Exploring the Game

Posted: November 8, 2011 in Coaching Concepts, Mental Training, Teaching & Learning
Tags: , , , , ,

Due to a few conversations this week the theme of “exploring the game” has been bought up quite a lot in regards to players on court performance and development.

When a player is learning a new skill should the player be exploring this skill’s usage within the game?  In my opinion yes they should otherwise the skill is not worth having.  For example in learning to contact the ball on the forehand the overriding theme is contact.  There are many ways to contact the ball that will result in the ball being sent in different directions, with different flight paths and with different spins.  For a player to fully master the skill they have to experience all of the possibilities (3D).

Exploring will teach the player what currently works, what did work and surprised the player, what didn’t work but might in the future, what I am confident with and so on giving the player a full view of the game that is at their disposal.  In doing this and experimenting will in the end be priceless to the player as they will understand what they do best and when and how.  They will have stamped their personality on the game and be able to deal with situations that occur however demanding.

This isn’t as rosy as it first appears.  What an ideal development approach this is and wouldn’t it be fantastic if all players did this.  Well they can, it’s just that there will be obstacles in the way that we as coaches will have to deal with as they present themselves.

As an example there is a boy at the club who is a magnet for the net and he loves to get there.  He is sometimes successful and sometimes not but he is learning when it is appropriate for him and what shot’s he needs in order to be successful approaching and playing at the net.  He is happy to try this in matches too and is sometimes the reason for losing perhaps when other options are better suited.  Is this really a problem?  I think that is up for debate really as I quite like to see the exploring but where the result is important it’s not great.

In other scenarios players who can explore the game a lot due to high skill levels may end up trying things that again cost them matches or points.  Is this really a problem?  Depends on age, experience and goals maybe?

I think my approach is to constantly encourage players to explore the game in a variety of situations and pressures.  Something I have not really done is guide them to understand what works when and allow the player to construct an individual game plan.  I have tried to be as open and encouraging of individual style and personality as possible but I think there is still a need to define tactics and decisions in terms of educating the player (what works, could work, why that didn’t work).

Thoughts are much appreciated.  I know this post is a bit flaky but could be interesting…

Speak soon,



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