A few interesting thoughts on early years development - before hard work comes play!

'Before hard work comes play.  Before those who've yet to fix on a passion are ready to spend hours a day diligently honing skills, they must goof around, triggering and re-triggering interest.  Of course, developing an interest requires time and energy, and yes, some discipline and sacrifice.  But at this earliest stage, novices aren't obsessed with getting better.  They're not thinking years and years into the future.  They don't know what their top-level, life-orientating goal will be.  More than anything, they're having fun.

Encouragement during the early years is crucial because beginners are still figuring out whether they want to commit or cut bait.  Accordingly (psychologist Benjamin Bloom) and his research team found that the best mentors at this stage were especially warm and supportive: "Perhaps the major quality of these teachers was that they made the initial learning very pleasant and rewarding.  Much of the introduction to the field was as playful activity, and the learning at the beginning of this stage was much like a game."

A degree of autonomy during the early years is important.  Longitudinal studies tracking learners confirm that overbearing parents and teachers erode intrinsic motivation.  Kids whose parents let them make their own choices about what they like are more likely to develop interests later identified as a passion.  

Sport psychologist Jean Cote finds that shortcutting this stage of relaxed, playful interest, discovery, and development has dire consequences.  In his research, professional athletes who, as children, sampled a variety of different sports before committing to one, generally fare much better in the long run.  The early breadth of experience helps the young athlete figure out which sport fits better than others.  Sampling also provides an opportunity to 'cross-train' muscles and skills that will eventually complement more focused training.  While athletes who skip this stage often enjoy an early advantage in competition against less specialised peers, Cote finds that they're more likely to become injured physically and to burn out.

(All passages above taken from 'Grit'- Angela Duckworth)

Quote of the day

'Never make perfect the enemy of good' -  Environment Secretary Michael Gove was recently heard using this expression.

A lot of things we do are 'good'.  Striving to be perfect in the things we do should not be at the cost of already being 'good' in those areas.

A little akin to throwing the baby out with the bathwater.  Yes, let's strive for CANI (constant and never-ending improvement) but searching for or comparing everything to a utopia can can carry a cost.

P.S - This is a non-political post.   A friend advised me of the quote (thank you for this!) and it was one I appreciated beyond the realms of Brexit!

Technique? It depends....

As we know, the technique we employ on any given shot depends

 on a range of factors such as:

- Opponent's court positon

- Our court position

- Ball we are receiving (level of difficulty - easy, medium, tough)

- Our shot intention (defend, rally, attack), and how to choose to do so.

Score, environment and court surface may even come into it.

See here a great example of Everyballer Amelie Brooks transitioning onto an 'easy' slower ball from a mid-court court position to play an attacking forehand volley into space.  Great example of good footwork, loading on right foot then then transferring through onto left foot through contact (note left foot lands after contact) to ensure weight has been transferred and Amelie is now in a great net position should ball come back.  This volley would be in contrast to her receiving pace, when already at net and defending.

Nice skills in this situation Amelie.

Does your environment speak to girls and boys equally?

So asked Jo Ward, former British number 1 in a presentation at Loughborough University to LTA Senior Performance Coach candidates (our own Ed Taylor being one!) earlier this week.

A great question which I've been reflecting on back at base as I walk around the club, browse our websites/social media etc.  This morning was delighted to answer this with an emphatic 'yes' within our Saturday morning mini tennis programme where we have a fantastic crew of 5-6 teenage girls faithfully helping with our coaching each week.  Great role models for our mini tennis girls showing how being feminine and being athletic go hand in hand as much as being masculine and athletic.

Thanks to all our coaches and helpers for a great start to term this week!  Club was buzzing this morning!