This article serves to give players and parents an overview to the modern game of tennis, some of the psychological barriers to watch out for and what to look for in finding a coaching relationship that is enduring and successful.
THE FOUR PILLARS
There are four KEY areas to development. This is too broad of a topic for a welcome package, but we just wanted to give a brief outline.
Excellent technique allows simplicity and accuracy as well as reliability. This is a never ending journey of refinement, growth and seeking out improvements. It must be noted that Technique cannot win you matches, decisions on where to place the ball, the ability to hit targets when tired, and the emotional ability to hit the ball to the right places under pressure are what make winning at the highest level possible. So while we constantly try to improve technique, we want knowledge of where to place the ball, and emotional control to grow alongside it.
With that being said, having a big selection of shots means the player will have more variety, and have more tools to disable even the most ambitious opponents, and as such we want to develop very complete players technically and in terms of number of shots they play well.
2. Physical development
The game is as physical as ever, and it takes focused, consistent training to prepare the body for the rigors of modern competitive play. Flexibility, core power, ball recognition speed, eyes and hand speed, heart lung capacity are all subjects you will work on in this category.
3. Emotional development and conditioning
This is the most interesting topic for me, as it ultimately decides the future of the athlete. There are a number of skills that the athlete must hone, and here are just a few:
- Discipline- across the board, from controlling the body when forming a shot, to sleeping habits, to nutrition, to filtering thoughts.
- Perseverance. As we mentioned earlier, gratification can take an incredibly long time in this game, and the player needs to understand that frustration and failure is a natural part of this process, in fact ones ability to deal with these two factors is a huge determining force is the ultimate outcome
- Problem solving
- Decision making and leadership
- Toughness. As simple as it sounds, relentless, unshakably, incredibly determined and just plain tough.
- Energy and positivity. These two commodities are interlinked and not spoken about enough, players who are able to motivate themselves, and can access a supply of mental energy that turns into physical output, will clearly do more every day than those who don't, ensuring a much higher productivity rate.
4. Knowledge: The how to that comes with experience
- How to win when your forehand is completely off
- How to beat a counterpuncher
- How to cycle your training so you peak at certain times
- How to build emotionally on a flat day, so you end with a remarkable emotional state
- How to handle jetlag
- How to stay hydrated
- How to use someones eotions against them
- How to is the culmination of ones skills, and it all boils down to the ultimate compliment in the sport " THIS GUY REALLY KNOWS HOW TO WIN"
THE IDEAL PRACTICE ENVIRONMENT
The biggest secret to success is building the correct training environment. Having trained in France and Spain, and coming from a country known for its dogged athletes, one of the key things I remember is the silent promise from everyone in the group to train for the whole. If I make 50 balls and the other guy makes fifty balls, we both push each other’s level, raising us both. If I hit a winner on every second shot, the other guy gets grumpy and starts sulking, no one gets better that day. At the end of the day, if I aspire to be top 100, I need to have a culmination of skill that is just a little better than the guy who is currently number 100. Otherwise I will be 101 and he will keep his spot.
Your training is geared towards this accumulation of skill, not who wins or loses on the day, but how high you can push the level of tennis. Good leadership is required, and players must be taught to lead by example!