Archive for the ‘Mental Training’ Category

I am very excited about writing this article as it has enhanced my coaching philosophy and approach ten fold.  I will try to explain the process and the reasoning as I go.

This evening  (Monday 20th Feb 2012) I took the protoype Response System to my coaching to see what the reaction (ha) would be to the system from a player perspective and also to see how my coaching would / could alter.

I set the system up for a 20 second work period, set up a square about 2×2 metres and explained that the light would come on and that they (the player) are to move to the corresponding dot.  Then they were to look for the next light and move to that dot and onward.  I also used the other features to stimulate, engage and challenge the players.

The first thing I noticed was that the players movement was really stretched by this implied reactive pressure.  The intensity level was through the roof and the enjoyment was great to see and they applied themselves really well to solving the movement puzzles presented by the system.

I trained 4 players in 3 different sessions and the differences between them were very interesting.

Physical competency played a part in the measured output of the players.  It was evident that from an anatomical / functional point of view that better posture and movement capability in all planes resulted in better scores.  I think this is quite accepted but probably missing from many coaching sessions, particularly sport specific coaching sessions (I am working on a series of articles to address this).

Most sports require some reaction to a stimulus and then to move and execute some action.  This reaction to the stimulus is of interest.  In most, “reaction” trainers that I have seen there is no requirement to move from position A to position B.  In this case, the reaction trainer, for me, has been a difficult concept.  With Response however, there is a requirement to move and this requirement can be as big or as small as desired.

The pressured style of movement that was observed suggested that the message from the reaction to the muscle groups was delayed and/or confused.  Interestingly, the players who could play tennis at higher tempos and more consistently were observed to move more fluidly in response to lights changing.   Over the part of the session I used the Response, I altered drill patterns and distances, exercises, the position of the lights (moved the system to the other end of the court) and created movement puzzles for the players.  This seemed to be very engaging and the work rate was fantastic.   Improvements were made with some confusions within the drills popping in and movement mistakes being made.

This provoked my thought process to consider the possibility that players thoughts were clouded when performing the sport and the focus was not on simply playing.  The idea of working with the subconscious is a concept that I was recently presented at Anatomy in Motions level 3 (Gary Ward).   Tennis is a busy sport and there is all manner of possible things players can be thinking about when performing drills, points etc that may have either effect on their outcome, i.e. positive/negative.    Thoughts associated with thing like where they are hitting, how they are hitting, does the ball have spin, oh no I missed etc.

When players observed a new light they automatically performed a split step and this was very prominent during the activities with response. However, when playing/drilling in tennis this step is sometimes missing,  maybe due to drifts in focus, time delays in the stimulus, relief after sending the ball back.  They likened a new light to the contact point of the opponent  and decided that they would shout the word “GO” as loud as possible in their head as they saw/heard the contact. The aim of this was to fill their head with the word and it’s noise thus impeding other thoughts to enter their mind.

The impact of this was that the movement and court coverage was drastically improved and I was able to really pressure them with the feeding.  Taking it a step further, I wanted to reduce the thoughts whilst hitting so we chose words such as “Bang” “hit” linked with breathing out through their own contact.  The words were again shouted to fill their head and when I asked what it was like, they said that the words took as long as the breathing out, BaaannnGG for example.  The aim of this was to allow the body to just do as it knows best.

Results again were good and the players had a really positive response to the work. We had stronger strokes, higher rally tempo, increased consistency not to mention more fun.

Conclusions

There is a place for reaction training and its impact and linkage to coaching and performance is great

Reaction is one thing but body function is a limiting factor where required to move and execute.  This means that, as a prerequisite or in conjunction with, there must be attention to the body requirements (in 3D).

Using stimulus as focus points, allows clearer thought and the body to simply do as it knows best.  It almost simplifies the messages from the brain to the body to more like “red light – body go” as opposed to ” red light – panic – pull levers – wait not that one – what about this one – ok that will do – come on – made it – dam it there’s another one”

It allows the players to just do and correct (attacking the subconscious effectively).

The Response is a great tool to engage players, make training useful and linked to the sport, provide significant challenge and aid in making performance related improvements.

It was a lot of FUN!

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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,

MAKE IT COUNT! h

Hi everyone. So this post is a regurgitation of a conversation I had with my friend and coach Yves Latreille. The hope is to provide some thoughts on the requirements and the training of the mental side of sport and in this case tennis.

For me this is a mind field (haha) that is extremely difficult to implement. I have asked questions etc about their performance and what they are thinking and feeling and have just received the answers I want to hear.

So the conversation started in regards to a player I work with that is experiencing difficulties in performing in competitions. the player is very talented and in my harsh opinion underachieves in competition. I can you all already that this could be influencing his state of mind. It might but I very rarely let him know that (or at least I think I do).

A link to another article on Yves’ site Mental Training

So I chatted with Yves and here are some thoughts.

Sometimes the player is over confident or in some cases under confident. This is something you can find out by discussing with him. Ask him/her questions about what he thinks of competition and how he/she approaches it. Try to find out how he/she feels before the match, the day before, just before he/she steps on court, during the match and after the match. Does the player feel confident, energised, up for it, willing to fight? Does the player feel afraid of losing or playing poorly? Is there player worried about what the coach will think or what his parents think?

As I thought more about this it became clear that it was imperative that I knew this stuff and the people around the player also knew this stuff!

Sometimes players can focus more on the result and winning the match that they forget about the process of actually playing. Yves referred to this as Competition Paralysed!

this is very hard work and Yves suggests being positive all the time with explanations of what is needed to improve the outcomes. As an example focus on the level of intensity in training. A simple scoring system of intensity and setting this as a match requirement or goal. The result is secondary or completely lost now.

When a player focus’ on the result this can paralyse the player not only mentally but physically. This explains the perception of not trying or being lazy.

We can tackle this by focusing on the intensity in points or drills and the relaxing between points or drill sets. Use the patterns of play and the focus of sessions to distract from the result and focus on the process. This can also be the focus of a match or competition. Next time the player plays set him to targets 1. focus on game plan and 2. focus on intensity (no matter what!).

Following this discussion came this…

players can interpret anxiety as a negative instead of using it as a challenge. Can the player identify all the things that make them feel this way? Can you find away to control them or avoid them?

Does the player know what level of arousal they perform best at?

So in conclusion

We need to allow players to learn how to avoid stress factors before competition, and during competition to learn to relax between points, (breathing techniques).

Set performance goals not results based goals. If you don’t set any goals be sure the player is setting results goals and this is where the problems occur.

focus on Intensity, relaxation between points and game plan!

Well there is some food for thought,

A link to another article on Yves site Mental Training

good luck and make it count x