So, for my first blog of 2020 - had a little sabbatical in January! I hope you are all well and have made a great start to the new year!
In the early hours of Monday morning I returned back from a fantastic 4 days in Tarbes (Les Petits As, 14&U tournament) where alongside co-tutors Kris Soutar and Simon Wheatley, we delivered Module 4 of the current LTA Senior Performance Coach Level 4 qualification to 13 candidates from across Great Britain.
The vision of this module was to enable coaches to have a clear understanding of the demands of international tennis at 14&U and to motivate coaches to raise the level of British players and performance programmes creating an over-supply of top 14&U international junior players.
During the trip coaches created enhanced profiles of top players across all performance factors linked to the LTA's 'What it Takes to Win' Player Development Philosophy. They identified personal blind spots and gaps in their knowledge, observation and analysis skills, through watching a multitude of matches and participating in facilitated discussions. Charting matches and interpreting data for clear coaching recommendations alongside a hugely insightful question and answer session with USTA coach Jon Glover added to the curriculum of the module.
It was my third year in a row running this trip and each year I come away inspired. For me personally I gained a number of take-aways - here are just a few:
- Talking tennis - I was reminded how valuable it is simply to 'talk tennis', to put yourself in a different environment with different people and wrestle with ideas and concepts with a healthy level of disagreement!
- Non-judgemental observation - we can be so quick to judge a player. It's so important to spend good time (several matches in fact) in 'non-judgemental observation' before drawing conclusions about strengths/weaknesses/areas of work etc.
- Best way to improve your players is to improve yourself! Vital that as coaches we are constantly bringing 'fuel' to the relationship
- Creative adaption rather than slavish adoption - at the same time, we don't have to slavishly adopt new/different ideas but would be foolish not to creatively adapt according to our own programme and player needs
- The best players do the basics brilliantly as opposed to having brilliant flashes! The are constantly in a state of 'athletic readiness' to move and compete. They relentlessly 'beat the bounce' by getting behind the ball on balance and then 'beat the hit' by efficient recovery to the appropriate position before opponent has hit the ball. They fight like hell, never slow down until the ball has bounced twice and live out the belief that 'if I touch it I make it!'
- Resilience can mean to keep putting your game out there, no matter what. If things are going badly raise your game by 5%. If your opponent drops theirs by 5% that's a 10% shift and often enough to turn the tide. Your 'B' game is your 'B' game because it's not as good as your 'A' game! This doesn't mean sticking stubbornly to one thing - bringing in the use of the drop shot for example changed the course of the girls final from a 2 set drubbing to a nail-biting 3 setter.
- In the big moments, the best players will more often than not go for it. They are more positive, more aggressive, more committed to their shots and game-plan than their opponents
There's a whole heap more besides, but for any coach out there looking to develop young players, I would highly recommend getting yourself to Les Petits As 2021! I'm sure I'll see you there as there's nothing quite like year on year seeing some of the very best in the world come through. Linda Fruhvirtova who won it last year at 13 years old is now 14 in the world in the ITF junior rankings. Victoria Jimenez Kasintseva who lost in the second round last year just won the Australian Open junior title and is now ranked 2 in the world. Tennis moves so fast - particularly on the girls side.
Enjoy the rest of your week!