Showing posts with label Tennis Coaching. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Tennis Coaching. Show all posts

Saturday, April 6, 2019

2 SIMPLE SERVE BOOSTERS!




If you can’t hold serve you can’t win the match 



That’s how important the serve is in tennis. Players with average groundstrokes but great serves have done well in tennis, particularly on the faster surfaces.



The serve is not a complicated stroke but it can be prone to break down under pressure in matches. It’s important therefore to understand the key elements of the serve so that under pressure you can focus on 1 or 2 things that will make it work for you.



Here are the 2 key elements I recommend you focus on when under pressure in matrches. Each of the two elements, if done correctly, will cover any problems you may be having with your serve.



THE FRONT FOOT:



The front foot is the “Bridge” for your serve. It’s the transfer point for your forward movement during the serve.



If this “Bridge” is weak or not operating well enough your serve will lack power, timing and balance.



The Front Foot is therefore responsible for…



1.   Supplying Power

2.  Is the source of Timing

3.  Creating Balance



THE WRIST:



The wrist puts the ball in. It adapts within the contact zone to meet the ball early, late. Left or right. It is the steering wheel for your serve.



The wrist also transfers the energy within the swing into the ball. Much the same as you throw a ball or crack a whip, your wrist can increase the velocity of the racquet head by accelerating during the swing.



The biggest single problem with most serves is a stiff/ locked wrist. Make sure your wrist is relaxed and flowing in order the transfer efficiently the energy sent to it by the Front Foot.



The Wrist therefore has 2 important functions when serving…



1.   Finding your target

2.  Accelerating the racquet head



Within these two techniques you have the answer to any problem you will experience.



During practice sessions focus on isolating these important two elements to solve problem issues that arise.



Wednesday, April 3, 2019

LEARN FROM ROD LAVER





MY FAVOURITE PLAYER  GROWING UP WAS ROD LAVER. 

What I admired most about "Rocket" was that he was just a normal guy, humble, down to earth and hard working.

During his career Laver was known for his ability to play his best tennis when it mattered most. He hardly ever lost a five set match.

Here are 2 ways for you to learn from Rod "Rocket" Laver:

#  1  Stay focused in the present. Allowing your mind to get too far ahead or beating yourself before you get on the court can be disastrous. Avoid the internal mind games by sticking to tactics and don't allow yourself to lose focus on executing them throughout the match.

Laver built up a reputation during his career of coming up with something special when a match got tight. Begin building your legacy in tight situations!


#  2  Simulate match pressure during practice sessions:  Train in a similar way to what you will experience during competition. 

Laver and many of his peers trained under the legendary Australian coach Harry Hopman. In his day Harry Hopman revolutionized  the way tennis was trained. He insisted on each one of his players being extremely fit, far beyond the norm during that era.

In matches Hopman was also famous for telling his players to "Relax and hit for the lines". 

This is how Laver trained under Hopman both as a youngster and while he was on top. By adopting a similar attitude and work ethic in your training also, you will be able to better handle yourself under difficult conditions in real matches.    

Monday, March 25, 2019

BE CAREFUL WHAT YOU SAY!



A coach can only do so much with a player who is experiencing destructive mental issues related to tennis competition.

Players who find competition mentally too much to handle and suffer from choking, low levels of self confidence or an inability to close out important matches are generally the victims of their environment. They are reflecting the environment they live in everyday when they compete in matches.

Prolonged and repeated negative mental issues in matches when competing as a junior player, also continue to be a problem for the player much later in life, even though the environment which has caused the mental issues in the first place might have changed for the better.


Considering a majority of competitive junior players suffer from an almost crippling mental war inside their heads, it would be fair to say that a majority of players never fully reach their true potential.

It therefore becomes clear that the  environment we grow up in when we start our tennis is critically important. 

Coaches can sometimes merely inherit the mental problems of their students, although in some cases coaches actually add to, or at worst create the negative mental issues.

This article therefore is for Parents and Coaches who need help in understanding how to avoid their child or student developing mental issues related to competition in the first place. It can also be a reference in how to handle players who have already developed issues mentally and ultimately how to reverse the problem.


A father recently messaged me while on his way to a tournament with his son. They were on their way to play the first day of the Nationals.

The stress in the car must have been considerable because his son had asked his father "What if I lose"?

His father had messaged me asking "What should I tell him"?

The most important thing for Parents and Coaches to remember is that in order to play at their best a player must enjoy the process of playing. Enjoyment unlocks the mind and allows you to perform to your potential. Any form of mental contamination will hurt your performance.

The root causes of contamination are broad but can include unrealistic expectations, unrealistic pressure, low self esteem, low self confidence and fear.

In my experience most of this is picked up by young players from the people they want to please the most, parents and coaches. It is therefore important to know now that what you say as a parent or a coach becomes extremely powerful... the emotion you send to a young player within your comments is magnified 5 times!

 IF YOU THINK THE SUBTLE COMMENT YOU JUST MADE WAS NO BIG DEAL, MAGNIFY IT BY FIVE TIMES... NOW TELL ME IT WASN'T MEANT TO HURT OR PUT STRESS ON THE CHILD!


I prepare myself to react to situations around players. I prepare for possible questions that may come, either in a few moments or in several days. I'm ready.

I also react to questions or situations in the third person. Often I observe myself speaking to a player from the perspective of the third person, monitoring my words, my tone and my body language.

Timing is important. Don't bring up possible stressful topics around stressful times, before or after matches for example. I'm not saying tough topics can't be discussed. I'm saying be smart with when you bring them up. 

DEVELOP EMPATHY FOR YOUR CHILD OR STUDENT

Parents often ask me what they can do that makes a real difference to their child's tennis. By monitoring how you act and what you say around your child you will create an environment whereby a happy, competitive player emerges. This is the single most important  ingredient in developing a successful player.

With enough awareness and empathy you will also be able to correct unwanted behavioural problems that have already developed.

Sunday, March 17, 2019

THE CRAZY GUY FROM KOREA





The Korean guy in the front row was losing control. 


It was 1991 and Beijing was the venue for the Asian Games.  We were playing for at least a Mixed Doubles bronze medal and Thailand hadn’t won an Asian Games medal in tennis for almost 40 years! Personally, this was the biggest match of my tenure as Thai National Tennis Coach.  


The Thai team of Wittaya Samret and Orawan Thampensri were in a match with a typically tough Korean team.  You can always count on Koreans to make it a battle.  They are always in great shape physically, mentally very strong and always 100% committed.  


I had encountered the Korean attitude in many events prior to this.  Players from Korea could sometimes over-step the boundary of what was considered good sportsmanship sometimes.  This didn’t make them any friends on the tennis circuit and I had even witnessed Korean coaches physically abusing players several times.


I’m not sure whether or not the guy in the front row was a coach attached to the team or not, but he was calling instructions between each point.  The rules of tennis clearly state that you can not communicate with the players in any way during the match, either verbally or with signals. 


Several times he had been warned about communicating with the players’ during the match but he continued to do so.  


I caught his attention and asked him to stop talking to the players.  He replied that he was not “coaching” the players which, even if true, didn’t alter the fact that he was communicating non-stop with them.



News of the match had also now spread to other sporting venues in Beijing and the Thai media covering the Asian Games started arriving at the tennis venue in anticipation of a rare tennis medal for Thailand. Every Thai television channel was represented and all the Thai newspapers were there. 


I already knew all the Thai media people from other events we had played and they had always supported me personally and written favorable articles about my work with the Thai team.  For them and me, an Asian Games medal was the icing on the cake.  



But there was still the matter of this crazy Korean guy in the front row!  As the Thai duo began to dominate, he got more and more irate.  Once again I asked him to stop communicating with his players.  This time however he began climbing the seats in front of me with the clear intention of punching my head off my shoulders!  As he climbed over the first row and made his way up to my seat he continued shouting abuse at me, the blood vessels in his neck bulging and his face turning purple. 


The media guys around me began sensing a much bigger story than the Thai Mixed Doubles team picking up a bronze medal!  Camera lenses were poised for the biggest scope of their fortnight in Beijing. I could visualize the headlines in Thailand the next day announcing “Thai Tennis Coach Involved in Brawl at Asian Games”.  


Thankfully other more sensible Koreans in the group had a firm grip of his jacket and pulled him back to his seat.  Several from the Thai Media were claiming “He was going to pick a fight with you”! Still concerned about newspaper headlines the next morning I deflected their concerns by down-playing the whole incident.  


Thankfully Wittaya and Orawan did win Thailand’s first Asian Games tennis medal for 40 years. 


For years after Beijing I never traveled to Korea.  I guess my early experiences put me off going there, believing that the place would not be that friendly and the people difficult.  When I did actually go there several years ago with players I was shocked to find one of the prettiest countries, and the friendliest people you would wish to meet.  What a contrast!  

During the month of May Korea is stunning

Today it would be my first pick of countries to live.  However if I ever did live there I might have to keep looking over my shoulder for that crazy guy from Beijing!

Sunday, February 24, 2019

THE ROLE OF THE WRIST ON THE SERVE



The wrist plays a really important role in the serve. It not only allows you to generate more power but also gives you greater feel for your targets.

In order to perform these jobs the wrist needs to be supple and relaxed.

The most common issues associated with players with serving problems stems from them having wrist that fail to function well, usually because the wrist is locked.

It's really important to have a loose wrist when you serve. Apart from a loose wrist allowing you to generate more power and give you more feel, a loose wrist will also take the pressure off your shoulder joint and therefore prevent injuries in the long term. 

Here are some key check points to help keep your wrist loose on the serve:

1.  Ensure the take back is relaxed
If the take back is relaxed it's almost certain you will hit the serve with a loose wrist. If you are stiff or tight on the take back it's difficult to change to loose during the swing.

Look to see how loose the take back is in the video. Divij Sharan doesn't "carry" the racquet back as if it's a heavy object. He allows the weight of the racquet to "break" the wrist and to relax his arm... there's no tension here at all.



2.  Hit the serve with your wrist, not your arm
The mindset to adopt is one of hitting the ball with your wrist, not your arm. The wrist is the dominant focus when you serve.

A serve with a dominant arm will always be still and lack the power and feel you need.

3.  Release the wrist on the finish of the serve 
As a check point to ensure that your serve is relaxed throughout the serve try to finish with a soft wrist. 

Avoid squeezing the finish and tightening. Often a habit of tightening the finish or the serve creeps into the whole service motion without you realizing it.



PLEASE COMMENT OR ASK QUESTIONS ON ANY OF THE INFORMATION HERE! 


Friday, February 22, 2019

4 STEPS IN UNDERSTANDING & MASTERING CONTACT: "Control of Heights"




80% of all the mistakes you will make in tennis will be either in the net, or out over the baseline (the other 20% of the mistakes will come from hitting too far right and too far left).

We can address these two most common mistakes directly, because contact is responsible for both of them.

If you hit the ball too short, your racquet face was too closed on contact with the ball.

If you hit the ball too high and out over the baseline your racquet face was too open at the moment of contact.

Many people confuse the jobs of spin and contact.
When trying to master feel for net clearance don't ask spin to give you feel for height accuracy, that's the job of contact, not spin!

For height accuracy you need to put your awareness in the position of your racquet face and particularly the awareness of whether the racquet face is open or closed. This should be the sole method of achieving net clearance accuracy.

The job of spin is to create the required arc to help keep the ball inside the lines. 

Understanding the two different and distinct functions of contact and spin is a very important component in mastering  control of your groundstrokes.
It is therefore really important to gain enhanced "feel" for your racquet head. 

There are two approaches a player can take to increase feel for their racquet head. Firstly you can hope that your racquet head feel develops from hitting thousands of balls over years of practice. 

However what I have found with this "improvisation" method of gaining feel is it breaks down under pressure.

The other method, and the one I teach my students, is the use of the opposite hand, or non racquet hand to set the racquet angles (closed or open).

When adopting the "Opposite Hand" control the racquet 
with the finger tips... this will give you greater feel for the 
racquet face and ultimately greater feel for your heights

There are several benefits to using the opposite hand, but the one we will focus on here is using it to set the racquet face angles in terms of degrees of closed and open depending on the height you want the ball to cross the net.

Fingers on the throat of the racquet, ready to set the 
racquet head at the desired "Open" or "Closed"
positioned...

Instead of improvising  with your racquet hand (it already has enough work to do!), you will begin setting the racquet face with the opposite hand during the backswing.

For each shot you are deciding what height you want the ball the clear the net. The higher the net clearance, the deeper the ball will land at the other side. The lower the ball crosses the net the shorter the ball will bounce on the other side.

In Summary

1.  Separate the roles of Contact and Spin. They each have distinctly different roles to play. 


2.  Contacts' role is to given you net clearance 


3.  To gain greater awareness of your net clearance (heights), use the opposite hand on the throat of the racquet to set your angles in degrees of Open and Closed


By introducing this second step of 4 Steps in Understanding & Mastering Contact you will increase your  awareness of heights and gain mastery over the reason for 80% of mistakes on groundstrokes.


Please send your comments here to join a discussion on Contact.


4 STEPS IN UNDERSTANDING & MASTERING CONTACT: "The Three Parts of a Swing"




THERE ARE 3 PARTS OF A SWING and each part has its own unique function.

The 3 parts are (1) The Backswing (2) The Contact and (3) The Follow Through. Here is a break down on each of these 3 parts of the swing.

THE BACKSWING: The purpose of your backswing is to supply power to your stroke. The bigger the backswing the more power you can generate.

A return of serve for example doesn't require much backswing generally because the power you need is mostly coming from the serve you are trying to return.

Strokes where you commonly  want to generate more power than normal, are mid-court forehand and shoulder height groundstrokes. It's common to see players taken big backswings on these two options because they want to generate extra power.

THE FOLLOW THROUGH: The Follow Through is the release of energy from the stroke you just completed.

The size of your follow through should be directly related to the amount of backswing you created to hit the ball - no more, no less... they are related to each other, backswing creates power and follow through releases that power.

Follow through also has another very important function to perform. It creates spin.

The higher your hand finishes after contact, the more topspin you can achieve.

If your hand finishes low after contact (chin height), there will be less spin on the ball. If your hand finishes above your head after contact, there will be a lot of topspin.

This demonstration of a running forehand shows the 3 parts of a swing working together to achieve a desired shot...


(1) Because the ball is fast and deep the depth of the backswing is less because his opponent has created all the energy required for the shot. 


(2) The player has positioned the racquet face at the correct angle to send the ball over the net at the desired net clearance. 


(3) The finish is extreme because all that remains for the player to do is create arc and "tail" at the other side of the net to keep the ball inside the baseline.

THE CONTACT: Of the 3 parts of a swing, Contact has perhaps the most important role to play. Contacts' job is to get the ball over the net and in the direction you want.

The racquet face position at the moment of contact will determine where the ball goes. The ball goes solely where the racquet face tells it to go.

In Summary:

1.  The 3 parts of the swing described here all have different functions. Very often players' try to vary these roles. The most common instance of this is when players try to spin the contact in the belief this will give them elevation over the net.  Net clearance is the job of Contact, not spin.

2.  Every stroke is different. Players need to learn when to adjust the amount of backswing, Follow Through or Contact depending on their needs in the point..

This is the third part of 4 STEPS IN UNDERSTANDING & MASTERING CONTACT.  By understanding the clearly defined roles of Back Swing, Follow Through and Contact you will gain greater mastery over your groundstrokes in terms of feel, versatility and adaptability.



Please feel free to comment below to begin a discussion on this post.

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

4 STEPS IN UNDERSTANDING & MASTERING CONTACT: "Late & Early"





Lesson 1: LATE & EARLY CONTACT...

When you hit a ball with late or early contact, that can be a positive thing or a negative thing, you either did it on purpose or by mistake, 

Let's look at late and early contact in the positive sense first...


To master the tennis rally you need to be able to direct the ball both down the line and cross court at will. This is where the ability to hit late and early on purpose is crucial.


If you contact the ball early within the contact zone the ball will go cross court.  





If you contact the ball late within the contact zone the ball will travel down the line or inside out ( depending on how late you hit the ball)



This is the positive aspect of late and early contact.

However, most players think of late and early contact in the negative sense. This is when they struggle with timing the ball in the right spot within their contact zone.

Here are some reasons you may be hitting the ball late unintentionally:


  1. Your arms dominate your swing
All swings should start in the ground, it supplies the timing and power for your stroke. If you are not injecting "Ground" into your stroke as you start the swing then you are asking your arms to generate timing and power, neither of which the arms are able to do as well as the legs when interacting with ground.

  1. You don't begin your swing from the ground first
Sometimes you might be under pressure to set up "Ground" because the ball is either too deep or too fast for you ( or too deep AND too fast at the same time) to prepare.

This will lead to timing problems and invariably late contact.
  1. Your swing is manufactured and not practical
Another common reason for late or early contact mistakes is a players' fixation with producing "copy book" form.

Most early stages of tennis coaching involves showing the new student where to take their backswing and where to finish their follow through

The problem with this type of coaching is that it does not take into account the ball!

These players then continue trying to produce the "perfect" backswing and follow through on all balls, rather than "reading" each ball and adapting to the situation. 

In summary, 

1. Train yourself to be able to change the direction of the ball by adjusting the contact point.

2. Also, be adaptable to each and every ball by adjusting your backswing and follow through according to the properties of the ball you are hitting.

By working this first of 4 Steps in Mastering & Understanding Contact you will gain greater control and feel for this important fundamental.