By Lynn Leong, U.S. Junior Women’s Assistant Coach
The boast is one of my favorite shots to play. While some people, especially a lot of parents of juniors, think the boast is a bad shot to hit, that is really not the case. It can be a bad shot, but only when played at bad times or if it’s hit to make it land in bad places at the front of the court. But as you improve, the boast can help you open up the court to set up other shots, and it can help you force your opponent out of position. Here we will talk about the purpose behind the boast, while improving your technique should be done with your coach and using drills and conditioned games.
At the 3.0 level, players have discovered the boast as a way to get out of trouble in the back of the court. Instead of allowing the ball to die in the back corners, the 3.0 player begins to use the boast as a defensive shot to keep the ball alive. However, body position is a common problem because 3.0 players tend to play the ball too far forward in their stance or find themselves leaning over backwards. The key to improving the boast is to allow the ball to travel deeper to give yourself a better angle on the shot when hitting into the side wall. To work on the boast, use the boast/drive drill regularly when on court. The purpose of this drill is repetition, improving technique and focusing on your footwork to improve your body position relative to the ball before playing the boast. Solo practice is also valuable, and pay attention to not using your wrist while hitting the boast.
At the 4.0 level, players have become comfortable with the boast—to the point of overusing it. In other words, the 4.0 player tends to boast themselves into trouble as they begin using it every time the opportunity presents itself. To improve, the 4.0 player should begin thinking about the tactics behind the boast and realize that while they can win points with the boast, it is also an excellent tool for opening up the court and moving their opponent into positions that force them into weak returns. The boast at the 4.0 level is particularly effective for girls and women simply because they are not quite as quick, in general, as men—it can leave your opponent scrambling to the front and hitting a cross court. To continue improving and understand the effectiveness of the boast at this level, continue working on the boast/drive drill, but also play conditioned games like the two quarter-court game—limit your options to the back right and front left, or the back left and front right. This will help you to understand that sometimes hitting the ball straight is the better option which, in turn, will make your boast more effective.
At the 5.0 level, you have been mastering the boast and have sound understanding of the tactics behind it. At this level, players use the boast as an attacking shot as well as a defensive option when needed. To continue improving, the 5.0 player should continue working on perfecting the shot from various positions on court—back corners, mid-court and the front where the trickle boast can be very effective. Also perfecting the ability to vary the pace when playing the boast is important. The attacking boast needs to be more severe to make it harder to retrieve. The 5.0 player, and higher, understands that the boast is just another tool for moving his/her opponent to different places on the court with the purpose of setting up the next shot. Continue using the boast/drive drill and a “rotating drive with an option to boast” drill—you can hit straight or boast from the back corner, but the person playing from the front must drive the ball straight, so you will then rotate to the other side of the court.