I was sent an email the other day by a Tennis Coach who unfortunately is just another in a long line of Tennis Coaches who's programs disappeared under the weight of the 'hype storm'. Do you remember the Stock Market 'Tech Wreck' of the year 2000 ? I often wonder if the new style of tennis coaching along with the glossy marketing will eventually give way to the substance style of years gone by or as some new gurus call it 'The Dinosaur era'.
It's interesting when you look at the way the game is taught now days with the soft balls and the modified courts along with new scoring systems (Fast 4) plus a new theory on a daily basis. Does it really own a spine or is it just marketing gone mad ? As always I have my own theories.
I used to tinker around with my own scoring systems, I constantly thought outside the square, I have always felt that the current tennis scoring system is dated. Tennis doesn't really reward the shot maker, it rewards the player who can stay out there for the longest. Players can't go out and start teeing off and expect to be able to sustain that type of play over 5 sets. It's why I love what they did with cricket, they finally rewarded the shot maker, the guy who starts swinging right from the start in the new 20/20 concept, brilliant.
Many of these players do not play Test Cricket or even 50 Over Cricket but they are specialists in the art of slogging the ball over the fence. This type of cricket to me is the most entertaining form of the game and it seems that with it's prime time viewing slot on television it is what the public want to see. Quite simply, it's something different, a novelty, a game that has entertainment value written all over it.
The current Fast 4 concept that even Federer and Nadal trialled in Australia in the lead up to the Australian Open is an interesting one but it's really just a shortened version of the real game. I would like to see a Super Tie Breaker Tournament, first to 10 points, best of 5 sets, a real modification of a tennis tournament and not just a token gesture. This type of concept would be even more exciting to watch if it were a 'Skins' type of event with $$$ changing hands on each win or loss of a tie breaker. Food for thought. This type of tennis tournament is one for the shot makers, the entertainers, the Gael Monfils type of player, not for the fitness experts.
Soft tennis balls, perhaps they have their place in teaching despite my numerous negative comments on the whole idea but I think when you really look at it, well it's been going on since the beginning of time. What I mean by that is every coach has a basket of soft tennis balls, the ones that have been hit into oblivion by the better players.
I always had two or three baskets of soft balls for beginners and the same amount of good tennis balls for the stronger players but I never purchased soft tennis balls. I simply went with nature, the process that softened tennis balls, call me old fashioned.
Modified tennis courts ? Half court tennis I commonly called it as did all of the old 'Dinosaurs' but now days it's all about purchasing smaller nets and stretching them out over a court, perhaps 4 courts on one so to speak. Personally I don't like the idea just as much as I don't like how soft tennis balls are now on the shopping list but I am a self confessed 'Dinosaur'. I like the idea of a kid starting with half court mini tennis and moving back as they become confident enough with their hitting and direction but on a real court with a real net.
I vividly recall that out of around 100 kids that we used to see on a weekly basis at my old club over 5 days per week we brought numerous students into the Senior Club on Saturday afternoons. In fact on one Club day we counted no less than 12 players under the age of 21 hitting against the senior players over the course of the afternoon. On 6 tennis courts that to me is a win of epic proportions.
Fifty per cent of the sets made up involved kids or young adults who had been through our program and were enjoying weekly competition against the more experienced generation. A sure way to gain improvement from both generations.
So to my point, as always I do have one to each chapter. Yes it's true I do very little group coaching now days, I prefer the one on one as far as technique improvement is concerned but I have fond memories of some groups I used to teach. I don't know whether there was a mutual respect there or not but we used to be able to make the kids and parents see that the tennis club required the kids to keep playing and not just do a weekly squad and an occasional tournament.
Club play on Saturdays was the session that showed the Club Committee that what we were doing had substance and wasn't just a money making exercise. What we were doing was the complete program, we were replenishing the stocks, refilling the empty shelves, we were looking after the club that was looking after us.
We folded as a program when we could not keep up with the constant advertising and weekly articles of others who also began a 'tennis in schools' program, the one that took the sport to the doorstep of Education. The tennis club was no longer the priority venue for learning.
When you lose the majority of your beginners you lose your foundation, we lost our future Saturday afternoon players. Intermediate and Advanced students can only last so long, the beginners are a priority for a Club's future growth.
Being a 'Dinosaur' in tennis is not a bad thing, we still teach the game with the no frills methods, we still know how the game should be taught, we simply do it a lot quieter than the new breed of coach.
We also see how things should be run but we are no longer asked for our opinions, we are 'outdated'. So to the guy who sent me an email regarding the above issues, hang in their champ and keep teaching the game, it needs you.
Just like the 'Tech Wreck' from the 2000 Stock Market that weeded out the substance from the hype I am sure it's only a matter of time before the public wake up to what's going on. Patience Grasshopper......