The Eye Coach, a revolutionary training product developed in the United States which has the backing of Billie Jean King, has been launched the UK. The device allows players to hit a static ball perched in the strike zone which rotates and snaps back into the start position ready to be struck again.
Two British tennis coaches, Andy Dowsett and Phil Vivian, have formed Tennis Coach Club Ltd, which has won the licence to distribute the Eye Coach in the UK. Dowsett, who runs the Professional Tennis Registry (PTR), which was itself founded in the US, said: “I first came across Eye Coach at the PTR Symposium in Hilton Head, where I regularly lecture. The idea was to buy one first for my two girls aged seven and eight. But 15 minutes on the Eye Coach with the creator, Lenny Schloss, was enough to persuade me that the product was a lot more than just hitting a ball on a stick.”
Tennis Coach Club started selling the Eye Coach in the UK in September this year. Dowsett said: “There is a whole science behind the Billie Jean Eye Coach that is missing from coaching tennis at the majority of levels. I’ve become fascinated with it.”
The Eye Coach addresses one of the biggest challenges of all ball sports, not just tennis, which is to keep the eye on the ball. “Eight out of 10 times players do not track the ball fully to the racket,” Dowsett said. “This device provides an effective teaching and training tool both on and off the court.”
Dowsett believes the Eye Coach has wider benefits other than simply training the eye. “It’s a fitness tool and the developers of Cardio Tennis are interested in utilising the equipment in their programmes,” he said.
“What we like most is the ability to coach a player and then send them off with ‘homework’. Students now have a way to ensure quality feeds to get quality practice between lessons. Only 10 minutes a day gets 1000 repetitions a week, which would take five to 10 hours without the Billie Jean King feeding system.
“The majority of my students rent an Eye Coach for the week and come back having worked not only on the eyes at point of contact but also on keeping their head still through this part of the stroke. One of the other advantages of the kit is that if you only have a small area to work in, a coach can have three or four students hitting on Eye Coach.”
Resources to support the Eye Coach also include a YouTube channel. “We constantly upload videos of drills that we use and coaches can learn from,” Dowsett said.
The device retails at £150 to coaches, with discounts available for multiple purchases. Dowsett says: “The product sells itself and as a coach working outdoors it is invaluable in keeping lessons running through rain, extreme wind and snow. I never have to cancel a lesson again due to inclement weather.”
Billie Jean King said: “The best part for us all is that players, new and old, pro and beginner, can improve their tennis, get more success and enjoyment from their game, with a new tool that does not require more court fees and expensive coaching time.”
UK courses are available for coaches who are interested in the product, as well as an online certification course for coaches who buy it.