is the number one goal for developing players. In order to enhance each individuals’ opportunities and development, elite players require a structured training environment that offers the highest quality program possible. Many of Australia’s best tennis prospects train at Tennis Australia’s National Academies. Located in five states, the Academies are highly focused athlete-centred and coach-driven collective training environments. Players are supported by teams of specialists including Tennis Australia coaches, strength and conditioning professionals, doctors, physiotherapists and nutritionists delivering the most professional program possible.
Not all tennis players with aspirations to reach the top level have access to National Academy resources, but all coaches working with ambitious players can add value to their training environments by incorporating a range of benefits that focus on the long term development of the athletes. The coach should look to provide the best possible on court training, physical preparation, sport science and medical services.
It is vital to offer your students more than basic coaching and technical expertise. In a high performance environment a great way to enhance technical evaluation and instruction is through the use of video analysis programs like Dartfish. As the cliché goes, a picture tells a thousand words so video analysis is incredibly powerful, allowing you to highlight technical strengths and weaknesses and identify areas for improvement. It lets players compare their shots to those of elite performers; identify differences and track changes and improvements over time.
The ‘10-year, 10,000 hours’ rule of thumb states that to attain elite standing in anything from chess to music to tennis, practitioner needs to have clocked up 10,000 hours of deliberate practice.Studies have proven that success in a chosen field is much more to do with accumulated hours of dedicated, relevant, targeted,domain-specific practice than it is to do with being gifted or having a genetic predisposition. Commitment to practice, and practice itself, are more important than ‘natural ability’.Educate your players that success can be attained through sustained investment in practice and deliberate efforts to improve and is not limited by ‘innate talent’. Instill in your player’s a desire to fight against ‘arrested development’. The transition from sub-elite to elite level depends on it.
Strength and conditioning Tennis is a physical sport and it’s vital to offer a holistic program that includes a variety of fitness elements. You might not have a full-time fitness coach at your disposal, but you can tailor a fitness program to your players’ individual needs based on your own strength and conditioning expertise.A good fitness program should include core strength and stability work, pre-habilitation (to guard against injury), aerobic and anaerobic exercises, and flexibility work.
Design drills that emphasise footwork and are aligned to the work:rest ratios in a typical tennis match to ensure the player is working in the right energy system.If you are a Tennis Australia Certified Coach, the wealth of resources on the ITF iCoach website can help you customise a strength and conditioning program for your athletes.
Learning to compete in a tournament environment is a critical part of any elite player’s development. It’s essential that you enhance your players’ competitive experiences and expedite their development within the tournament setting, rather than leaving them to gain this experience through trial and error. You can maximise your players’ competitive learning by:
- Scouting your athletes’ opponents.
- Conducting pre-match briefings.
- Setting goals that range from (at the rudimentary level)improving first serve percentages or second serve consistency,through to more complex match goals (e.g. patterns of play).
- Establishing performance-linked outcomes and evaluating performance post-match in the context of the goals that have been set.
As athletes move up along the development pathway they require objective – quantitative and qualitative – evaluation of their performance rather than subjective – opinion-based – evaluation.Match charting, which produces performance statistics, and match-play video analysis, which provides visual evidence, both provide objective performance evaluation feedback.
In athlete development, planning is a key component of thecoaches’ role. Traditionally this planning was based on the experiences of the assigned coach or reflected what well performed athletes of the day were doing. While this method has its merits, it’s not a scientific, systematic method of planning for junior player development. Annual plans for an athlete need to be individualised and take the following variables into consideration:
- Tournaments the athlete is going to compete in.
- A target number of matches for the year.
- A target win:loss ratio (commonly two out of three matches).
- Number of consecutive weeks the athlete will compete (based on physical and psychological maturity, fitness level, and how they cope with travel).
- Timing and content of training blocks.
- Experience on a variety of playing surfaces.
- Trips, tours or circuits and their timing, identifying lead-in events and peak events and Performance goals (Including anything from gaining first-time international playing experience to ranking improvements).
Spanish feed across court
Prepared by Aaron Mibus, Tennis Australia Junior Development Coach
Stage: encourage (10–12 years)
Component: technical and tactical
Time: 10 minutes
Equipment: cone markers, bucket and balls.
Objective: Hitting the ball deep into the back court zone consistently and recover from the previous shot in anticipation for the next shot.
- Coach lines up students on baseline in two groups, one person behind the other.
- While the two front students are hitting the Spanish feed across court towards the baseline, the other two students behind will be shadowing their player in front, each person gets two balls then they all rotate positions.
- Each person should always be moving around and non stationary.
Progression: Consider hitting the ball down the line also.
Key questions to ask:
- Why do you think your forehand technique is important?
- Why do we aim to hit the ball to the back of the court?
- What have you learnt today?
- What could you practice at home?
- What did you do well today?
- What did you enjoy the most today?