The original backboard, which was portable with an incline board was called the Tennis-Mate; it was produced in Charlotte, North Carolina in the 1980's. Soon there was a copy-cat called the Tennis-Partner that was designed in Sweden. The Swedish and French tennis federations highly recommended that their young upcoming players have one of the backboards at their homes. Unfortunately, the backboards were not produced in the next decade.
I had seen the backboards in tennis retail shops because the backboard was used to sell racquets. Customers could try to racquets within the store. Soon after first seeing the backboard, Richard Bodian insisted that I begin demanding that my goal-oriented students purchase a backboard. I had trained Richard to be a tennis teaching professional and he became totally absorbed with efficient technique. The incline board forces players to have vertical swings.
Starting in the late 70's, I would ask parents to build a hitting wall in their driveway or backyards. I knew that the backboard was the best way to hit the most balls. Some families did not have the space. Others were not allowed because of the rules their home-owners's associations. Cost was also a factor. Wooden backboards were less expensive but made too much noise.
Beginning in the late 80's, a majority of my students had backboards at home. I actually demanded or begged parents to buy the portable backboards. Once I was buying every backboard I could find because by the 1990's the backboards were no longer manufactured in the US or Europe. I remember buying the last thirty backboards I could find from a distributor in Canada.
My stockpile depleted by the turn of the century. I let nearly a decade pass before I finally had a new version of the backboard built. Jeff Lewis, who I taught to play and teach, deserves all the credit for the GreatBase TENNIS backboard. Soon afterwards, Andrew Garcia became responsible for the manufacturing and distribution of the backboard.
I have continued to be involved and helped keep the doors of the business open. The expression "a labor of love" applies.
The new and improved backboard is a by-product of the coronavirus. Ilja Semjonovs and Andrew Garcia have put their thinking caps on and improved the backboard. Previously, the backboard was excellent for groundstrokes, footwork and fitness. The backboard was limited because one could not practice volleys or perfect serves, now one can. As a result, the backboard has a new name. The All-In 1 Backboard is an amazing tool.
Why are Backboards Important?
There is no way to hit more balls than to hit a backboard. Once one becomes proficient on the backboard, one can hit approximately forty balls per minute. Whether one is a world class player or a novice player, the number of reps is the same.
If one were to study the history of the best players who have played tennis they would discover that all spent countless hours hitting against a wall. There are many former number one players, like Jimmy Connors, who had little or no access to indoor courts. Yet he hit against a wall throughout the winter months.
The Sparta Tennis Club in Prague may have the best record of any club for producing world class players. For decades, the club only had one indoor court. The court was surrounded by four cinder walls and their top junior players primarily used the indoor area as a backboard and not a court.
Welby Van Horn, one of the best tennis teachers in the history of our sport, demanded his players hit the backboard daily. Welby also demanded that a wall be built wherever he taught. His students had to hit the backboard before and after their lessons.
Even if families can build a regular hitting wall, I would encourage people to have their own All-In ! Backboard because tennis players who want to truly improve can practice everyday. Inclement weather will not interfere with piling up the reps.
Why Do I Want to Help?
I have made my life's work teaching tennis. Now I have nearly fifty years of experience teaching tennis. Tennis loses players because they simply don't learn or practice properly.
Tennis players who do not have a backboard at home is no different than a child who takes piano lessons and does not have a piano or key board at home to practice.
Another factor, tennis students are often taught by teachers who do not understand the dimensions of the court and bio-mechanical principles. They also will mis-interpret what the pros are actually doing when they watch with the naked and untrained eye.
When one sees a young kid innocently hitting tennis balls against a garage door they are improving their skill but not their form. In other words, they are improving their hand-eye coordination but they are also ingraining bad habits. A regular hitting wall is either the worse or the best way to practice. The groundstroke reps on the garage door or wall promote horizontal swings. The All-In 1 Backboard forces player to swing vertically.
Also, when hitting volleys against the wall they are forced to bevel their racquet face. For the most efficient way to practice the volley, the backboard should be titled back at a fifteen degree angle. The new backboard has this function.
On the serve, most player program their swing to their toss opposed to the reverse. One should program their toss to their swing. The All-In 1 Backboard has a function for players to set their toss in the ideal location.
If newcomers to our sport get the right start, the chances of them staying with tennis improves tremendously. Be able to practice at home on your own is a must.