Tennis Industry magazine

 

Review: Super Coach

By Dave Bone

Super Coach is a one-machine company, but that one machine is the first we’ve ever encountered that really can feed any ball a person can. It offers a seemingly endless list of features and settings and is designed to withstand a lot of use and last a long time. It is great for use anywhere that has secure, dry storage space. It does not have a battery, so it must be plugged in during use. The Super Coach sells for $7,495 and comes with a two-year warranty. To contact Super Coach, call 408-855-9644 or visit tennismachine.com.

Super Coach

Assembly

The Super Coach is quick and easy to assemble. However, at 121 pounds, it weighs enough that it has to ship in a wooden crate, and it needs to be delivered by a freight company with a pallet jack, as opposed to a parcel carrier.

Once it’s out of the crate you just have to affix the ball basket with four wing-bolts and attach the handlebar. One small inconvenience is that Super Coach asks you to keep the crate for re-use if you should need to return it for repairs. This is a pretty big box to have to hold onto.

The sturdy 10-inch inflatable tires make the machine easy to roll around. In fact, the size of the wheels and the tall handlebar even make it relatively easy to move up or down stairs. The machine comes with a plastic outer body that reduces rust problems, but it does not include a cover. The machine is surprisingly small considering all it can do. With the ball bin and handle off, it will fit on the seat of most cars.

Use

We filled the Super Coach to its 200-ball capacity. Balls exit the machine through a large opening in front, which is necessary because the shell of the machine is stationary. The opening is wide enough to allow ball feeds to both corners of the court and tall enough to allow feeds from line drives to lobs. The opening has a plastic shield to stop balls from entering the machine from the front. It is possible for balls to get stuck in the opening, but most just bounce back out.

The hopper has a stirring device to keep the balls moving and help avoid jams. The stirring action tends to knock balls out of the bin when it is full. Unfortunately, the machine we received had problems with the stirring device and Super Coach had to replace the piece by mail twice before we got one that worked properly.

This is the first machine we’ve seen that allows you to program different types of speeds, spins, timings, and trajectories within a drill. The Super Coach offers the ability to adjust ball speed, feed frequency, topspin and underspin, power, elevation, and oscillation, and features a remote control, 30-shot programs, and program memory. This means that there are a lot of buttons on the control pad, which can be intimidating. But the machine comes with three users manuals that explain how each of the features work. You just need to set aside some time to read the manuals because some feature adjustments are complicated and require quite a few keystrokes.

The machine also offers 10 pre-programmed six-ball drills designed for recreational players and seven professional-level drills. You just select which drill you want to do and tell it what level player you are and the machine automatically adjusts the trajectory, spin, speed, and timing of the shots. The 10 drills designed for rec players worked well, but it is hard to imagine even tour-level players who could perform the professional drills for more than a minute or so.

The Super Coach is unique in that you can adjust the calibration of the machine, for instance, if you want to adjust for use at different altitudes or using different types of balls. Once recalibrated, it’s also easy to reset it back to factory settings.

Remote control

A two-button remote comes standard to control ball feed, and it works well from the other end of the court. We were able turn off the ball feed until we reached the other side, so we did not have to waste balls. And you can stop the ball feed when balls have started to gather around the players’ feet.

It would have been nice if the keypad could be used from farther away. This way a coach could adjust the program for the machine from the other end of the court. Super Coach tells us they do offer a long cable version.

Feed tray/interval

The 200-ball capacity seems a little small considering this machine is capable of feeding balls so quickly that multiple players can be drilling with it at the same time. Since you can program drills of up to 30 balls, you can only do the drill six times before you have to refill the hopper.

We experienced no ball jams in all the hours that we used the machine, and not many misfeeds. And we were impressed with the way this machine handles misfeeds. If a ball does not drop through the hole, then the feed mechanism does not move to the next feed direction. So, if the machine is feeding alternating forehands and backhands, you don’t get two forehands in a row, just a delay between shots. This comes in handy if you have multiple players doing a drill.

The interval between shots can be adjusted to any amount of time you want. When using the drills that come built into the machine, we found the timing good for simulating groundstroke rallies, but too slow to simulate volley rallies. Luckily this timing can be adjusted.

One interesting aspect is that the machine automatically schedules a delay (which can be adjusted) between repetitions of a drill. This is a great feature especially if you are developing 30-ball programs. This delay can give you a chance to catch your breath before you repeat a drill, or give you time to move one player off the court before the next player starts the drill.

Spin/height

The Super Coach can feed a ball with topspin or underspin to any part of the court. At full topspin, the ball drops quickly and really takes off when it bounces.

The height of feeds is adjustable from deep, high lobs to line drives. However, adjusting the height of the shots is fairly complicated, so unless you really plan ahead, you will probably end up using the pre-installed height settings for different levels of play.

Oscillation

Oscillation worked smoothly and quietly, moving from one direction to another quickly, to any part of the court. Oscillation is controlled by programs that you can customize, which comes in handy if you have multiple players hitting at the same time.

When the oscillation is engaged, the outer body of the machine does not move, so it is harder to tell which direction the ball is about to be fed, a nice feature that makes it harder to move before the ball is fed. Finally the machine offers a random feed setting to simulate match play.

Programmability

Perhaps the most impressive feature of the Super Coach is the almost unlimited programmability. The machine uses a large keypad that can be removed for security. The machine also comes with a sturdy stand to hold the keypad and has a slot in the back to protect the keypad from balls being hit back.

There is virtually nothing that this machine cannot be programmed to do. The basic programming is fairly simple and can be learned quickly. However, advanced programming is what really makes this machine special. But this advanced programming is pretty complicated, requiring many keystrokes.

We recommend not trying to do advanced programming while you have players waiting. Instead, this should be done ahead of time so you can make the necessary adjustments to the program. But once a drill is successfully programmed you can save it into memory. The machine even comes with pre-printed sheets to help you decide how to program it.

One drawback, though, is that each keystroke takes a moment to register, so even when you become efficient at programming, you can only go as quickly as the machine allows.

Conclusion

The Super Coach is the most amazing machine we’ve ever used. There seems to be no limit to what you can do with it. It is pretty expensive, but it is easy to imagine how this machine could help you make more money and quickly pay for itself.

The limitless programmability makes it truly special, but make sure you are patient enough to make all the necessary adjustments and plan ahead to get things just right before you use it in a lesson.

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About the Author

Dave Bone is the CEO of the U.S. Racquet Stringers Association, and co-publisher of Racquet Sports Industry magazine.

 

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