No, this latest journal entry is not about a toy!
If you don’t know me, I am a huge believer in developing tennis players with a tactical focus. Tennis a game and I believe the most fun you can have on a tennis court is in playing the game.
With that in mind, I thought I would describe an acronym I use for both player and coach development. I feel I need to put in a disclaimer here. I am not the biggest fan of acronyms as I often think the words selected are chosen simply to make a catchy acronym. In this case, I am happy to share with you as the concept and the words used are very simple.
B – BALL
P – POINT
The reason I like this concept is it provides a clear pathway on how a player’s focus can develop once they have developed their skills. I’ll give one example to make this come to life.
To start with I’ll share how I define skills….
Skills – being able to
Yep, it’s that simple. If you are skilled you are able to do whatever it is you are talking about. We are blessed in tennis as there are so many things players need to be able to do.
In this example I will describe a player working on their long angle backhand. Have a look at the diagram to see how I describe angles on the court.
Black arrow – Down the middle
Green Arrow – Cross court
Yellow Arrow – Long angle
Blue Arrow – Short angle
Red Arrow – Extreme angle
It is my opinion, if a player views hitting a black arrow ball as a cross court they have lowered their standards. By having a simple way of referring to the level of cross court ball you can set much clearer pictures of what you want the BALL to do.
In this example, the player is working on their long angle ball (yellow) from just inside the baseline with a contact point of around shoulder height. The trajectory of the ball flight will be more shallow than normal. The ball will be hit with less top spin than their normal rally ball and finally the speed will be increased.
Mish mash all of this and it is clear to the player what they want the impact of the BALL to be. Then it is a question of seeing what needs to be worked on for this particular player.
Once they get a feel for the ball you can then switch the focus on to the impact on the OPPONENT.
This is the area I feel could have more focus from coaches. There is so much work done in basket drilling a particular shot with no player at the other end of the court. I appreciate this is important to get the volume of repetitions in the bank but there comes a time when the player needs to see the impact this shot has on another player.
A simple list to follow is:
- Does the opponent get behind the ball?
- Is the opponent using full mechanics on their next shot?
- Are they about to play with power or precision?
- How is their spacing between body and ball?
- If stretching, are they using their arms & hands or just hands
- What are their preferences in this position on the court?
You can add or takeaway from this list but when you mish mash all of these things together you can start to guide the player to a place where they can start to anticipate either what the player cannot do on the next shot or what they are more likely to do.
Next up is the effect that shot has had on the flow of the POINT.
There is no benefit to hitting a great shot if you don’t take advantage of it on the next one. Understanding the likely impact on the opponent means your player will understand where to re-position before the next ball and what their likely options with that next ball. This cycles continues until the point ends.
The great thing about this acronym is you can also use it for when your player is receiving the ball. The amount of young players I see who don’t seem to appreciate or respect the impact an incoming ball will have on them alarms me. Let’s flip this scenario and pretend the player has just received this amazing long angled backhand.
The ball is heavy and flat, your player cannot beat the bounce, their mechanics are compromised and they know they are in defence. What shot can they play which suits their game style and skill set? They know the opponent likes to attack-attack (keep hitting hard) so they play a short angled slice with no pace and recover tight on the baseline to the centre of the best 2 angles the opponent can hit. They have turned the point around.
I love watching players compete in the game of tennis. Regardless of the level, it is absolutely my favourite aspect of spectating. Therefore, this comes out in my methodology. I want players to fall in love with playing the game.
BOP it is just a simple little expression I constantly think to myself as I spectate. Coaches remember it and it provides lots of opportunity to have healthy discussions with your players for every possible scenario.
From here you have an infinite amount of possibilities to condition the points. I view this as simple as starting from the scenario you are practicing. Ensure both players are in realistic court positions and the ball you (or the player) feeds in creates the tactical situation you have described. You can then sit back and check if your player is able to understand the impact of BOP. If they don’t….. let them try again and if they continue to struggle with the problem solving, then you can go in and help them.
Go on, I know you want to, BOP it in your next coaching session and let me know how it goes.