Bruce Tarran: “Mini Tennis – How a Good Idea Got Complicated”

Written by: Bruce Tarran

__________

***Bruce Tarran is an LTA Licensed Professional Tennis Coach. He is currently Head Coach at Leicestershire Lawn Tennis Club, an 18-court members club in Leicester, England. He was a county and regional coach for many years, and individual coach to a large number of county and national juniors. His last two clubs were awarded LTA performance status. He believes that there are few pleasures in life like watching children learn to love tennis. For more information, please visit www.tarrantennis.co.uk or http://www.youtube.com/user/Tarrantennis.***

__________

A few months ago I put some videos about the negative effects of the current British mini tennis structure on youtube. They have now had around 15 000 views. Just over 100 British tennis coaches wrote to me about them. 6 disagreed completely, 3 said the problems lay elsewhere, and the rest either strongly or broadly agreed with the videos. It can’t be taken as a representative survey, of course, (although my experience is that people are more likely to write when they disagree!) but it would seem that the majority of working British tennis coaches have, to put it mildly, some reservations about aspects of our mini tennis structure.

As elements of this structure are now being rolled out around the world, it seems that the experience of British coaches who have worked under this system should be taken into account. Let me say straight away that I believe low compression balls and appropriately sized racquets and equipment are superb teaching tools when used appropriately. The problem isn’t the balls; it’s the complex system which has been constructed around them.

[yframe url=’http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ztsnasbo-0k’]

Good teaching demands progression. It must allow for children to be grouped together by standard as well as age. The mini tennis competition structure insists that players are grouped together by age only, so, according to their date of birth an 8 year old cannot play with a 9 year old who cannot play with a 10 year old who cannot play with an 11 year old. Each age must play with a different ball on a different sized court, without mixing and regardless of their standard or rate of improvement. It is not the transition balls that are bad, it is the prescription placed around them.

In competition different ages are not allowed to mix. There is a passport system where players can supposedly move up (from red to orange, for instance). But in practice because of the number of competitive matches required in a short space of time, this happens in a minimum of cases. Most British juniors compete in their designated colour throughout, whatever their standard, and whatever their ability or skill level.

Because each colour covers a single year this reduces the size of competitions. This particularly affects girls who generally much prefer, at a young age, to play against other girls. Instead, because fewer girls than boys play tennis anyway, they are forced to compete primarily against boys and this has decimated girl’s competition in some areas at a young age.

[yframe url=’http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wV3ATX0jWrc&feature=related’]

[yframe url=’http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VKPOmIne7W8&feature=related’]

About 1% of tennis courts in Britain are indoors, yet mini tennis is often marketed as an indoor game. Certainly indoor mini tennis, particularly with the sponge balls for starting reds, is superb, but the vast majority of junior tennis in Britain is played outdoors and adapting mini tennis to the British weather is rarely discussed.

[yframe url=’http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M_IqNb6AMnw&feature=related’]

In general I have had a wonderful response to these videos, in Britain and across the world. I am very grateful to everyone who has taken the time to write to me and show an interest, whatever their point of view. I believe that discussion and debate are good – prescription and inflexibility are bad. In my opinion it is a mistake to put a complex, prescriptive structure around what is basically a superb teaching tool. Using the appropriate low compression balls with appropriate sized racquets can bring fast progress, but this progress may then demand the flexibility to move the child on. Good teaching demands flexibility – and therefore striving for a less prescriptive and rigid system is essential in the best interests of the child.

Next Gen Tennis League promises exciting matches

The Next Gen Tennis League again saw some great tennis last weekend at The Credit Valley Tennis Club and Burlington Tennis Club. This promises that Saturday the 24th will feature some exciting matches and very competitive tennis. All three matches will be played on Saturday October 24th, with Team Byte Network Security facing Team Hydrogen at noon (Burlington Tennis Club).

ITF Men’s 85 World Team Championships Renamed the Lorne Main Cup

Toronto, October 13, 2020 – The International Tennis Federation (ITF) announced on Tuesday that, as of 2021, the Men’s 85 World Team Championships will be renamed the Lorne Main Cup after the late Canadian. Lorne Main was selected for the honour following a unanimous vote by the ITF Seniors Committee, and approval from the ITF Board of Directors, after his name was put forward by Tennis Canada as part of the nomination process.
 

A New Reality By Nicolas Pereira

This past week in the World Team Tennis ‘Bubble” I have seen the efforts to keep everyone safe while carrying on a team competition with around 60/70 players and coaches onsite. Counting organizers, officials, media, and support personnel are around 150 people trying hard to make this happen. I am very impressed by how the strict protocol has been handled and how everyone is invested in making this event a success, but The Open is a completely different scale of details.

WEBINARS
VIDEOS
ARCHIVED NEWS
Yves Boulais: No Excuses… Get Working

Yves was proud to work with players including Greg Rudsedski, Patricia Hy, Oliver Marach, Eugenie Bouchard and Rebecca Marino, who achieved excellent results on the world stage. He was an Olympic Coach in Barcelona 1992 & Atlanta 1996, and Captain of the Canadian FedCup Team 1998 – 2000.

Update on UK Tennis Situation with Master Louis Cayer

I would like to share a mindset I instil in all the players I coach, one I believe has greatly influenced all of the player’s performances; “whatever happens, I can handle it.” This mindset is achieved through a systematic, tactical development process, so that whoever the opponent, whatever the surface, regardless of the environment, or scoring, the players can, and will rise to the challenge as it is presented.

Tennis Guru, Louis Borfiga Shares What Makes “A Good Coach?”

Many are asking this question, each with their own opinion, their own truth. In reality, it is difficult to answer with certainty, as the evaluation method can vary from one person to another. However, when you think about it, when you look at the references in the field of coaching in various sports, there are certain common and fundamental elements that I will describe to you here…