week I learned boxing training in pro tennis goes as far back as the 70s and 80s, as Arthur Ashe and Pete Sampras hired Henry Hines to instruct them on boxing training to improve quickness, agility and movement.

Hines was a former track and field star at Southern California, and a world-class long jumper. He helped the New Orleans Hornets NBA players in the early 2000s with footwork and agility.

Hines entered the tennis world by assisting a late, great American hero in the 1970’s. “I started working with tennis star Arthur Ashe back in the mid 70’s. I went to one of his tennis tournaments and although I didn’t know much about the game it was obvious to me that the players were slow,” Hines told the Hornets team web site. “I told them how amazing it was that they could be such great athletes and make so much money but couldn’t move very well. He asked me to study the game a little and I started working with him a little and did pretty well.”

Hines expanded his client base to work with other players on the tennis tour for fifteen years before getting a call from Pat Riley of the Los Angeles Lakers.

“(Pat Riley) said he heard some things about me and how I worked with athletes on their movement and thought I could help with basketball. I went there in 1986 and Pat’s words were pretty direct. He said ‘I want this team to fly baby’. I told him I would try and see what happens. Byron Scott was there and my man was flying.”

Then Hornets head coach Scott would later hire Hines to help speed up his Hornets and New Jersey Nets players when Scott coached in NJ.

The function of boxing training on basketball and tennis athletes is to enhance, refine, quicken and sharpen movement, agility and footwork and then apply those new skills on the court.

“The first thing I do is ask players a simple question. If you’re 10-15% slower than you currently are will it affect your game? Conversely, if you’re 10-15% quicker than you currently are will it affect your game? Easy answers, right? From that premise we work on the concepts of acceleration and movement up and down the floor. From there I tailor the information for each individual.”

“Boxing is a great provider of agility and footwork. Think about it. Most NBA players when they step slide are pretty heavy and off balance. When you box you naturally have that Ali or Sugar Ray dancing mentality. We use the footwork technique in guarding a man for instance. This is an application that’s fun to do also. It gives them the same concept from a different point of view.”

Hines worked with Pete Sampras when he was a young ATP pro. Although Sampras has never publicly discussed this top secret training, he surely benefitted from it.

(Note: The Los Angeles Lakers won their third and fourth NBA Championships in 1986-87 and 1987-88 after losing in the Western Conference finals in 1985-86. The New Orleans Hornets missed the playoffs in three years under coach Byron Scott.)

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