Tennis: Use the Ice Cream Grip for
a More Consistent Service Toss

Developing a consistent toss is a common problem when teaching beginners how to serve. Unless the ball is tossed into the correct hitting area, it will be very difficult to hit correctly.

Traditional Palm-Up Grip 
for the Service Toss
Traditional Palm-Up Grip
for the Service Toss
One reason for an inconsistent service toss is the use of too much wrist action - this often causes the ball to be thrown backwards over the server's head.

Another reason is a premature release of the ball -- before the arm is fully extended. This results in the ball being thrown upward from a low position rather than being "placed" in the ideal location from a hand that is already above the server's head. Again, wrist action plays a role in this mistake.

Reducing Inconsistency
One way to correct this problem is to change the grip on the ball during the service toss. Instead of holding the ball with the palm facing upward, as is traditionally done, arrange the fingers as if they were holding an ice cream cone - with the tips of the thumb and forefinger touching each other and their top edges facing upward. Place the ball on top of the thumb and index finger for the toss.

Coaching Cue

The Ice Cream Cone Grip
The Ice Cream Cone Grip
You can use the following coaching cue to teach the tossing action. Instruct your students to rapidly lift the tennis ball upwards while keeping the ball level -- as if they were lifting the ice cream cone straight up towards the sky.

This position eliminates the use of the wrist during the toss. And it necessitates a full extension of the arm in order to get the ball into position. It reduces the chances that overhead and thrown tosses will occur, and serves should become more consistent as a result.

References: 1. David Cartwright, "Lift up and ice cream cone on your ball toss." Tennis, November 1988.
2. Richard Wigley, "Service toss.",12/10/01.

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