Written by: Wayne Elderton
***Wayne Elderton is acknowledged as one of Canada’s leading coaches. He is Head of Tennis Canada Coaching Development and Certification in British Columbia. In this role, he has provided coaching training to over 1500 coaches. He is a main contributor to the Tennis Canada Coaching Certification program and has also written articles and coaching materials for the PTR, Tennis Corporation of America, Tennis Coaches Australia, and the International Tennis Federation. He is a popular speaker at coaching conferences world-wide. He is a Chartered Professional Coach (ChPC) as recognized by the Professional coaching association, Coaches of Canada. Wayne has enjoyed considerable success in his career using the Game-Based approach. As a High Performance coach, he has led provincial teams to gold medals in the Canada and Western Canada Games. His players have won numerous national titles and many have achieved full scholarships at US Universities. Some have gone on to achieve WTA and ATP rankings. He has also coached 3 wheelchair players to top 10 world rankings and has coached Canada’s World Team Cup squad (Davis Cup for Wheelchair players). He is a key builder of the Canadian National Wheelchair Team program and created Tennis Canada’s Wheelchair Instructor Course. In 2006 he was inducted into the City of Burnaby Sports Hall of Fame in the coaching category. He is currently Tennis Director at the Grant Connell Tennis Centre in North Vancouver which was awarded the 2005 Canadian Facility of the Year for program excellence by the Tennis Professionals Association. For more information, please go to www.acecoach.com***
We have identified 4 main ‘pillars’ that are the foundation of advanced coaching:
- Learning tennis as an Open Skill
- Coaching in a Learner-centred way
- Utilizing a Game-based Approach
- Integrating the 4 Performance Factors (Psychological, Physical, Tactical, Technical)
In this series, we are delving into the, “Integrated Performance Factors” pillar.
To keep the Performance Factors in view, ITF hall of fame coach, Louis Cayer (with expansion from top coach Larry Jurovich) have created a ‘vision/mission statement’ for players. Just like with a company, the ‘vision’ part gives us a picture of the preferred future. The ‘mission’ element makes sure we have this as our major purpose. We introduced the statement last month which reads:
“A Performer who is a Focused, Competitive Athlete that Plays Smart with Effective strokes.”
In this installment, we will look at the specific definitions of each of the components. To fully understand them, it will take a lot of ‘unpacking’. We will do this in subsequent newsletters. The definitions have been fleshed out by top coach Larry Jurovich. These provide a framework to create learning activities and drills to develop each of the characteristics.
- Performer: “The ability to play up to your expectations of yourself under pressure.”
- Focused: “The ability to concentrate on the right things, at the right time.”
- Competitive: “The ability to maintain full effort under adversity.”
- Athlete: “Possessing the physical skills to be able to play effectively and efficiently.”
- Plays Smart: “Able to make effective decisions based on game-style, strategy and tactical variables.”
- Effective Strokes: “Ability to hit effective strokes with efficiency.”
The first three psychological characteristics are the vision for developing the person. The following three are to develop the player.
One doesn’t have to watch much tennis on TV to see that tennis is athletically demanding. Today’s tennis players have taken it to a new level. At the highest levels, every shot is an athletic adaptation to balls that are coming wider, harder, and with more spin than ever before.
Athletic development is an important key to play successfully at higher levels. There is a ton out there about developing power, speed, strength, flexibility, balance, coordination and agility. For this newsletter, I will just highlight a few key points:
Athlete first, tennis player second: Developmentally, it is better to build an athlete first and a tennis player second. Players who specialize in only hitting millions of tennis balls run the risk of not having the athletic skills to win at higher levels when athletic adaptation skills are required. They win only in the younger age divisions because they have hit more balls than their opponents. Once they are in older divisions where everyone can hit, and the challenge of the shots requires more athleticism, they get left behind. It is never a ‘waste’ of time to trade some hitting time for athletic development time. Especially with Red, Orange and Green U10 players, an athletic foundation is so important, a big chunk of the lesson time should be devoted to it. Also, keep kids in other sports as long as possible. Specializing in tennis unfortunately doesn’t mean they will be better players later on. The final big point is that the demands of the game have increased from years ago. A developed athlete is far more resistant to injuries and can recover faster if they do occur.
Coordination is #1: The other key piece to note is that coordination is the number one physical capacity that determines success in tennis (as identified in a German Tennis Federation study). Not so say that a player’s size, strength, etc. are not considerations, just that coordination is the priority. Since the most important 4-5 milliseconds in tennis is the moment the ball contacts the racquet, timing is critical, and the key requirement for good timing is coordination. Tennis athletic development is for a different goal than making the strongest and biggest player (who are not necessarily the most successful in tennis). Prioritize developing timing over your other fundamentals (including things like set-up and swing shape).
Effective & Efficient: The ultimate goal of all the athletic development is so the player can do what they want with the ball (called effectiveness). One has to move well and set-up appropriately for shots in order to make the ball their slave (as opposed to being a victim of the ball). Being efficient means that the player doesn’t waste energy, they can create, “power without effort”. The benefit of this is the ability to hit just as hard in the final set tie-breaker as in the first game of the match. Playing efficiently also means less stress on the body which translates to less potential for injury.
For coaches, the key is to keep in mind these athletic goals. We aren’t just building any athlete but, a tennis athlete.