Coaches love to fix things. Over the years, I have changed my approach to the way I go about improving a player's game. As a young coach, I thought coaching was mainly about improving weaknesses, making sure there were no holes in my player’s game.
I picked up lots of tennis tips along the way and have tried numerous tennis programs, I think this is the journey any career tennis coach needs to take. I can say I have learned a lot by watching, learning, and applying. Being humble is important also, in order to progressively learn we need to leave the ego at home each day and walk into the coaching environment open-minded.
As I mentioned when I was starting out my coaching career I was always looking to work on my player's weaknesses, I thought this was the answer to getting things right. In fact, it is only one of many things we need to work on to get the most out of our players and develop as a coach.
When I started out as a coach a weaker backhand meant we would spend most of our sessions ensuring that the backhand was strong enough to hold up under pressure.
Eventually, the player’s backhand would be better, but I found that too much time spent on a weakness meant that a player’s strengths were neglected far too often.
It can take a long time to build a player's confidence, and without it, wins are very hard to come by. Various systems work on a player’s strengths, and in my opinion, there is not one exact method that is the best.
When working with mature players, I like to spend a lot of the session working on how my players are actually going to win points, but even with younger players, getting them to understand the strategy component of tennis is important at a young age, introducing them to the basics of point structure and building momentum.
It is always important to remind players about the fundamentals of tennis, especially tennis kids, who are doing lots of kids tennis training. We need to make sure they are doing the right tennis drills and tennis exercises to encourage them to get the basics right. Some coaches have a tendency to get young players doing advanced drills too often, we encourage exposing them to challenging drills, but not at the expense of enjoyment and losing sight of the fundamentals.
Tennis Tips for Coaches
There are so many great tennis drills that coaches can do to develop player's strengths further. I spend a lot of time observing other coaches both live and online, figuring out A. why they are doing what they are doing and B. how can I implement some of those ideas as a coach?
I remember watching Shahar Peer doing a fantastic drill to help the loading phase of the forehand. Like many of us, I could see how doing that drill with a few of my players could aid their development.
However, I made one big mistake. I failed to make sure those players had the foundational strength to perform quite a physically demanding tennis exercise. The result wasn’t pretty.
The load was too much and contributed to one of the players sustaining a hip injury. Of course, it was not the only factor but looking back, I wish I had made sure the player had the strength to do what I asked them.
I’ve spent years in the business, gaining a great understanding of developing player's strokes, but it took me a long time to realize how critical it was to make sure they have the proper off-court tennis training to match the intensity of the drills.
Sarah Stone's Coaching Tennis Tips
My advice is to make sure you work closely with a tennis strength and conditioning coach and have in-depth knowledge about your athlete’s physical capabilities.
Secondly, spend enough time working on players’ strengths. After all, confidence is the key to success, and if we spend the majority of the time talking about a player’s weakness, they might forget about the best parts of their game, which can be very hard to get back!
We encourage you to focus on a balanced approach that sits well within your coaching framework. We believe players of all ages and stages should be; Having tennis lessons, playing matches, doing off-court training e.g tennis agility drills, tennis strength training, tennis stretches, tennis conditioning, and following thorough tennis warm-up.
Getting these foundation areas set and continually working on them will help set you up for a long and healthy career on the court, plus make playing more enjoyable! Yey!
So, you might be asking how do I combine this on-court tennis and off-court training foundation areas? CLICK HERE to check out a course I put together with Tennis Fitness; it will change the way you go about your coaching.
Written by Sarah Stone WTCA
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