SHOULD TRAINING BE ‘FUN’?
Any good development coach knows lessons should be fun.
Seems straight forward enough, but is there a bigger picture
to comprehend? One of the advantages of perspective I have
is Directing a public tennis centre. We get players of all
levels, ages and abilities, most coming for recreational
tennis. On the other hand, we are also a designated Tennis
Canada High Performance centre so we see that side of things
Getting better is the objective
The primary goal of lessons is to learn and improve.
Without improvement, players (and parents) will soon see
the lessons are taking them nowhere. To improve, players
need an environment with the critical elements of Goals,
Repetition, and Feedback.
Goals: The old adage goes, “If you aim at nothing, you will
usually hit it”. One can?t really improve if they don?t know
what they are shooting for. One trap development coaches
can easily fall into is to give goal-less lessons and drills.
Activities without direction.
Performance coaches know how important goals are and also,
the measurement of those goals. The best performance coaches
I know are „measurement freaks?. They (and their players),
are crystal clear on where they are at, and where they need
to get to.
Repetition: One recent revelation in performance training is
the concept of „Deliberate Practice? (Click here to see the
acecoach article). The 10,000/10 year rule of required
practice to master anything, is well established. Players
must get sufficient repetition to build the mental and motor
patterns required for high level performance.
Development coaches would be wise to ask the question,
“What are the players repeating most in my lessons? I
know many stories of coaches who improved their lessons
immensely after realizing what the players did most were
things that didn?t improve tennis much.
Produced by Wayne Elderton, a Tennis Canada National Level
4 Coach, Head of Coaching Development and Certification in
BC and Tennis Director of the Grant Connell Tennis Centre
in North Vancouver.
Tennis is a challenging game to play. The key to playing is
getting over the „rally
hump?. Once a player can exchange the ball, the world of
tennis opens up for
them. Hitting a perfectly fed ball anywhere into the full
court is not rallying,
holding a racquet up at the net and having the coach
basically hit it with a feed is
not volleying. Not to say these activities can?t play a
role in development but,
things need to get to the goal of playing. The ITF defines
it in the tag line for the
Play and Stay initiative, paying tennis is to ‘Serve, Rally,
In other words, without improvement in the relevant technique
required to play,
my tennis life is limited
By Wayne Elderton, acecoach.com
SENSATIONAL COACHING: Kinesthetic Learning in Tennis
It has been demonstrated that people take in information
in 3 basic “Learning modes”; visual, verbal, and kinesthetic
(sensations and feelings of movement). Coaches typically
are more comfortable and familiar with the verbal and visual
Although the power of visual learning is well documented in
motor learning, it really has maximum effect only in the
initial stages of learning technical skills. Within a short
time, the kinesthetic mode takes over as the primary learning
mode. If a player cannot „feel? correct technique, they
cannot perform the skill on demand, modify it when required,
or practice it on their own.
How can coaches switch from using visual and verbal
communication to helping players feel what they need to
perform successfully. The key is to not teach, but rather,
help players learn.
THE KINESTHETIC PROCESS IN LESSONS:
When a player performs their shot, they get “internal
feedback”. In other words, they have a perception of how
their body, arm, and racquet are moving. The challenge is,
their perceptions may be incorrect (their body may lie).
For example, a player may think they are swinging low to
high when in fact their racquet path is quite level.
Where a coach becomes valuable in the learning process is
to provide “external feedback”. The coach becomes a mirror,
letting the player know what really happened (e.g. “Your
swing was level, drop your racquet more under the ball and
come upward more exaggeratedly.”)
The goal of the coach in this process is to keep working
with the player back and forth until what they feel
(“internal feedback”) matches what the coach observes
(“external feedback”). Once they really feel what they
do, they are able to modify and self-correct if required.
They will be self-sufficient (which should be the goal of
every tennis player since coaching is typically not allowed
during competition). This process is what I call, “bridging
the gap”. Depending on the athletic ability of the player,
they may have good, or poor, awareness of their movements.
“It doesn?t matter what you know, if you can?t feel it, you
can?t fix it”.
An effective coaching technique to use to bridge the gap is
called “Scaling”. The coach gives a range (e.g. “If 10 is
the hardest you can thrust upward with your legs on the
serve, and 1 is no thrust, what would you rate the serve
you just did?”). Once the rating the player gives (from
their internal feedback), matches the rating the coach
gives (from the coach?s external feedback), the player?s
learning will accelerate since they accurately feel what
is actually occurring.
ADDRESSING THE MIND vs ADDRESSING THE BODY
In a typical lesson, coaches will often address the player?s
mind. The false assumption is, if the player understands what
to do and why, they will be able to perform correctly.
It is common to hear coaches repeating the same instruction
over and over again (e.g. “Prepare your racquet higher,
prepare your racquet higher!”). Often, a tone of frustration
can be heard in the coach?s voice as they can?t understand why
the player, „doesn?t get it? (especially after they explained
and demonstrated it so well).
The truth is, the player?s mind absolutely understands however,
their body doesn?t know what correct performance feels like
so there is no way for the player to know if they are doing it well (e.g. they may feel
like they are preparing very high when in fact they are not).
The coach may start by addressing the player?s mind, but must
soon switch to addressing their body. “It doesn?t matter what you know, if you can?t feel
it, you can?t fix it” is a quote that is applicable.
To make correct performance of a technique become automatic,
it takes plenty of repetition. All coaches agree, a player
must, “hit a million balls” to become good. Every repetition
grooves the technique (whether poor or good). But, even poor
repetition can be a stepping stone to better performance
if the player felt how they performed incorrectly, and the
difference between the incorrect and correct performance.
Developing an ability to feel correct performance provides
players with a reference they can use. It allows them to
have a goal to work towards. They can feel what they did
and, if it didn?t match the correct performance, modify it.
One way to connect the mind and the body is to use
“analogies” to enhance understanding. These are common
movement feelings that players may already be familiar
with that can be tapped into. For example, many coaches
use the analogy of throwing a ball to transfer to serving.
Analogies build a „word picture? that can connect all the
Learning Modes (visual, verbal, and kinesthetic).
By Wayne Elderton, acecoach.com
ATTITUDES OF EFFECTIVE TENNIS PARENTS
1 Constant Improvement, not Comparison:
It is never healthy to make a big deal over little Jenny beating little
Maria. Parents who get caught up in the status of, “who beats who”
can easily infect their children as well. Far too many parents have
given their kids complexes about playing certain other children.
The attitude is to improve constantly. Comparison to others is a poor
gauge for improvement in the development stages.
The most effective parents only compare their child’s performance with
their child’s past performance. The idea is to convey a value of
2 It should be about the child’s journey, not the
If parents become too emotionally invested in their child’s tennis, they
start to live vicariously through them. One telling sign is when the
parent says, “We won the tournament on the weekend”.
The most effective parents don’t attend every practice and
competition. They explore what their kids are going through with
open conversation. They support them win or lose and don’t attach
their status to their child’s success. They don’t project the adult
pressures of their needs being met through their child’s tennis.
3 In Practice, what they Do is always more Important than who
they are with:
Parents may get caught up in the fallacy that their child always has to be in
groups with better players. Firstly, it has to be seen that this attitude can
kill any group programs a facility sets up. What if the other ‘better’ players
in the group have the same attitude?
The most effective parents respect their child’s coach, communicate with them
clearly, and avoid ‘lobbying’ their coach to place them in certain groups.
4 Attitude determines Altitude:
The most effective parents don’t let poor behavior or sloppy training
habits slide just because the child wins. Use tennis to make a great
human being first, a tennis player second. Tennis trophies will only
come for so long but character lasts a lifetime. They use tennis to
develop their child’s character and leave the tennis to the coaches
5 Understand the real ROI (Return on Investment):
If the ROI expected is in the form of wins, ranking, success,
or money, the parent’s motives are misplaced.
If the ROI expected is for their child to become a mature
adult and be able to use tennis as a school for life, then
their approach is the correct one.
By Wayne Elderton, acecoach.com