PAN AM Tennis Footwork

pan am tennis         The slow-dance choreography of a tennis warm-up is a wordless, polite exercise of ground strokes, lobs, volleys, and serves.  It gets the players’ blood flowing and they get to check out the competition. In slow motion, players purposely move their feet in familiar patterns, exaggerate their hips opening to absorb power shots, hold their balance in the follow-through a bit longer, and reduce their speed in any foot take-offs and landings.  Muscle memories are re-kindled and sparks start to fire for the explosive shots to come.  But, don’t be fooled by the pace of the warm-up. It changes on the very first point.  “Love – Love” doesn’t last long.

Game on… the tennis player’s feet are constantly in motion – before, during, and after each stroke. He sets up shots to control the game and will never be caught flatfooted. He has his footwork cut out for him; it will be 5K of chasing down balls in a match. Whether sprinting for a cross court shot, sideways galloping to recover position or hopping for an overhead, a tennis player’s moves are foundational to his strokes.

One of the most aggressive tactics in tennis has a very demure name – ‘The Approach Shot’.  It is exciting to watch and to play because it is a potential game-changer.

Footwork of the Approach Shot

The player takes a powerful step forward to get off the baseline and then small, balanced steps bring her to the service line. With shoulders and torso rotated, she is sideways or perpendicular to the net. This helps her transfer weight forward as she hits the approach shot.  She takes the short ball high on the bounce or out of the air.

  • If she hits it with top spin, she stays low in a semi-open stance and rises up into and through the ball as it slams down the line.
  • If she comes into net with a slice, a ‘Carioca Step’ – her back foot goes behind her front leg – propels her forward. As she slices the ball with a smooth cutting motion, her stance is closed with knees bent.  The ball plops over the net out of the opponent’s reach.

She split steps to center her gravity, and gets ready to explode at whatever height and direction the next ball dictates.  Will she do a put-away volley on a low ball?  Or, will she pedal backwards and hit an overhead on a mid-court high ball?  Then again, maybe she already got the point with her approach shot.

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Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever.   1 Corinthians 9:25 (NIV)


PAN AM Taekwondo Footwork

pan am taekwondo          In Taekwondo, kicking is the most important technique. They are prolific in variety and can defeat an opponent in a single strike.  Kicks to the head score the most points.  After the ritual bow, the combatant moves into his initial stance. From that position, he launches into an arsenal of forceful footwork. This martial artist can rapidly shift his weight, alternating legs performing in quick succession: a Spin Kick, a Straight Kick, a Jump Kick, a Jump Spin Kick, Double and Triple Kicks.  Apparently, there are even fake kicks.

The foot is at its height of combative power in these knock-out moves.  Depending on which kick he executes, the fighter uses various parts of his foot.

The Heel is used in the penetrating Side Kick. Its relative toughness is also suited to landing a punishing KO on the opponent’s head with the Axe Kick or the Hook Kick.

The Ball of the Foot, the area directly underneath the toes, is exposed when they are pulled back. This area is engaged in Frontal, Snapping Kicks and aimed at the opponent’s solar plexus, stomach or chin. The toes must be pulled back in Front Snapping Kicks or they could be broken on impact.

The Instep, at the top of the foot, is exposed when the toes are pointed forward.  It is a useful surface for kicking the side of an opponent’s body or head. Turning Kicks or Roundhouses engage the instep.

The Edge of the foot is prepared for striking by turning the foot down so the sole lies horizontal to the leg. The outside edge can then be used as a striking surface in Side Kicks much like the heel. Due to the small surface area of the edge of the foot, a more painful kick can be inflicted with this slightly more advanced technique. The edge of the foot is often used to snap boards in displays of Taekwondo breaking.

The Sole of the foot provides a big surface area and is mostly used in Taekwondo to force the opponent backwards. In this way, Pushing Kicks are more of a defensive maneuver. Nevertheless, a well-timed pushing kick can knock the wind out of an attacker.

The Knee is banned for use in Taekwondo competitions for good reason. The knee is a formidable weapon and can knock an opponent out in a single, low-risk strike. Knee techniques may be taught in Taekwondo as part of self-defense. (1)

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Resources: (1)

Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever.   1 Corinthians 9:25 (NIV)


PAN AM Table Tennis Footwork

pan am table tennis          ‘Quick Feet’ is a vast underestimation of a table tennis player’s footwork as he reacts to the speeding, probably spinning, light-weight ball.  An advanced-level player shifts from his ready position, moves up to five feet, and does a full body swing to return the shot, all in less than half a second. (1)  Indeed, competitive players resort to physics to calculate how they can improve their acceleration time and distance between strokes from their stationary ready position. The crouching, never slouching, always coordinated, sometimes explosive body movements typify table tennis moves.

Ping pong – the original, onomatopoeic name – is a sport of long rallies and sharp-angled shots.  The ‘footwork field’ is far smaller than other racquet sports, only 20 feet by 40 feet; the table width is only 5 feet of the 20. Ping pong players must move around on their own side of the net and make calculated offensive or game-changing defensive shots from different heights and distances. Table tennis footwork requires precision. Mastery of basic footwork patterns is the key to success at advanced levels of competition. Small steps get players in perfect position for spectacular shots.

(Slow Motion) Footwork

Ready Position – The right-handed player returns to a left-of-centre angle on possible shots. Crouching forward with feet shoulder-width apart, he balances on the balls of his feet, heels lightly touching the ground.  His left foot and left shoulder are slightly forward. The tip of his paddle can barely touch the table’s edge.

One-step to the side – To cover a wide backhand, he shifts weight to his right leg and pushes his left foot further to the left.

Two-steps to the side – To take a wide forehand, he leans on his right leg, pulls his left foot towards his right foot. Then he quickly shifts his right foot to the right. This is a side-skipping move.

Three-steps to the side – An incoming shot lands deep to the forehand corner, angling off the wide forehand sideline. Or, the player needs to step out wide on his backhand side to hit a forehand. This is two-step but with a preliminary small step. Moving right, he takes a small step with right foot and shifts weight to his right leg.  Then, he performs a two-step movement.

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Resources: (1)

Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever.   1 Corinthians 9:25 (NIV)


PAN AM Squash Footwork

pan am squash          Squash players maintain a continuous physical, mental and emotional connection with the ball.  This parlays into skillfully executed footwork and winning shots in a graceful game of active deception. At the highest skill level, players try to outwit each other – anticipating not just the bounce of the ball but ‘reading’ their opponents’ moves, adjusting their counter-moves, and trying to make their own next move even more ‘unreadable’.  Good judgment lies behind good predictions which can then lead to good reactions. A player must get to the ball before his opponent even hits it.

Anticipating the Moves

What are the keys to early anticipation?  A squash player uses the ball’s travel time to read his opponent’s body language in his set up and stroke. He checks all the visual cues, weighing them against his familiarity with the player. He assesses footwork relative to the ball’s position, weight transfer, length and height of back swing, racquet grip, and angle of wrist.  He knows what to do…unless, the opponent ‘pulls a fast one’ and strategically pauses, leaving his shot option to the last microsecond.

Making the Moves

Anticipation doesn’t take place in isolation.  The squash player uses the ball’s travel time to position himself to retrieve all possible shots. In between shots, he generally moves back to the ‘T’ at centre court and gets ready. He does a fast hop and quarter squat, a ‘split step’, landing on feet shoulder width apart to regain balance.  The split step stretches all the muscles that will propel the player instantly and powerfully to the ball.

Squash players do not ‘run’ through the ball in the way that tennis players are trained to.  By the time they get within striking distance of the ball, squash players have already stopped their centre of gravity, transferring weight into the shot and then moving back to the ‘T’.  Lunges are the move of choice with the many directional demands on the body, especially if the ball is low.  A reaching lunge can be elegant; the non-racquet arm counterbalances the outstretched racquet arm. The ball gets a good whack, hopefully as the opponent was blinking.

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Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever.   1 Corinthians 9:25 (NIV)


PAN AM Softball Footwork

pan am softball       Softball bears a striking resemblance its first cousin baseball but for a few distinguishing features. Its ball is bigger, its field is smaller and its game is shorter.  Softball has a wild card trait.  The pitch is thrown underhanded. As it moves through the air, the ball can loop up, curve or drop down. Pity the waiting, watchful batter. The catcher is well aware of what the pitcher is delivering.  Having weighed the innings and outs of the game, the catcher selected the right pitch for the moment and covertly instructed the pitcher. This is the same trusting rapport that their cousin pitchers and catchers enjoy; they collaborate in besting the batter before she knows what hit will come of it.

Softball’s groundwork begins with the players preparing their routine footwork before the ball is even thrown.

Catcher Sets Up

She crouches: feet shoulder-width apart, knees bent with weight distributed through the inside balls of her feet. She doesn’t sit back on her heels nor do her knees go beyond her toes. Her back is straight and she is balanced in this low squat.

Catcher Signals

Before moving into the receiving stance, the catcher has a slightly different set up while signaling. She is slightly forward on her toes, dropping her glove to block the signal from the wrong eyes but ensuring it is visible to the pitcher.  She moves into receiving stance.

Pitcher Sets Up

Ball in hand, before stepping onto the 24-inch rubber on top of the pitcher’s mound; she stands square to home plate with hands apart.  Within ten seconds, she brings her hands together then separates them, takes a backward step with her non-pivot foot, still on the rubber, as she begins the one arm wind up for the pitch.

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Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever.   1 Corinthians 9:25 (NIV)


PAN AM Shooting Footwork

pan am shooting          Competitive shooters name stances for their innovators or for their appearance. There’s the ‘Weaver’ and the ‘Chapman’; there’s also the ‘Natural Stance’ and the ‘Isosceles’, which may refer to a triangular set up.  Hobby shooters, however, who follow doves or waterfowl have the catchiest monikers for their shooting footwork: the ‘British Churchill’, the ‘American Step’, and the ‘Foxtrot’. The ready position for the Foxtrot begins with the heels 6 to 8 inches apart and the toes pointing at 12 and 2 o’clock. The bird in flight orchestrates the next move. (1)

Skill-testing target shooting with pistols or rifles begins in three stationary stances – standing, kneeling or prone.  Shooting at a moving object with a shotgun, on the other hand, requires dynamic but practised moves.  The goals are the same: control of the firearm and accuracy in aim. While individual shooters may vary their foot positions within a stance (of whatever name), every marksmen tries to duplicate his grip and footwork on every shot. 

Pistol and Rifle


The shooter finds his comfortable stance. He may stand square to the target, with feet shoulder width apart, and toes pointed at target. Or, he may stagger his feet with a supporting foot six inches ahead, in a ‘nose over toes’ style. The shooter’s weight is on the balls of his feet, leaning forward to balance and absorb recoil.


The shooter is permitted to touch the ground with the toes of one foot, one knee and the opposite foot.  Kneeling lowers the shooter’s centre of gravity, increasing his stability.


Lying face down and directly behind the firearm, the shooter draws his dominant leg up, bends that knee and points his feet in the same direction, the toes of that foot pointed outward. His other leg is stretched out and relaxed, with the toes of that foot turned inward.


Standing, the shooter’s eyes are set to focus on the high-flying skeet or clay pigeon, released on his instruction.  Prepared for anything, he is balanced on feet shoulder width apart, weight on his front foot, leaning into the shot. This is the natural predator position.

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Resources:  (1)

Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever.   1 Corinthians 9:25 (NIV)


PAN AM Sailing Footwork

pan am sailing

On Board

The windsurfer races on a board,

On water in the wind.

His feet ride and steer in the chop and the swell;

Windsurfing, by nature, is elemental.

The rider watches the wind, its direction and speed.

Two feet planted so his hips can turn.

Facing upwind, the cold starts to burn.

Hands steer the boom, arms straight out.

He stands, bends, and leans as need be.

He takes the weight off both feet, switching them up.

The wind blows high; he curtsies low in the curve.

Weight forward to his toes, his sail foot hits his back leg.

Watch the luff! Take control! He brings his weight inboard,

Slips the new front foot forward; he knows where to go.

Done slogging, now hydroplaning, the fun begins!

It’s like low-level flying up on this board.

Front foot forward, lean in, back foot across.

Shoulders squared up to his knees and hips,

Can’t look down or he will get tossed.

He feels with his toes and maintains his grip,

Pivot at the ankles! Press on the toes!

Twist the front foot forward, up to the nose.

Point the toes! Get the weight off the board!

Get the speed up, flatten the board, ride it on the edge!

Heading upwind, finally on flat water and in control.

He lifts his front heel, forcing its arch in the strap,

He sees all his toes. OK good.

Weight riding fine on the ball of his foot,

He feels with his feet, the water’s not choppy.

His body moves left as the rig moves right,

His back foot’s flat, not carving the turn yet.

Ready to jibe; feet to the tack.

The wind picks up, his pulse instep.

Foot straps on, plane sailing ahead.

[Apologies to true windsurfers.]

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Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever.   1 Corinthians 9:25 (NIV)