Training for a sport such as tennis when you are a kid with a natural fitness level can seem at times to be a total waste of time. After all I could run all day, I was a sprinter, I once won 5 races at my Inter school Sports carnival including the anchor spot in the relay, I could move.
It's one thing though to run 100 meters, it's another to do a series of short sprints that may total a couple of kilometers or more in a three set match.
So it was an idea of Pete's to train me with court sprints, up and down the lines, forward and backwards that gave my body a true reflection of what was required during a match. He also gave me a volley and smash routine that really had me working hard.
A short sprint from the service line to the net, a series of volleys then back for a smash, touch the net with my racket, run backwards to the service line, start again. After 15 or 20 repetitions of this drill you knew it was doing you good, the lack of breath gave it away.
The thing about training with Pete was the realistic type of drills that he presented each time. You just knew that it was preparing you for a situation in a match that would eventually become second nature. I likened it to switching the light on in the middle of the night when you woke up for a pee, you can do it with your eyes closed.
Pete was no 'ball hitter', he was a Tennis Coach who could get the best out of you. There was no such thing as a 'great shot' with Pete unless you hit it perfectly. He made you strive for that 'great shot' that I have seen many 'ball hitters' take to a new level of incompetence.
During my fifteenth year I was invited to train with the State Squad by one of Western Australia's most respected and experienced Tennis Coaches and players, Rob Casey. I considered it a privilege to be asked to do a session with the best 16 to 18 year old's in the State, another eye opener to the level required to be successful.
Rob's training methods mirrored those of Pete's, tough, uncompromising and realistic to match play situations. I was very fortunate to have both witnessed and been involved with that sort of training from two fantastic Coaches of tennis. It toughened me up and made me strive harder.
'Ball hitters' were around in tennis but the good players knew how to distinguish between them and real Coaches. Usually the ball hitters would not get a follow up request for a lesson. So how do you pick the difference ? Easy, just look for the one who keeps stopping play to explain to the student that what they did lacked substance or thought. Look for the one who is brutally honest with a student's current form and ability. The one who explains in detail as to what is in fact the weakness and how to fix it. Above all look for the one who has the ability to explain two scenarios; Why the shot went in and why the shot missed, there's an art to explaining both.
Rob and Pete never gave praise unless it was warranted and that's what I liked about both of them. My biggest hint as to whether I was going ok with my tennis was Rob asking me on the way from court after my loss to Hampo "You get a set Glenn ? Good effort, he's a good player". That made me feel good. Rob was the number one ranked player in the State at the time for men and he coached Hampo, he knew his ability. Perhaps in some small way he was acknowledging mine.
Great Tennis Coaches are hard to find, especially now days as no one is quite sure now what a 'coach' is capable of as the big advertising slogans often hide their inability to teach the game. Nature of the modern way of 'coaching' tennis.
I don't believe that either Rob or Pete used a gimmick once, their knowledge and ways of teaching spoke volumes as far as who they were to the game of tennis in Western Australia. I am glad I was raised in an environment that only rewarded success and hard work and didn't give false hope by rewarding mediocrity.
Some times when I teach the game now days I wonder whether I am too honest with my appraisals of students' ability. I never think about it too much though as I learned from two of the best.........
Chapter 11 to follow