When you're really throwing a stinker.....

We've all been there.  Throwing an absolute stinker.  Prepared well, plenty of sleep, fuelled and hydrated, hitting well in practice and then....it all goes badly wrong.


It doesn't mean you gotta lose.

It doesn't mean that you throw your hands up in the air and say, 'just isn't my day.'

You dig deep.

You find a way.

Your compete with whatever is working on the day.

You get over yourself and your 'be perfect' expectations of how a match will run.

You battle for one point and once you got one you battle for another.  You hang in, look for small 'wins', you make balls and drag it out, slowing down between points, wrestling momentum out of your opponent's hands.

You adopt a mentality that the scoring system in tennis favours the player down in a match. 

Lose the first set 6-0, you start 0-0 next set. 

England have won twice in as many weeks in the Six Nations whilst largely underperforming.  First against France at Twickenham, then against Wales on Saturday in Cardiff.  Ok, maybe they weren't throwing total stinkers but they weren't playing well that's for sure.  Read these 3 lines from Tom Fordyce, Chief sports writer in Cardiff (taken from BBC Sports app yesterday).

Believing you will win when all around see a match that's slipping away.
Coming back for more when all game you have been turned over and picked off.

Finding precision in the critical moment, having been imprecise in so much of what has gone on before.

That's being a winner.  Winning when you're not 'hot' or in the zone.  Winning when it's downright tough, the timing is off, and all about you have lost belief.

Except you of course.

Do they play outside the formal coaching & competitve environment? That might be a measure of their passion for the game...

As a Dad to two boys now aged 12 and 14 I wrongly assumed that they'd become tennis players.  I didn't have any great ambition for them to do so but I thought it would be a likely outcome bearing in mind my background.  However, they seemed to be far more attracted to the team environments of football, cricket and basketball and perhaps didn't want to be constantly compared to Dad and measure up, and so they've made their choices.

My sporting experience then with my sons has been supporting their development and growing passion in the aforementioned, having always remembered the advice of an old friend Billy Milton who once said to me, 'Mike, just pay attention to what your kids are passionate about.'

So how do you measure passion for a sport?  It doesn't always come of course as some lightning bolt out of the sky (the first time they try it for example) but can grow over time. One measure worth looking might be the intrinsic motivation shown to simply master something that's important to them, regardless of external measures of success - rating, rankings, results.

So the next obvious question is how do you measure intrinsic motivation? 

Well, for me an obvious answer is to observe how much time a young athlete spends outside of the recognised formal coaching/competitive environment, simply in play, experimentation or observation. 

How much time spent mucking about, trying stuff?

How much time watching the sport on TV/You tube etc?

How much time spent hitting against the bedroom/garage wall at home, or down at the club?

How often are you the parent dragged out to kick, feed, hit, throw, or shoot a ball with them? 

How many baskets of serves are hit without prompting, how many practice sets are played without parental/coach organisation.....?

How many games of 'pick up' played at the rec ground in the village?

How many hoops shot in the snow?

Messy and loving it

Enjoyed observing and being part of some messy practice today during our Mini Red sessions at Everyball Tennis /Halton. Coaches overcoming the fear of their sessions having to look controlled and ordered (with children having "success") for watching-on parents. Learning to 'play a game' never controlled and ordered - need to allow for experimentation, mistakes, fun and creativity!

Blocked practice v more open/random practice

The ultimate criteria of the success of these activities is the extent to which those skills transfer into the fluid, unpredictable environment of games. The more limited, static and prescribed a practice situation is, the less effective any transfer will be. The more open ended and dynamic the practice, the more chance there will be of skill transfer. However, the practice will look less neat and tidy, and there will be a greater level of error and failure. The irony here is that the practice that looks less effective, and messier, may well turn out to be developing a higher level of transferable skill.
- From Neil Rollings article 'Is Coaching overrated?'

Does this have implications on how you'll coach today?

Making a change with the goal of improving your game...

Consider this: players make 'change' when the dissatisfaction of the current situation x the vision for the new + 1st steps toward the new and away from the dissatisfaction is greater than the resistance to change.

We resist change because we are fearful of the emotional discomfort that it often entails, but if we can help athletes paint the picture of a vision or future state 'over the fence' sparking a curiosity of 'how good can I become at this?', we're tackling perhaps the toughest part of coaching.

Everyballers Beth and Scarlett march on in Edgbaston and Nairobi

A significant win for Beth Grey yesterday as she took out top seed Melanie Stokke (NOR, world ranking 351) in the Edgbaston 15K 6-3 6-4. Beth goes on to play Klaartje Liebens (BEL, 572) in the 2nd round today. 

Beth also team up with partner Olivia Nicholls to win their first round doubles over Claudia Cianci (POR) and Sabastiani Leon (MEX) 6-3 3-6 (10-6).

Scarlett Hutchinson also backed up her first round win in Nairobi at the ITF G5 taking out Lana Brezanin (CRO) and moves into the quarter finals today against Lola Marandel (FRA).

Great job girls and all the best for today.  Backing you here back at base! Back yourselves and believe.

The foot-work informs the body-work, the body-work informs the racket-work...see this by Murray

Having recovered off the serve and now facing a good return back deep down middle to his forehand, see Murray's movement and use of his feet during the shot.  He loads in a semi-open stance, though his linear momentum is still at work taking him backwards.  He therefore uses a backwards hop step (take off on right foot, land on right foot), which enables him to maintain dynamic balance and in this case (determined by his choice of shot), limit upper body rotation which allows him a steeper racket path and closer contact point to play a heavier/higher neutralising ball.

Had he selected a more aggressive shot intention, he might have used a backward pivot or backward jump (ie: landing on his left foot) which would have distanced his contact point, increased shoulder rotation and body speed and flattened his swing path.

A nice example of how footwork provides the right environment for body work, and how body work creates the right environment for racket work.