This is a saying I have found myself saying more and more in recent years. The sad thing being I have found myself saying it with a heavy heart.
What am I seeing when I see someone who I think has received a lot of coaching?
- Wooden strokes
- Posed finishes to their strokes
- Poor movement
- Very little variation in their play
- Very little adaptation skills
- Very little problem solving skills
I do not take any pleasure in writing this. In fact, I feel bad as I know certain coaches may take offence to it. So, as with most of my blogs, if you take offence to this, I DON’T MEAN YOU 😉
So if I don’t mean you, then who am I talking about?
I am seeing a lot of coaches churning out the hours on a daily basis. I am hearing many coaches say they are coaching up to 10 hours per day. With the best will in the world, any coach is not giving their best for each of those hours if they know they have 10 hours to complete in a day.
What this leads to is a lot of coaches being attached to their baskets and standing feeding the same ball over and over again. Their brains switch off and their imaginations switch off. They forget what the game demands of players and think more about self preservation. They become like a human dynamo, no movement, no energy, no light!
Tennis is universally recognised as one of the most demanding sports in the world. Just one of the reasons being it is, most likely, the most open skilled sport in the world.
You never know, exactly, how the next ball is going to be hit and this means you never know where it will land. You have to be so adaptable to play the game. You have to cover a seriously large piece of real estate, understand what is happening to you, what you want to do to your opponent, the ability to carry out your intention, the ability to read the impact of your shot on your opponent and then the cycle continues.
There is no skill acquisition research, that I know of, which suggests rote learning is the most effective way to learn any motor skill, let alone a skill within an open skilled sport with huge variation.
Don’t get me wrong, repetition will lead to some learning and it is necessary in spells but tennis is not like this. Our job as a coach is to maximise learning.
A basket drill can be brought to life by using:
- a story
- scoring system
The illustration below provides a simple way of making a basket drill come to life:
Motivation is a massively important ingredient for learning. When a player understands where the skill fits into the game, they are more motivated. Painting a clear story for any basket drill is vitally important to increase the chances of maximum engagement from the player.
The most important aspect of any skill is the ability to recall under pressure. In a tennis match, the player is having to recall their skills within the cycle of start – move – hit – reposition so it is vital we, at the very least, respect this cycle when practicing basket drills.
In my opinion, ideally, coaches would then move on to opening out this drill and going into live ball where decisions had to be made. It could then move on to constraints led coaching and/or conditioned points (I’ll save that for another blog).
In terms of the 10 hour days, this is yet another indication of the tennis coaching industry needing to be professionalised. We cannot continue with this ‘gig economy’ model with self-employed coaches filling their diaries with as many gigs as possible. We need to look at other industries and check out the delivery models they use. The fitness industry is approximately the same age as tennis coaching and it is light years ahead of us.
We need to start with the end in mind, we want healthy tennis players AND healthy coaches.
In summary, I believe coaches have a duty to offer the very best service they can to their players. Part of this service is ensuring the product offered simulates, as close as possible, to what they will be required on the match court. It is possible to basket drill with tactical realism and with high quality coaching. This is more stimulating for the player and the coach.
Coaches, take note, if you are choosing to basket drill a child, teenager or adult because they do not possess the skills to rally…… then focus on developing their skills to be able to rally…. feeding a ball straight to their strings is like giving someone an umbrella in the sunshine and then taking it away when it begins to rain….
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