Posts Tagged ‘Tennis’

Hi All,  Firstly to those who read Tactical Movement thank you and thank you for the great feedback also.  I have written this as post publishing Tactical Movement as some interesting thoughts came up and I wanted to share this mind field with you all.  Enjoy!

Applying Pressure Vs. Defend/Rally/Attack

I am sure that many coaches have done some variation of the “defend, attack and rally” drill and the purpose of this is not to dispel its use but to offer some thoughts as to ways to make the best out of it.

I have used this exercise from a player perspective, i.e. the player who is choosing to rally, attack or defend and also where from the opponent perspective where the player considers what his/her opponent is doing.

With young players the wording and their connotations have caused me a few issues along the way.  The word attack is the primary offender as to very young players they associate this with ball speed.  Attacking tennis must be played hitting the ball faster, and in many cases causing errors and quite drastic ones at that after all the work they have put in to create this “attacking” opportunity.  Similarly defending is considered to be slower than rally and that rally is medium, again all related to ball speed.

Rally by definition is a ball that keeps the opponent in a neutral position, ideally preventing “attacking” options and also not requiring any defensive mechanisms.  This suggests that two players can rally from neutral positions and that the ability to rally from many positions on the court, providing they maintain the opponent neutral is also rally.  As the competency of rally grows we end up with professional players rallying at extremely high levels which can be perceived as attacking play but really it is rally, just they are good at it.

With younger players there is obviously a wider rally potential and that the match up of players where one player rallies the other defends or a rally ball from one player is seen as an opportunity to attack, meaning that they are not rally balls at all.

This leads me to thinking that the desire for high quality rally balls is of great importance and not from single position but from all over the court (to include rallying on the move).

Time and Space

Tennis is really a game of time and space and controlling both parameters.   These two parameters appear in varying situations.

  1. The time available for a player to manage the space in which they must move and execute
  2. The time and space required to effectively recover
  3. The effect of this on the opponent

Example

Hitting into a space causes the opponent to have to manage a distance (space) in a certain amount of time.  If the space and time is managed well by effective reaction, court coverage and selected footwork then the player will be able to execute an effective shot maintaining rally.   If not then the player must adopt defensive techniques in order to solve the problem of lack of space and time.  The player must be able to create suitable time to recover.  Depending on the management of space and time the player will be able to exploit the space and time of the opponent who will have to manage their space and time to counter.

A player will be comfortable rallying in certain situations and at a certain level and will also have a programmed view on when it is possible to attack and similarly when to defend.  However, player’s choices of these may be contrary to our views.   A player may choose to defend when in fact they could rally and hit a more effective shot given that they had or could have the physical and technical competencies to support this new tactical desire.

There are times in a game where a player will utilise varying ball speeds, spins, flights etc in order to manage their space and time and also to have some impact on the opponent’s space and time.  All degrees of these can be used in any of the three situations although some will be more desirable than others. This is where pre conceived understanding of rally, attack and defend can cause problems.

In essence a player will resort to defending when they feel it is necessary and similarly attack.  It is worth considering whether when a player resorts to defence the player could rally and that surely the player would want to rally before defend where possible.  Also in considering attacking there are more options than just increasing ball speed.

The Pressure Scale

I have thought about using a pressure scale as opposed to Attack, Rally, and Defend in order to encompass more options within play.  In an ideal rally situation both players are 50/50 in pressure and arguably at zero pressure (or the centre of the scale).  A player can apply a pressure in numerous ways by exploiting the opponent’s space and time using a variety of ball speeds, spin, flight, direction etc.

In any instance a certain amount of pressure is applied to the opponent (simply because they now have to deal with and execute their tactics).  In rally the opponent’s goal is to play a shot that keeps the opponent neutral and hence brings their pressure back to 0.  The opponent will want to manage the space and time by covering court efficiently and within the given time frame created by the oncoming ball, apply a footwork pattern to firstly execute and secondly allow recovery, play a shot that allows appropriate recovery and cover the said court again efficiently.

Both players have fluctuated up and down the pressure by applying and feeling pressure.  There has been no need to defend and no player has been able to attack?  Simply pressure has been applied and managed.

Controlling points

Through the application and management of pressure which links seamlessly to the management of space and time which is underpinned by effective tactical movement players can understand how they can control points.

Points are constructed by searching for ways to increase the application of pressure.  When serving, there is chance for the server to apply pressure from the outset.  The returner aims to neutralise and the players will be somewhere on the pressure scale post these shots.  When both players are at the back of the court players will look to construct a point by testing the opponent’s space and time and when appropriate apply more pressure.  This could be through repeated shots to a weakness, playing the ball side to side, injecting pace, using angles and a whole lot more.

This suggests an overwhelming importance to consider rallying in a wider context and also to consider the other 2 situations (attack and defend) in more holistic way.  For example a player may finish the point with a drop shot having constructed the point through consistent rallying exploiting space and time.

Quality Factor

There is of course a variety of quality in play from mini tennis through to professional levels and therefore there becomes a quality factor that at all levels must be considered. Andy Murray’s rally ball is of a much greater quality than mine and within that match (if it were to happen) I would find it difficult (maybe impossible) to rally and apply pressure against him.  Similarly my rally ball will affect certain players in the same way.  The qualify factor dictates that a player can manage the space and time well enough to execute a stroke that manages the pressure and applies a certain required pressure to the opponent.

If two players are rallying but one can maintain a higher tempo than the other, the player with the lower tempo or lack of sustainability at the higher tempo, will break first through error or opportunities to apply pressure.

I am sure we have all seen a player who can get to ever ball and get it back with seemingly low quality but the other player makes the error first.  There could be a few reasons for this.  The player with the lower quality shot is managing their time and space well, although presenting opportunity for the opponent to apply pressure.  The opponent sees this opportunity but tries to apply pressure through pace and continually increases this pace until the error appears.  This, I would consider, to not be very smart play.  The player has neglected rally and assumed the old meaning of attack, instead of applying more and more pressure through direction, controlled pace and spin etc where undoubtedly the opponent would be forced to strive for higher quality or alter tactics.

A player will want to be able to inject pace into the ball in order to reduce time for the opponent and there is a time and a place for this as is there for any other shot.  It is the point of the shot and the way the space and time is managed that will affect the outcome.

Limitation model links

My limitation model suggests that the 4 performance factors (technical, tactical, physical, mental) each limit one another, the tactical factor being the one that provides purpose for the others.

Taking the rally concept the tactical outcome would be to be able to rally over increased distances and in varying court positions under certain degrees of pressure.

The considerations that follow are

  1. To what degree can the player do this?
  2. What techniques are working and which could do with some help?
  3. Is the player covering the court?
  4. Is the footwork choice appropriate?
  5. Does the player recover effectively and to an optimal position?
  6. Does the stroke keep the opponent neutral and apply sufficient pressure?

Although there is a racket requirement to handle to sending of the ball there is also a heavy movement and footwork requirement which precedes it.  In order to rally in such a wide context a player will need a host of physical ability including applying certain movement techniques and footwork patterns to achieve the tactic.  If players are doing this well then the racket skill can be optimised.  Ideally it is all done in conjunction at the same time.

Considering this in a holistic manner to include the 4 performance factors players will understand what it is they are trying to do and also understand the progressions that you employ as a coach to improve certain areas within the whole game.

Note on Mini Tennis

This idea can be worked on within mini tennis red, orange and green and of course full ball.  The idea being that if a player can rally from behind the baseline with a sponge ball can the player rally on the move?  Can the player manage the space and time on the red court?  Can the player use a variety of shots to manage pressure and apply pressure?

I believe that a player in mini red can do these things and that this is what will effectively allow players to reach high levels.  If a player struggles to manage space and time on the red court how can you justify moving to orange?

This last part on mini tennis is to put the logic of keeping children in the stages for as long as possible in order to fully develop the skill set and understanding of the wider game.  It is possible for a player to be behind the baseline, using a variety of shots to play the game, managing space and time and looking for ways to exploit space and time of the opponent.

Thanks for reading!

Advertisements

Download my latest article (1st draft) on tactical movement (tennis).

Tactical Movement

Feedback welcome!

P.S it’s quite long..:)

 

 

Hi All,

Recently I read our club newsletter and in the staff profiles it said that I was the “Performance” coach.  As nice as that is I started to think about the wording and the message that this sends to the members, in particular the juniors.  In addition to this a few coach friends had mentioned that they prefer the “development” coaching.

I became confused (this is not difficult for me).  The words just don’t make sense and I will begin to explain why.

“Performance” tennis seems to refer to the “talented” ones or those that show a greater degree of competence at a certain age or stage.  “Development” seems to be considering everyone who does not fall into the “performance” category.   This infers that there is a transition a player can make from development to performance tennis?

Having done some thinking on this development can be linked with improvement.  This makes it independent of standard or skill competency.  Simply every time a player is on court with a coach the aim is to develop or improve as a tennis player.  Performance coaching is a redundant term as the goal of the coaching sessions is still to develop and improve the players tennis.    After all a coach is aiming to develop the player to improve the performance within a match.  This is the case always.  If not then there is a question to be asked as to what the point of coaching is.

Some issues that come up in my own head is that not everyone is at tennis coaching to try to become number 1 in the world and of course the vast majority won’t realise this but that does not take away the fact that they all have the right to learn to play tennis.  Develop their skills to improve their performance when they play the game.

There will be degrees of coaches who specialise in certain areas but in the centre I work in every player is in development (as primarily U10) even those reaching national standards.  Every person who enters the centre is in the same boat of wanting to play tennis and therefore they have the right to be taught and developed.

Coaches, whatever the qualification, experience etc should all be aware that they can teach people to play tennis and play tennis well.  Whether the player is once a week  or 4 times a week a player must be taught as this will allow the player to realise success.  Success will breed enjoyment and enthusiasm.  Circumstances in terms of money and parental interest play a part in the whole rate of development discussion but still foundations can be implemented to future proof the players.

I see myself as a both performance/development as my primary goal is to enable everyone who steps on my court to learn and improve at tennis which means developing technique, tactics, physical capabilities and a mind set to play the game.  the players I work with are good but that is because they have been taught and they have learnt and worked hard to improve.

I am a coach with the goal of producing tennis players (whatever that means).

 

 

 

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

Tennis  Movement Training – Phase 1 – Vector Training

Download Phase 1 Simple Tennis Movement 

Introduction

Tennis is a dynamic sport requiring a host of skills in order to play the game well.  Alongside techniques of strokes, tactical understanding and mental abilities is that of movement and footwork.  These would come under the heading “physical” but is more than simply going to the gym and crunching weights or running on a treadmill.  Tennis movement is specific and in phase 1 the aim is to introduce you to simple movement concepts that you can improve and that will also double up to improve your fitness.

3 Vectors

Movement in tennis can be broken down into 3 vectors.

  1. Forward & Backward
  2. Lateral
  3. Diagonal

Vectors must have direction and a magnitude.  In this case we look at direction and 2 “magnitudes,” distance and speed. 

Movement Steps

Tennis movement can be simply broken down into 3 or 4 distinct types.

  1. Side steps / shuffles
  2. Cross over steps (X overs)
  3. Running (fwd/bwd)
  4. Dynamic Cross overs (combination of X over / side step)

Within the game you will be required to use all of these either in isolation or in a complex combination.  Within phase 1 of Tennis Movement Training there will be drills to develop and enhance all vectors and movements

Download Phase 1 Simple Tennis Movement 

Hotspot System Setup

To know if you are improving you need to measure the drills. Hotspot can help you do that and provide accuracy and repeatability so that you have the confidence that you are improving.

To use the Hotspot system with the drills outlined is simple.

  1. Use the mode button to select “COUNT” mode (Press start to confirm)
  2. Set the number of dot’s to be hit in your drill
    1. Remember if you use the “0” start mode the first dot starts the timer and is not included in the total count
    2. You can return to dots after 0.5s, be sure to include all of the hits in the drill
    3. Press start to confirm and use the mode button again to select the “0” remote start
    4. Press start and go!

Download Phase 1 Simple Tennis Movement 

Skill vs. Application Training

So having discussed the performance factors and there networked relationship we have discovered that an association between them and the activities we ask of our players.  There is an overall goal of the work, whether a single session or a block and that there must be drills and exercises that relate to and are part of the overall goal in terms of the factors.

In coaching there are discussions and theories that have been shown to work and this is not to dissimilar.  For example in teaching a skill one can break the skill down into a number of parts that progress from the isolated simple through to the complete and complex.  Along the way players add more and more to the skill until it is complete or satisfactory.  In another model a skill is taught as a complete whole execution and then areas are identified to improve and then put back into the whole motion.  This is referred to as the “whole, part, whole” approach.

In this approach I use some of both (I think).  The method is simply broken into two distinct areas, skill training and application training.  As I mentioned in the performance factors article there are activities that are useful to develop one or more of the factors and that the association is important in the understanding of the player.  Here I take the notion of learning a skill or set of skills that impact the overall desired outcome.  For example in learning the forehand to achieve over an in at high quality one must have a variety of skills including physical strength and coordination, body manipulation, footwork and movement capability, racket control both backswing, forward swing and through contact and an appreciation of court position and aspects of the received/sent ball such as spin, flight and pace.  This is a whole host of requirements but as we have seen from our endeavours on court not out of reach.

Simply put I have created these areas (skill / application) that implies building a skill set that can be isolated such as footwork, functional body movements (related to technical requirements), ball control that are tools for use.  Progressing through drills and activities that move closer and closer to play encourage use of the appropriate tools and of course mastery of the skill set.  Each tool that is provided in skill training has its use in open play and drills in between are there to further encourage the use of the correct tool.

In an attempt to be clearer a drill may have emphasis on footwork and that this is the primary learning objective.  Attempts are made to improve footwork or the skill and that the rest is of lesser importance.  In the same drill the emphasis could be on racket control to generate certain spins and flights.  This time the footwork is of lesser importance.  It is important for the player to understand the focus and whether the goal is skill based or application based.  If application based the payer is requirement to focus on outcome i.e. depth or number of balls in for example and that the tools the player has must be recruited in the best way possible.  The coach may notice that certain tools are weaker or are not functioning as well as they should and create a skill exercise to target that.  Of course these activities are interlinked with the performance factors and associated with the overall desired outcome.

Cognitive Vs. Physical Player Development

This idea has come about due to recent experiences in the development of some of my younger players in addition to the desired outcomes of the mini tennis structure.

I would firstly like to mention that this is not a critique of the mini tennis concept as I believe personally that it has a great place as a coaching tool.

I have found that the ability for a young player (aged 6-8) to develop technical and physical competencies on the mini red court and increase these abilities through the mini tennis ball and court progressions is readily available.  The degree of technical ability is high and I personally believe that this should be the main goal the early stages of mini tennis.  The interesting development of tactics and strategy are not as obvious and this is where I think the competition structure and ratings etc come into disrepute.

We have all seen players who demonstrate great technical capability struggle to win matches against players who are not as technically developed and we put this down to lack of tactical awareness of mental factors.  I am speculating that the tactical options available due to the high degree of technical ability are not cognitively understood by such young players.

I have seen players who can simply retrieve the ball due to the slower game and by luck or judgement (mainly the foremost) the ball’s result is one that is not common in the game in older age groups exactly what the aim of developing a player long term is.  As a result of players who win we see players with high rating’s that have serious work to be done later but who gain a false understanding of their ability and in fact the opposite is true where a player who is deemed to have a high degree of technical ability believes they are in fact rubbish (for want of a better word).

The conversation of long term development with players and parents is a constant one to reassure players and parents.

Another aspect of this is that when working with a player of this age and wanting them to experiment with learning objectives in competitions the outcome is one of wanting to win irrespective of development (understandably).

The question of the slower ball and smaller courts encourage tactical awareness and creativity is true to an extent it falls down massively in practice.  I think in theory this is a reason to have players compete however the results based ratings contradicts that of development.

The tactics that we see are the basics such as “over and in”, “move your opponent” and play to the weakness namely the backhand side.  This is comprehendible by a young player but moving the play from one situation to another to allow this seems to be not as obvious.  Since in education there is a progressive learning model i.e. we don’t study calculus in primary school for a reason, it could be that the tactical expectations are simply beyond the understanding of a 6-8 year old player.

There are obviously other aspects of sport to be gained by competing but potentially the emphasis of winning (ratings) should be lost until players are able to understand how to use the tools they have or are developing.  This would in the long term develop a far greater and higher quality of player as they are able to experiment and explore the game without the pressure of winning or losing.  Just because a player wins at young ages I am sure does not correlate with success at the older ages or in fact guarantees participation.

All in all I adopt the philosophy of high degree of technical development at a young age and later maybe U12 bring more of a tactical focus to the development using and tweaking the current tool set.  As players find areas more and more difficult or become aware of the needs for the game players are then subjected to techniques to achieve desired results and tactics.  This doesn’t mean to say there are no tactic’s at all at young ages as there always must be a tactical element to learning but it is appropriate to the learning age (not chronological).  Players are then expected to try and experiment with these learning objectives free of outcome expectations.