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.”
The statement is in 2 halves. In previous newsletters, we have looked at the first half which is about developing the ‘person’. The second half deals with developing the ‘player’. This month, we will look at the final aspect which is the “Effective Strokes” characteristic.
We will define it as:
“Able to execute strokes that have the appropriate direction, distance, height, spin and speed to perform the intended tactic successfully with efficiency.”
So now, we finally get to technical stroking. Not to say it is the least important, just that other elements play a big part in successful competitive play. Good technique is the goal. However, what does it mean to have ‘good technique’?
For stroke-based coaches, it typically means looking a certain way (e.g. always having a good follow-through). In contrast, our definition is connected to tactics since, the main reason technique exists, is to execute tactics. Technique is second (in function of tactics) but never secondary. No player can progress to the highest levels of the game without technique that is functional. Functional technique is effective and efficient.
Effective: This means that the technique has the desired ‘effect’ on the ball. It allows the player to make the ball do what it is supposed to (defined by the 5 Ball Controls of: Height, Direction, Distance, Speed & Spin) in order to have the appropriate ‘effect’ on the opponent. The effect on the opponent is related to tactics. For example, to move them around, jam them, challenge their timing, etc. Looking ‘proper’ is of no use if it doesn’t help you make the ball do what it’s supposed to.
Efficiency: This means the mechanics of the body are used well (the appropriate links, in the right order) to generate momentum. When appropriate momentum is generated, it allows for power without effort. The advantages include:
When coaching this kind of technique, the goal is to let the task shape the technique. For example, rather than teaching ‘the forehand’, the coach helps the player to learn how to make the ball do what it is supposed to in the situation they are in. To illustrate, the smaller Red court would require a different technique when rallying than what Federer would look like from the full court baseline in a rally. The task is different. The technique should be based on principles rather than a ‘model’ to copy. For example, many coaches are fixated on the swing of the shot, their players try to execute the same swing everywhere (which is obviously ineffective). They tend to sacrifice more important principles (like timing) on the altar of the perfect swing. A coach using principle-based technique shaped by tasks would prioritize the most important moment of the stroke (timing at the appropriate impact point). This priority would mean everything else would be shaped around timing for the situation. Their movement, racquet & body preparation, swing size and shape would be adapted for what they are trying to do.
The simplest way to do this is to reverse the typical order a coach conveys information. In traditional coaching, the coach would show the forehand (and everyone would copy) then, try to get them to use the stroke. Instead, try to get them in a task (e.g. rally from service line to service line) and help them technically to achieve the task (e.g. rally consistently 10 times at a stable height at medium speed). As the task changes (e.g. rally from the Orange baseline, the full baseline, etc.), the technique would be learned accordingly.