Friday, October 18, 2019

HOW TO PLAY AGAINST A COUNTER-PUNCHER





AT A HIGHER LEVEL EVERY PLAYER LOOKS GOOD. The top players seem to attack every point aggressively with big full swings on every ball. Their mindset seems to one of all-out aggression, with the goal of finishing points quickly


Likewise, their defense is at times miraculous. When you are attacking them, these top players seem to be able to change into defense and hit incredible winners from impossible positions in the court. During your match you begin to see this same scenario repeating often. Your attacking game is being ripped apart by your opponent’s incredible defense skills!


YOU COULD BE PLAYING A “COUNTER-PUNCHER” PRETENDING TO BE AN ATTACKING PLAYER!


Sometimes when you review the match later you begin to realize that actually your opponent seldom hit winners from offense. You begin to realize that the full swings he/she were taking were a type of disguise. While looking and sounding scary they weren’t actually your opponent’s main source of points. Most of their points were coming from defense, particularly their counter-punching whenever you attacked them!


YOU HAD BEEN PLAYING A COUNTER-PUNCHER AND YOU DIDN’T REALIZE IT!


I liken this to a fly being caught in a spiders web. You had continually player into the hands of the counter-puncher each time you attacked them.


Therefore, Step #1 “Know That You Are Playing A Counter-Puncher”


If you are unaware that your opponent is setting you up for the counter-punch you will keep playing into the same trap.


Counter-punchers need not be skinny nerds wearing thick horn-rimmed glasses. They can be muscular specimens with huge serves. Don’t be fooled by appearances


Which leads to… Step #2 “How Do You Attack A Counter-Puncher”?


The short answer is… with caution and intelligently

Any time you attack an opponent there is an element of danger. Offense usually involves you going inside the baseline, even as far as the net. With some opponents you’re going to win the point often this way. The sheer intimidation factor is enough. These opponents will give you lots of free points when you attack them… but not the counter-puncher!


When you attack the counter-puncher you are entering their world. You think you are controlling the point but you’ve actually played yourself into a world of trouble, and you’re in danger of getting tangled in thei web.


That’s the warning to be cautious! Now here’s how you attack a counter-puncher intelligently.


Playing offensively against a counter-puncher requires you to juggle 4 important dimensions successfully, all at the same time and on every point… (yes, it’s mentally very exhausting). The 4 dimensions to coordinate against a counter-puncher are:


Speed:

You need to get your speeds right. The counter-puncher will prefer you to attack them at a certain speed (fast or slow). Learn the speed they prefer and give them the opposite speed!


The counter-puncher wants to take the speed of your ball and hurt you with it but if you don’t give them their preferred speed you have neutralized one part of their “web”


Angles:

Your use of angles also needs to be done intelligently. Let’s first consider the counter-puncher themselves.


Attacking the counter-puncher wide will show you their preference for passing shots. They will try to pass you either down the line or cross-court and again, they will prefer one of these options over the other.


Once you begin to see their preferred option on the passing shot you can set-up a trap (web) of your own!


Now let’s consider the angles you will be giving the counter-puncher. As you come forward to attack the counter-puncher you need to make a decision on either  going wide to the forehand, backhand or through the middle (into their body).


Again. Whether you attack the counter-puncher wide or through the middle will depend on what you are learning about their preferences as the match unfolds. Once you know their preference, give them the opposite.


Height of the contact:

The counter-puncher will try to get the ball as low as possible to as you come forward. They are trying to make you lift the ball and create a high bounce at their side of the net to help them pass or lob you.


You’ll need to play these low balls they are giving you intelligently. Do not dropshot these balls. Instead push these balls deep, either to a corner or down the middle (remember “Angles”).


Position of your feet for Contact:

Be aware of how far you are positioned over the baseline at all times. The closer you are to the net when you contact the ball determines how offensive you are in each particular  point.


Likewise, if you can keep your opponent’s feet as deep in the court as possible while attacking them the chances of them passing you or hitting a winning lob are reduced


Counter-punchers are tricky opponents but the important thing is to identify them early in the match (if you haven’t already seen them play previously). Once you know you’re up against a counter-puncher your task is every bit as mental and strategic as it is physical








Thursday, September 26, 2019

COMMON COACHING PHRASES I USE ON-COURT




An important coaching tool I use every day is the repetitive use of phrases. These common phrases help the student and I stay on the “same page”. They can also be used to set the tone of the lesson in terms of intensity.


Here are some common phrases I use and the meaning behind them


 “COACH YOURSELF”!
Every lesson has a purpose and often that purpose is introducing new techniques or patterns to the player. Once the new technique or pattern has been explained I’ll most likely go straight to live points and challenge the player to reproduce the lesson topic while under pressure.

To do this successfully the player needs to recall the key parts of the new technique or pattern and what I tend to do often is gently nudge the player with “Coach Yourself”! I’m asking for self-awareness, self-discipline and I higher degree of focus from the player when I say this. 


 “YOU’RE BETTER THAN THAT”!
Rather than being a negative statement I use this phrase to demonstrate to the student that I believe in them and I believe in their ability.    

I’m telling them that I expect better and they should too!


“YOU’RE NOT HERE TO PRACTICE”!
This will sound strange I know! What I am trying to do with this statement is to get the message to the player that winning is important, even during our “practice sessions”. 

I don’t see any point in treating points during practice or tournaments differently.  Points are to be won… otherwise why play them?

Often the players I’m repeating this phrase to during practice sessions are having trouble competing in tournaments mentally. I’m attempting to change their mindset from “I’m practicing to improve” (Future) to “Points are to be won, not practiced” (Present).


 “HOW DOES THAT FEEL”?
I’m constantly asking players how they feel in practice because I desperately need their feedback on new techniques or patterns they are trying to adopt.

From their feedback I am able to either help them immediately with a solution, or stand back and let them continue to develop further at their own pace. 

I gain understanding from their answer. 


“DEMONSTRATE TO OTHERS WATCHING”
Often a player learning a new technique does so better when they are asked to observe themselves from “outside”, as a bystander would. This “observer” mindset helps them overcome their lack of confidence in performing the new technique correctly.

If they are applicable to the particular lesson I’m doing, I’m repeating these phrases often. I’d rather repeat the same thing often than talk non-stop on a variety of themes. That’s confusing for students. 

Be careful to always keep the scope of your on-court verbal instruction to a minimum if possible. The student has to focus on many things when they practice and therefore if your instructions are too frequent, they have no opportunity to self-learn.




Monday, September 23, 2019

THE "X SIX" PRINCIPLE FOR TENNIS PARENTS





AS A COACH THE LANGUAGE I use is important. Something said the wrong way on court can have a negative effect on the player, while compliments tend to have a more positive effect.

I use the “X SIX principle” when talking to players on-court or whenever they have just finished their match. 

The “X SIX principle” means that anything you, say either as a parent or as a coach, is magnified by six times in the head of the player. It is therefore always important to filter your comments through the X SIX “filter” and imagine how your comment will be perceived if multiplied six times.

An example could be if, as a coach or parent you remarked that the player had missed many first serves in the match (which could be completely correct), and told the player this soon after their match. The result of that comment could be disastrous (remember the X SIX Principle) because the player could take the comment as a personal attack on them and their ability. Done repeatedly over time, these seemingly harmless comments around the practice court and during tournaments create a poor dynamic between the parent and their child.

Examples of this breakdown in the relationship between parents and their children are plentiful in tennis.

So, what to do?

Every young player, and many players not so young, want their parents to be parents first, and not their coach. They need separation from their tennis careers and their family life.

After a long day training or playing matches the player wants a safe space to relax. They may have played well or poorly that day but they don’t want to review the whole stressful account of the day in the car going home. They need the ride home to be their safe place.

As a parent, continually getting involved in a post-match autopsy that goes over every negative part of the match will at the very least turn the child off tennis and competing, but a much more serious outcome is that it could permanently hurt your relationship with your child.

Another unwanted outcome is that your criticism will eventually creep into your child’s demeanor during matches in multiple ways that could include forms of fear, anger issues and a general lack of motivation.

Here’s a two-step method for every parent to follow to help eliminate these negative issues already present in their child or to stop them developing in the first place:  

Be a Parent First
I remember my daughter being on court in matches and thinking how lucky I was to have a healthy, motivated daughter participating in sport. I used to think of how many children in the world that didn’t have the same opportunity to play tennis because of health issues or the fact that they had to grow up in a country where war or poverty restricted their ability to live normal lives. And here was my daughter playing tennis! Be eternally grateful for the opportunity to watch your child play tennis!


Use The “X Six” Filter
Before you make any comment to your child about tennis (at home or around the courts) use the “X SIX” filter on what you are about to say.

Do this by running your comment through in your head before you speak. Still want to say it? Ok, go ahead… otherwise put your comment away and leave it out. As you start to do this you will find that many of the things you would have said previously to your child regarding their tennis really didn’t need to have been said at all.

It’s not easy being a tennis parent and there are no manuals to help you know what and what not to do. Define your role as a parent (not as a coach). Apply the X Six filter to your communication whenever the subject of tennis comes up and your child will develop into a mentally well balanced competitor.


Tuesday, September 17, 2019

TRAINING RECALL IN YOUR PLAYERS





I’m not a fan of using repetition to practice when training players. I use repetition drills very rarely. Repetition drills are when a player has to hit many balls one after the other, either from a basket feed or with someone at the other end giving you the same ball.



Repetition drills contain very little that is similar to match-play. I understand it looks good to people watching the lesson from a distance outside the court and on Instagram posts but repetition drills offer very little to players wanting to develop a new technique or pattern for their next match.



Often coaches feel that they have done their job by showing the student the new technique and then drilling it many times through repetition. They believe the transfer of information (the new technique being taught) from practice court to match court should happen automatically and is the players responsibility.



This is false. It’s the coach’s job to introduce the new technique AND to create a “Bridge” to match-play so that the player can integrate what they have been taught.



Part of creating that “Bridge” is the ability to recall the key elements of the new technique.  By training the recall abilities of the player you are ensuring a smooth transition from practice court to match court.

 

I focus mostly on training a player’s RECALL of a new stroke or match-play pattern. Here’s an example which can be used by you for any stroke or pattern you desire…



“John” was trying to improve his serve so that it’s a bigger weapon and can do more damage to his opponent in matches.



I worked with John on his front foot, in the knowledge that a technically better front foot will improve his timing, feel and power, and that will translate into a much better service weapon.



This is the stage I deviate from conventional training methods. Many coaches would have John hit from a basket, perfecting the serve and the front foot in particular for the remainder of the lesson.



This is the “Repetition Method” of teaching a stroke. With basket repetition the player is solely practicing technique by means of muscle memory.



Training a player using the “Recall Method” is different and much more effective than the repetition method, especially later when the player needs to use the technique in matches and under pressure.



Here’s how I trained John’s ability to Recall the key elements of the front foot. There were 5 key components I used that you need to be aware of when training your players:



1.    Common Errors

John and I took note of the common errors that were occurring as he tried to implement the improved front foot during the serve. 


One of those common errors was his tendency to shift his weight onto, and off his Front Foot too quickly during the serve. John was rushing the technique and needed to spend more time on top of his front foot during the service motion.

By identifying the most common errors that occur the player can focus on these common errors and be more aware of their remedies




2.  Strengths and Weaknesses



I asked John which service target was his least preferred option when serving and he told me it was the serve down the “T” (middle) on the deuce side.

This is where we focused our attention mostly in the drills and points that followed.


Make the player aware and practice those vulnerable parts of a player’s new technique that have the potential to cause problems later in matches




3.  “Point” focused

After a very short time of showing John the front foot technique we very quickly progressed to playing points.

The reason is I see no value in repeating the front foot technique many times from a basket, when under match conditions later other factors will be tested. Those “Other Factors” cannot be tested while hitting from a basket.


If you are training tennis players always remember that tennis is competitive and includes scoring… all new techniques must be taught with the understanding that the new technique must help the player win points and that it must hold up under pressure in matches.



4.  Consequences

If there were no consequences to us making errors or playing poorly what would be the point in trying to improve!


Creating consequences for John helped him improve the front foot faster. While playing points John was faced with the following consequences (you can try to introduce these consequences to your players also):


SCORING: Because we played points and kept score (short tie-breaks are perfect), if John’s serve didn’t perform well he lost points and obviously then found it difficult to win!


RESULT: If John didn’t use the front foot well the ball tended to go long over the service line (out). If he used the front foot well the serve would be much better. 


He got immediate feedback on his new front foot technique based on the whether the ball went in or out – consequences!


DECISIONS: Serving from a basket (repetition) doesn’t involve decisions on what type of serve you want to hit. During the points the decisions John made each time he served had consequences.


He had to perform the new front foot technique AND make good decisions about the speed and placement of the serve and live with the consequences such as his opponent
attacking his 2nd serve, approaching net on the Return or simply continually putting him under pressure because his serve is not good enough.


Don’t wait and expect the “Bridge” from practice to match-play to develop automatically. It just won’t happen.



By teaching recall whenever you work on a new stroke or pattern you are ensuring that the player is prepared for up-coming both technically and mentally.


Tuesday, May 28, 2019

OPEN & CLOSED GROUNDSTROKES




LET'S BE CLEAR from the start, you need both options! Both open and closed stances have their advantages and disadvantages.
Here’s when it’s best to hit an open stance ground stroke and why…


1.  Better for higher balls because you can generate more power and maintain balance


2. Can help disguise your intentions on certain balls


3. Easier to recover from wide outside the court and return to the centre of the court


4. Helps maintain contact in front on deep and fast balls (returns)


5. Better peripheral vision 

When you select to play a closed stance ground stroke factors to consider are…

1.  Easier to play approach shots that are short and low


2. Helps to disguish mid-court forehand finish

3. Better suited to a later contact point


4. Preferred option on shorter balls through the middle

Nearly every ground stroke or return of serve you play can be hit with either an open or closed stance. It’s up to you to decide which option is appropriate for each ball.

Go ahead and experiment with both open and closed options and if you are weak on either of the two options take lessons from an experienced teaching pro so that you become more proficient. 

Monday, May 27, 2019

THE LONG LAST STEP



With the French Open starting this week there is plenty for us to pick up while watching the matches that will help us improve our own game.

One technique you will see a lot on the clay at Roland Garros over the next two weeks is “THE LONG LAST STEP”. It’s a technique used by the top  players to help with coordination, timing and balance as they move around the court to hit the ball.


1.           Momentum

When you run to hit a ball momentum is created. As you reach the ball that momentum has to be disciplined as you attempt to hit the ball

Because of the momentum of your body, this last step has to be longer than the other steps you used to reach the ball. 




2.          Balance

When you create a “Long LAST Step” you are trying to place a foot in a position that will support your momentum and balance you while you hit the shot.

This foot is called the contact foot and it needs to be wide…



3.          Line

What the best players do now is coordinate a Line from their head over top of their contact foot at the moment of contact.

This will give you perfect balance as you hit the ball which translates into consistent ground strokes.  



Tuesday, May 21, 2019

THE 4 ESSENTIALS FOR THE DEVELOPING PLAYER



The top players have few weaknesses in their games, and as I have said many times to reach the top it's really important you work on eliminating any weaknesses you may have.


Weaknesses in your game eat away at your confidence and usually are worse when you are under the most pressure and occur at the most unwelcome times.


The big picture when developing players for the future should also include working on strengths. 

Young players should be well rounded and be equally skilled in dealing with defensive and offensive situations.

Here are my 4 top choices when developing the offensive game of a young player:


#1 OWN A GREAT SERVE

Owning a great serve is a huge asset in tennis. If you can hold serve or even put your opponent on the defensive at the start of each point you will win a large percentage of your service games.

HERE'S WHAT TO DO...
https://thetenniswhisperer.blogspot.com/2015/01/the-two-must-have-service-techniques.html



#2 POCESS A STRONG CROSS-COURT GAME
 

Dominate the crosscourt exchange and you dominate the rally because you are constantly forcing your opponent to change out of the crosscourt exchange (to alleviate the pressure) and hit down-the-line. 

HERE'S INFORMATION ON THE CROSS COURT EXCHANGE
https://thetenniswhisperer.blogspot.com/2012/02/tennis-equivalent-to-boxing-jab.html


#3 HAVE A CONSISTENT RETURN OF SERVE

It’s not always possible to get every return back in court. But if you own a great return of serve you put a lot of pressure on the server to come up with something extra, either with their serve or during the rally. A consistent return of serve puts pressure on the server!

HERE ARE SOME RETURN OF SERVE ESSENTIALS
https://thetenniswhisperer.blogspot.com/2014/05/practising-most-important-phase-of-point.html


#4  CARRY A BIG FOREHAND

Having a big forehand allows you to finish the point whenever your opponent makes a mistake and allows you to step inside the baseline to attack.

Players today are involved in longer rallies and if you are given the chance to attack you must take that opportunity immediately. That’s the first step… recognizing the when you can attack.

The second step is to take advantage and use your big forehand as a weapon to finish the point.

Your opponent must fear your forehand and know that any mistake they make will be punished.

UNDERSTANDING THE PARTS OF THE SWING
https://thetenniswhisperer.blogspot.com/2014/05/practising-most-important-phase-of-point.html





Monday, May 20, 2019

INVINCIBILITY LIES IN THE DEFENSE...




The 3 most important words a player must remember are preparation, preparation and preparation.


Thorough preparation means that you are ready for whatever your opponent throws at you. It means that you will enter the match in the knowledge that you are ready.


But what form should your preparation take? How should you structure your preparation in the days, weeks and months before your matches?


There is an amazing quote from the ancient Chinese war lord Sun Tzu…


“INVINCIBILITY LIES IN THE DEFENSE, THE POSSIBILITY OF VICTORY IN THE ATTACK”

What Sun Tzu is saying in this quote is that you as a player or even as a coach need to work on the two opposites of Offense and Defense.  All too often players work on their offense. They train to increase the speed of their ball, the power of their forehand and the effectiveness of their serve.


Sun Tzu is saying that you must have weapons with which to attack your opponent. But he's also saying that you need to have the ability to defend equally as well also,

To better structure your practice sessions around developing both your offense and defense read the article on THE DNO THEORY by clicking on the link…