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Backboard Training

Among the most useful (and underused) training tools is the backboard. Generations of great players have honed their strokes by practicing against the backboard yet, for some reason, modern American players think that they are too good for this device. In addition, some parents believe that unless some-high priced coach is on the court with the kid, that the player will not be able to learn on his own. I have seen dozens of junior players who are simply incapable of hitting 100-200 balls in a row against the backboard without missing. And volleys?! Forget about it. You'd be lucky to see someone hit 10-20 before losing control of the ball. 
The backboard is an awesome training device for supplementing your practices. First of all, there are generally very few distractions (due to massive green background) so that the player can totally focus on the ball. Second of all, the player must develop control in order for it to keep coming back to her. Third of all, the constant repetition is physically taxing on your forearm.
The forearm muscles are very important in imparting control on the racket. By having a strong forearm (like a wall), your volleys and slices will improve dramatically (since these are strokes that depend more on blocking/punching than on swinging). With a soft forearm, your arm (similar to a hanging towel) - instead of punching the ball - will actually absorb the pace of your opponent's shot (so players often compensate by swinging at volleys or slices which usually results in "easy" errors). Visualize Bruce Lee and his famous one-inch punch (where a lot of power was created in a short distance). Lastly, practicing against the backboard is great for improving the hand-to-eye coordination. There's nothing as useful for your eyes as staring at the ball coming back to you in rapid succession 2-3000 times per workout (Note: it is said that Rocky Marciano trained his eyes by staring at a tic-tocking metronome at the foot of his bed).
I recommend that, at least twice per week, developing players hit at least 2000 balls/session against the backboard. This may sound like a lot but, done right, it should only take 15 minutes to accomplish this task. One of my favorite routines is the tap-tap rally where the player hits 100 forehand volleys in a row, followed by 100 backhand volleys, followed by 100 side-to-sides, followed by 100 slices. Five sets of this and your forearm will be fried and you won't even break a sweat. If you want, you can also work on overheads (note, you hit the overhead into the ground and then it ricochets upwards into the backboard and arcs back to you for another overhead). There is no excuse for any player not including at least some backboard practice into their routine. 

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