Thursday, 30 January 2014


As a Tennis Coach you are constantly looking for ideas to make yourself better, after all , the better you are potentially will make your lessons more educational . Even after 26 years of teaching the game I never rest on my current ability as a Coach , the game continues to evolve , why shouldn't we ? One thing that has always annoyed me with this game is the greed as to how it is portrayed , not only with pricing but with times available, take these examples; A recent timetable had the following times for junior sessions ; 9am - 10 am , 10 am -11 am , 11 am to 12 pm , what's wrong with this ? At first glance it all looks fairly easy to digest , but let's look at it realistically, these times are impossible to deliver , from any Tennis Coach on the planet. 
Every time you deliver a tennis lesson the following occurs - Introduction to the format of that day's lesson (2-3 minutes),warm up(5 min),ball pickup(2-3 min) , pupil court allocation(1 min) tuition including grip analysis and drills(30-35 min),drink break(2 min), novelty games(10 min), brief talk with kids on their efforts for the session (2 min). All of this adds up to around an hour , good Coaches need to be on the ball to make this run like clock work . Let's look at down time ; approximately 15 minutes each lesson will be lost due to introduction , ball pick ups, drill explanation , drink breaks and final analysis , with 45 minutes only of actual play , but wait , isn't another group starting on the dot of the next hour? Don't forget someone always wants a new grip or a hat or has won a drink as a prize from the lesson just finished , the drinks fridge needs to be supervised or else  a few 'freebies' may just walk out the gate with the last group.
So at 5 minutes past the hour the next session begins..........
Greed in the sport of Tennis is common , it's how Tennis Coaches make their money , usually with no thought of any value for money , it's simply about how much they can put in their pocket with a minimum of fuss. Take for example the cost of one on one lessons ; Who thought up these rather comical prices and what right does a 17, 18 or 19 year old kid just fresh out of coaching themselves ( who's own game is average and knowledge is minimal) have to charge as much as $50- $60 per hour to an unsuspecting student who knows even less? I forgot to mention though that these 'unqualified' kids actually own a piece of paper that says they have passed a basic learning course , they are now ready to 'impart their knowledge' at rates that an Electrician of 20 years charges.
Now if you want a lesson with the 'Main Man' this will cost you even more as he only wants these lessons , 2 or 3 a day is plenty as he doesn't want to do the group lessons where anything up to 8 or 10 kids at a time will really bump up his takings for the day . He will pay an Assistant $25 or $30 and will pocket as much as $70 for that session that he didn't even offer a word of advice, but his 'Name' is enough to make the public believe it's worth what they are paying. Most of these kids will pay $15 each , not bad value for an hour's tuition , or is that 45 minutes? Nothing wrong with that cost if there are 4 kids on court with a Coach , once it goes over this number then it's simply a 'babysitting' exercise as balls hit per student is minimal .
Tennis Coaching has changed a lot since I was a kid but signs of greed have always been there, some offer great advice and tuition as well as modest rates whereas others are in it for a quick buck and their pricing often gives this fact away.
Tennis takes a long long time to learn , a tough game mentally as well as physically, students and in particular their parents shouldn't have to take out another mortgage for the 'privilege' of learning it..........

Monday, 27 January 2014


Tennis is a game that requires an ego to play , it also requires an ego to teach , some can deal with the 'responsibility' , others let it go to their head. The problem with a one on one sport is the issue of being better than your opponent, especially at a young age but not knowing how to address the situation , some let it go to their head. Boxers are egotistical , look at 'The Man' Mr Mundine, ego freak but he walks the walk , not just talks the talk, he has every right to be egotistical , he can belt most with a right hook , a testosterone fueled sport , one that shows a masculine side. So why is it with a sport such as Tennis that egos are born and chests are puffed out like pigeons when a victory is had and why do these ego freaks believe that they are next in line to take on Mr Mundine ?? I am no psychologist but it stems from early child hood , as it did for me , a sense of achievement if you weren't setting the world alight in either team sports or life in general , winning at a one on one contest made life so much more enjoyable . In a nutshell if you had a win in at Tennis it was a win in life as you beat all before you , albeit maybe one person if you were playing singles, euphoria.
Tennis Coaching is very similar , especially with some Coaches that perhaps didn't succeed with their playing careers as there is now a desire to win at teaching , pupil's results are a reflection on their own capabilities as a mentor , some handle it with modesty , some don't. 
The best players don't always make the best Coaches , as Boris Becker found with his new 'pupil' Novak Djokovic , the World's number 2 male Tennis player . Novak was looking for that 'edge' , it didn't happen in the 2014 Australian Open as he fell to a guy that was ranked 6 places behind him with a Coach that no one has heard of . I give these two 6 months at best . Boris never won the French Open , he has no advice that he can give Novak going into this Tournament , nothing that will make him do anything different as the French Open is a mind and physical test , Boris lost in consecutive years at this Tournament to 'smarter ' players . 
Boris Becker will be looking for a new job soon, watch this space.....
Back to Coaching ; Am i an Ego freak ? Possibly , i still play Tournaments , teach the game and I write about it in detail , I give my opinions regularly , quite possibly I am egotistical . Do i give my students false hope ? No , I am strangely too honest in this respect . Do I charge outlandish prices that are unjustified ? No , I under charge , I have delivered mail for nearly 20 years at around $22 per hour and don't believe that I should be charging as much as $70 per hour just because the 'book' says so . I have had twice as much experience as guys that haven't been out of their back yard who 'teach' the game to people who have stars in their eyes cos this guy has a sign on his car and a big glossy banner that says he is a man to be 'respected'.
Tennis is a game that you have to earn respect , some go for the easy fix, the big signs and the smoke and mirrors routine plus big advertising that sways the public their way .
Good luck to them , each individual has their own way of doing things , like life in general and it's what makes each day a new challenge. 
Tennis however is a sport that needs to be respected , not unlike the great Anthony Mundine who talks the talk and also walks the walk , a one on one Master who generally wins the battle , both physically and mentally . Is he a Self Opinionated Ego Freak ? You betcha he is but he backs it up.
Tennis is not unlike a boxing match , 60 feet from your opponent but the self respect it gains from a win is in a lot of ways like a Title Fight .If you can win at Tennis and it gives you a win in life then this is the sport for you . As a Coach however I am wary of the process , it can turn young kids and adults alike into different people , some call it 'white line fever' . Tennis can define a person , that's where a good Coach is worth his weight in gold.......

Tuesday, 21 January 2014


Now this year was a ripper and it was so pleasing to see a couple of young fellows win it for a change, given that the combined average age for the Men's title in the past has been around 80 years , this year was less than half . Matty Thompson and Mike Galante are two guys who i used to hit tennis balls to at my old club in town and about 3 years ago my old coaching buddy Justin Clapin and myself held them off to win the Club Champs 6-4 in the third. Back then their consistency was 2 or 3 shots in then go for a winner , how the times have changed and tennis is like that . I have always played a brand of tennis that wasn't unlike my hero Mats Wilander who had a mindset that he wouldn't miss so if his opponent was good enough to out hit or out think him then so be it. This year however was different because they didn't miss !! My partner was a 16 year old kid who i taught from the ages of 7 through to 13 , Mike Offerman, he now hits like a man and i am proud of the player he has become , as i am of the two guys we lost to . Tennis is a progression of the body and mind together , some get it , some just can't quite grasp it , i was lucky enough to be on court with the future of the game locally and in the process was probably part of local tennis history . The Albany Open tends to have teams that dominate for a few years as my good friends Jonny Tuckett and Justin Taylor have , just as Max Loveridge and Peter Holmes did when i was a lad. 
The 2014 Albany Tennis Open was the changing of the guard locally , i felt old out there along side those lads but found a way to still be competitive at nearly 45 years of age . How many players can still be competitive with the youth as they grow older and more experienced and still enjoy the battle? It is a game that is a true test of character especially as we age ...... keep fit , keep the faith , it's not how good you were, but like my buddy Brett Patten said "it's how good you can still become".........

Thursday, 9 January 2014


The heading isn't meant to be confusing , it's a fact in many matches that there are many mindsets and they stem from the scoreline on most occasions . So if a player is up a service break that was achieved by going for his shots and hitting winners , does he now play conservatively to maintain the lead? On the other hand does a player who is down a service break start going for his shots on the hope that this kind of play may just be brave enough to get that service break back? The question is a tough one because all players are different in the way they approach a certain situation on court so there are many answers but it comes down to what you find most comfortable. Do you get uptight ? If so then why not look at some serve and volley play ? This will finish the points quicker , one way or the other rather than put yourself through the mental anguish of a 30 shot rally that can send your thought process into overdrive.
I remember a US Open match in 2007 between Hewitt and Calleri where the Argentinian hit 57 winners in a match where if you watch the highlights on you tube you will notice that this guy is in the 'zone'. To hit that many clean winners against a player such as Hewitt who runs down most shots is quite remarkable , but did Lleyton have a plan B ? If someone is hitting the ball that cleanly he is obviously getting it in his hitting zone so why didn't his opponent try to mix it up with some sliced backhands or throw in some higher balls to take Calleri beyond the baseline to make his comfort zone not so comfortable? Did Lleyton in the end simply play to not lose as Calleri was doing all the dictating and by hitting 57 winners the Argentinian was obviously playing to win . 
This match was just one example of two mindsets in the game of Tennis that is not unlike a game of chess where you are trying to out think the opponent. Whether you play to win or play to not lose is a personal choice but think the next time you go out and play a Tournament.
Do you want to wake up the next morning and wonder 'what if'? And do you want to hang up your racket one day for the final time and ask yourself if you really let it all go when you played ? Don't die wondering...........

Wednesday, 8 January 2014


If ever there was a setting for a country Tennis Tournament that was straight from a post card it would have to be the Emu Point Tennis Club situated a long stone's throw from the beach in Albany , my home town . The club has many memories for me , from the days when I was a kid who used to jump the fence with my buddy to hit a few balls without paying court hire , to winning the Doubles title a few times with some good mates . The Albany Open has had some great players contest the event , none more so than my old Coach Peter Holmes who quite frankly 'owned ' the Albany Open for many years as he took on and beat all before him , it didn't matter who he played with , he always won . The closest I ever got to Peter was a 6-3, 6-3 loss in the final in around 1995 , my partner and I lost two close fought sets but Peter only ever needed a service break each set to secure a win .
The bar used to be open at the Sporting Club at lunch time and many a player who were having an average day resorted to the amber fluid for a 'confidence boost' and in some cases it made for some rather memorable tennis in more ways than one . Some players got better with a beer or two whereas some found it difficult to focus "hey buddy you were hitting it better this morning , something in your salad roll"?? For some reason , the bar doesn't open now until maybe 4 pm , a shame as some of my fondest memories came from watching and playing guys who indulged a little too much at lunch time , maybe one day they may switch back to what brought some light hearted entertainment.
I didn't win the  Albany Open Doubles title until the year 2000 , amidst some rather fortunate luck as my buddy from juniors Ted Adams and I saved two match points to take the title.
We played local car dealer Max Loveridge and junior Tennis coach John Quinn in the second last round and Max served for the match and twice had match point . The first I remember as possibly the bravest thing I ever saw Ted do on a tennis court , he chipped Max's serve and charged the net , hitting a winning volley into the doubles alley , the second was pure luck . Sudden death on a short deuce and I played it like I told Ted to , conservatively , luckily Ted didn't , he would 've missed it without a doubt, sort of player he was. I struck a cross court forehand that really was an average shot but it was just wide enough to make Quinny stretch and he missed his volley by a good foot , I honestly believe that shot was one of the easiest volleys he had all day , maybe the nerves played a part , it was a big point . Ted and I went on to win our last match easily and took the Title , our first together and in particular it was my first Albany Open win , after years of getting belted by my former coach Peter , but tennis is like that. If you hang around long enough , keep fit and keep thinking about the game it actually becomes clearer . Win , lose or go to the bar early , the Albany Open will always be my favourite Tennis Tournament , a time to catch up with mates and smell the sea air . The peppy trees and the caravan park behind the courts give it a back drop that only a small country Tennis Tournament in the summer holidays can offer , a special time of year........

Monday, 6 January 2014


Why does Rafa jerk the shorts before each serve as though he has something stuck there ? (maybe he has) and then push the hair back through the head band and why does he keep jumping up and down when the umpire is about to toss the coin then runs back to the baseline ready for the hit up ? Routine , it's why he is so good , he has a 'ritual' that he has found to be a formula for success and that's only his on court routine , imagine what he does off court prior to a match ? I would guess it would be just as pedantic. Whilst I am not a fan of the on court rituals of many players which include the towel wipe after just about every point , I am a fan of on and off court professionalism , it makes Champions of the game of Tennis .
Bjorn Borg was superstitious , he never shaved through the two weeks of Wimbledon , it worked for him , he won five straight from 1976- 1980 and missed by a whisker in 1981, Bjorn was onto something . Rafa I believe took a leaf out of Borg's book and why not ? Borg was the 70's version of the modern day Rafa , the similarities are evident .
Tennis is a sport that requires repetition , in practice and in tournament play, things that work for players in both become habits that are hard to let go , especially if it takes them to victory.
Find a routine , make it your own , look forward to the pre match and pre practice things that make you want to play the game. We are all different tennis players and some do it for different reasons than others but it all comes down to the same ideas; It's a challenge , life would be boring without it......

Friday, 3 January 2014


'Pampered' , let's define the word , it means to 'treat with excessive indulgence' , so what does this meaning have to do with the game of Tennis now days ? I have a long list of examples ;
Why are Tennis Professionals allowed to go for the towel seemingly after each point now days on the Pro Tour , even after an ace is hit ?! I watched that happen just the other night as a player did the usual hand gesture and asked the ball kid for the sweat soaker, after he was aced , what did that point take out of him ? The ball kids do a fantastic job but should be allowed to concentrate on their job , not continually look to see whether the players include them in their pedantic routine , let's face it , that's all it is , on most occasions. What's wrong with taking a leaf out of the older generation's book and simply wipe the face with a sweat band ? Answer is simple ; the player can take a little longer between points with the request for the towel, time to regroup , physically and mentally.
I mentioned the Victoria Azarenka 'farce' some time ago where she was obviously 'choking' against her way less experienced opponent Sloane Stephens at the 2013 Australian Open and took a rather 'extended' injury time out. She even admitted the 'choking' in a later press conference in her own rather 'uneducated' way. This 'pampering' of Tennis Professionals sets an ugly example to the youth of the game , it shows them that time wasting and gamesmanship is as much a part of the sport as playing, here's another. The 2003 Davis Cup tie in Australia between Spain and Australia was on a knife's edge in the fourth rubber played between Phillippoussis and Ferrero but at the end of the fourth set , the 'mind games' commenced. Ferrerro had all the momentum having secured the third and fourth sets easily 6-1 and 6-2 , the 'Flip' was in all sorts of trouble , so he resorted to the old 'bathroom break' trick , from memory it was a long one too. He came back and won the final set 6-0 , legitimate or a 'con trick' within the rules of the game ?
What's with the break now after a player wins a set even if they have changed ends the previous game at say 5-4? You see this sometimes , just the other night I witnessed it at the Brisbane International as the station went to another break while players grabbed another drink and  another wipe with a towel, how many breaks do these guys need? What's with the ball change every seven games ? Sure the balls are hit with a huge amount of spin and power but wouldn't it make for an interesting spectacle if the entire set was played with just one set of Tennis balls? A big server would not have a continued advantage with a regular ball change and would actually have to do a bit more work on his groundstrokes in practice, surely this would be of benefit to their game?
The 25 seconds between points is rarely enforced , it's usually 30-35 seconds when matches get tight yet the umpire doesn't want to get himself off side with the players so generally turns a blind eye , it's a way for players to breath in some fresh air a little longer. Can you imagine if at a lower Club level Tournament all of the above examples actually took place ?? It would be the stuff of jokes at the end of the day over a round of beers that would surely also involve an invite to behind the club house to 'sort each other out , Man to Man', many a player would be incensed by these obvious rule benders.
Time to 'Man Up' , 'take it on the chin' and to follow a more recent saying , to all those 'pampered Tennis Pro's out there 'Toughen Up Princess'.......

Wednesday, 1 January 2014


As a Tennis Coach , whether it be full time or part time , feed back is the obvious source of information that is required to continue teaching the game , without it no Coach would know where he or she is at with their program. In saying that , my last 4 weeks on court i would describe as both frustrating and rewarding, in details that i will explain later , but it's great to see some of the 'older generation' warm to some ideas that they perhaps weren't either aware of on court or not previously interested in , good signs for the future .
Some of the shots hit by these players are rather remarkable considering they are hit with what i would call 'conservative ' grips and swing patterns that are from older text books , proving one thing , the mind is actively thinking about the process of playing the game.
The most frustrating part of teaching the game lately has been the lack of knowledge of how to actually hold a racket , this coming mainly from some young players who have been having regular coaching over the past two seasons from organisations that are obviously 'baby sitting' as opposed to teaching. I can tell within two shots whether a pupil is holding a racket correctly , it's not that hard , yet for some 'Coaches' it is something that seems beyond their capabilities , a detriment to the game, the grip is where it all starts. Within two sessions i had a kid hitting confidently through her two handed backhand up and over her shoulder which originally resembled a 'poke' with an open racket face that had no chance of being hit consistently, she now looks comfortable with this shot in particular. I also had a lesson with a kid that lasted a little over 30 minutes before i refused to hit another ball to as their attitude was one that i have seen on many occasions 'big fish , small pond' syndrome. This kid 'knew it all' and apparently has been having regular one on one sessions with an 'Experienced' Coach yet the way they hit the ball lacked any correct technique or thought process. Some kids accept fresh ideas , others aren't interested and in this kid's case i would be surprised if any wins were achieved outside of the local area in the near future, his game style would be 'eaten' by State ranked kids his age. I would like to think that with teaching the game of Tennis i am 'hard but fair'....
I also looked up some valuable teaching tips from one of the true legends of Tennis and a player who i have mentioned regularly as a big influence on my game , former World Number one Mats Wilander, a true 'tactician' of the game. Now when you watch a guy like Mats both talking about strategies as well as teaching technique it is very satisfying to know that my rather 'pedantic' way of coaching is in a lot of ways similar , the difference in experience however is obvious.
We have an obligation to our students to teach the game properly , not just take the money and say 'see you next week' , as was the case with the young kid who's lesson i cut short . I refused to take any payment for that 30 minutes of what any experienced Coach would call a reality check, i in fact called it 'free advice' , sometimes in the game of Tennis it doesn't hurt to give just that. Just because we own a bit of paper that says we are a 'Qualified Tennis Coach' doesn't mean that we should stop learning also , the game continues to evolve , so should we.......