Monday, 29 February 2016

'OLD DRAFT'

 I had this as a draft copy on my site, not sure why I didn't post it. Better late than never, wrote this almost two years ago.......

Thursday, 3 April 2014

'THE GILBERT PHILOSOPHY'

I never really appreciated the way in which Brad Gilbert played tennis , I wasn't alone . After reading the Jimmy Connors book it seems that Gilbert was a man who was disliked immensely by fellow players for one reason or another , Jonny Mac was one .
After a loss at the Masters one particular year McEnroe took 6 months off the game and said that if he was to lose "to jerks like that" he needed time off. I like this melt down from a legend like Mac , it meant that the guy he lost to meant nothing to him as far as respect for a fellow pro was concerned, but it gave me some ideas. I have always thought that the game of tennis was too glamorous as far as style went , Gilbert was a man who threw a lot of theories out the window.
If you look at the way Gilbert used to play you will see that it is unconventional , ugly and involves giving your opponent garbage balls , but boy it was effective. Why do you think that Andre Agassi became so good ? It's because he was the opposite of Gilbert and owned every shot in the book yet had a tennis brain that 14 year olds owned , Gilbert turned his thinking into a man's.
I had a lesson this week with a kid who quite frankly is a smart kid , every shot in the book he owned , but he didn't know how to construct a point . I paused after a while and almost imagined myself as Gilbert with a young Andre down the other end and I in fact paid him a compliment. I told him " Hey Champ what you need is someone to teach you how to play tennis , you actually know how to hit a ball well but you don't know how to play the game ".
I was genuine in my praise , he hit the ball beautifully but had no tactical mind , understandable , he's young , plenty of time to gain a knowledge. Hopefully he will be back , he is probably the best kid I have seen in years.
I think sometimes in tennis as a coach we perhaps over coach kids , we need to teach them the tactical side rather than keep teaching them how to hit a ball, they get tired of that same old routine. Brad Gilbert picked the issues with Agassi in their very first hit together and told Andre that he was simply doing "dumb things" , things that were costing him on court . Andre was beating himself , not losing to opponents.
If a kid can hit a tennis ball then we should be teaching them how to play , not how to hit , there is a difference, yet some continue to treat students as imbeciles , like beginners , it's how kids are lost to other sports .
The other day I saw some potential in a kid that I believe has not been utilised by other coaches as the shots that were being hit to me had an air of maturity in them that gets us coaches excited at the prospect of nurturing the talent .
My views on tennis at times are not text book but I believe that it is a game that should be looked upon as a game of chess or checkers . A kid who learns the moves early will find a way to the finish line a lot earlier than a kid who is kept under wraps because his coach is too scared to teach them the next step .
We should be teaching 'Check Mate' at an early age for those that can hit a ball , not leaving it until it's too late , just as Brad Gilbert did for a young Andre Agassi who without a tactical mind as his coach's would have been just another wasted talent.
Brains win tennis matches , not just a big forehand . Watch Gilbert play on You Tube , tell me of I'm wrong.....

'TWO YEARS AGO'

 I wrote this chapter two years ago, almost to the day. Someone just recently sent me an email saying they flicked through my site and picked this chapter out as one they liked in particular. Thought I would repost it, excuse the bad typing, I have improved since then.......

Thursday, 27 February 2014

'RIDING THE PERFECT WAVE'

I could never surf , tried , nearly drowned , gave up , wore surf clothes to look the part instead , but I wish i could have mastered the art of wave riding , i hear that there is a feeling of pure freedom when you ride that wave to perfection. I believe Roger Federer could lay claim to riding that perfect wave on many occasions as he effortlessly hit his way through matches that he could look back on and say to himself 'perfection'. Would that be the driving force behind tennis players as they go in search of a feeling that brings euphoria and a sense of self satisfaction that perhaps could be likened to surfing a barrel ? Absolutely , tennis is a game that can bring a feeling of greatness  then a low point of disgust in one's own ability in the blink of an eye , in a time frame of perhaps two matches . Why is this ? 
There are many reasons why we can play a perfect game of tennis , conditions , mind set , health , and perhaps the biggest factor of all , how well our opponents allow us to play . The perfect game of tennis can be played if all of the above factors fall into place on the one given day that gives us a true sense of worth as a tennis player that invariably gets us back on court wanting more the next time. When things go wrong we tend to despise the game and go through the thought process of hating ourselves for the lack of commitment , concentration or desire to push the physical barriers that are required in a one on one sport.
In reference to the great Roger Federer  once again , as brilliant as he is there are better stroke makers in the game but not too many as smart , in his prime the great man rode the barrel and received the perfect score more often than not . His mind set was so good that every day to him was a day where the sun shined and the birds sung his favorite tune , the 40 km winds were a gentle sea breeze and his opponents, despite their high rankings were putting each ball exactly where he wanted it. 
Quite often you will see a low ranked player beat a top 20 opponent then lose the next day to a player who is ranked 50 places lower than themselves , why is this ? The mind works in mysterious ways . It's not the shot making , it's the thought process that doesn't allow for greatness in certain players that it does for others on a regular basis . Not many players can stay switched on for long enough periods of time that will bring them victories day after day and it's what can bring players to their knees in frustration and anguish as to what is in fact taking place. 'Who am i today ?? This is not who beat the number 3 seed yesterday!!'
Does a surfer ride the perfect wave each time he goes into the water ? Does a golfer hit the fairway on each drive? The body is willing on most occasions, teaching the mind to be just as committed is not only Sport's biggest challenge but perhaps life's as well........

Wednesday, 24 February 2016

'MY APOLOGIES'

My sincerest apologies about not following up that latest chapter about the 'pipe dream' of building a tennis centre in this town due to some 'identities' believing it should be built just because we haven't already got one.
As of yet I have not seen an argument of substance that gives the idea merit and I am sure the local town council agrees with me. Why do we need one ? If you haven't already read my last couple of chapters it may just put some light on the subject.
Now when I find some time I promise you that I will get back into the nuts and bolts of tennis and I will not dedicate any of my next few chapters to ideas that belong in the fictional section of the local library.
Some call me cynical, perhaps I am however I know this sport and this town well and I know that some just suffer from something that is quite often known as 'self importance'. These people are of no real value to certain sports particularly here in Albany.
Find an argument that has a back up, a meaning, an argument other than simply 'we need one', because really that won't cut the mustard.
Funny sport tennis, full of funny people........

Thursday, 18 February 2016

'GREAT STORY'

One of the most promising athletes Australia has seen in the last decade is still coached by the same woman who trained him in high school.
Josh Clarke has qualified for the 100-metre sprint in this year’s Rio Olympics, making him the first Australian man to run the sprint in 12 years.
His rapid rise is thanks to Nancy Atterton, 81, who has been coaching the 20-year-old since he was in year seven at a Sydney private school where she was head of coaching.
Nancy is no stranger to athletics. She won gold at the Commonwealth Games in Vancouver with Marjorie Jackson (Nelson) in 1954. She has coached schoolboy athletes for decades. At one stage she mentored 400-metre champion Darren Clark – who was fourth at the Los Angeles Olympics. She is a direct and constant link between Australia's greatest era of athletics and the athletes taking us into the next generation.
 
 
Great article this one and a great story.
TENNIS AUSTRALIA take note ; Just because you have the money it does not mean you have the right to take promising players from their original coaches and place them into YOUR PROGRAMS that have so far failed to yield any results of any significance.
The above story is inspiring. Stay with your coach if you are getting results, the tennis hierarchy will still come running after you if you can show you have what it takes. Ignore the glossy programs of this country which fail to deliver anything except a monopoly on the good players.
So far the public is still waiting to see some results from placing promising players with new coaches who fail to understand the players' requirements and capabilities.
Original coaches get results in most sports, try telling TENNIS AUSTRALIA that.......
 

Monday, 15 February 2016

'FUNNY STUFF'

Here's a story for you. This was sent to me just recently.
Two tennis coaches in a small town, two kids going to both coaches, everything going ok. One coach gets greedy, offers the two kids a 'scholarship' that no one has ever even heard of. The parents and kids get all starry-eyed and fall for the 'scholarship' deal, they then take up the offer.
The 'scholarship' apparently is then written about in a local newspaper stating among other things that the 'scholarships' were 'sought after' by many. Interesting story so far, it gets better.
Years go by and the students apparently caught up with the other coach from that little town somewhere down the track and they had a bit of a chat. Among other things it was stated that the 'scholarships' were not worth the paper they were even printed on. By all reports all that was offered were discounted lessons and cheaper restrings. Apparently this was a 'scholarship'.
I wonder if that idiot who offered the 'scholarships' also did what many do now days and that is offer school lessons on school grounds just down the road from the local club tennis club. It's interesting hearing stories like the above mentioned as it seems quite common. I received another email in regards to my chapter titled 'Clearing it up '.
One coach stated that they experienced the same struggles in their local community however they were powerless to stop it as going to the local schools and offering their expertise on court was not on their agenda. It stripped their program also of many kids.
Grubby stuff happens throughout the tennis coaching industry as it is full of 'wannabees' who have to resort to these types of things to get a few kids on court. Not sure where it will all end, if ever, but I do appreciate the emails I have already received from 'real' coaches of the sport of tennis who have not resorted to those type of tactics just to make a dollar.
Funny sport tennis, I look forward to receiving some more stories soon, thanks again for offering yours. Keep your chins up, hopefully one day common sense may just play a part in the future of teaching the sport of tennis.......
Regards Glenn

Sunday, 14 February 2016

'SOME MORE FACTS AND FIGURES'

The following is from 'THE CONVERSATION'

The bottom line

To cut to the chase, it costs the average tennis player in the order of $US160,000 per year to compete (once coaching costs are factored in). In 2013 only around 150 players made enough money to “break even” from prize-money alone.
Let’s think about that for a minute. More than 75 million people play tennis globally, and only about 160 men and 150 women earn enough prize-money to cover the cost of playing professionally.
So your chances of making money out of the game as a professional player are about one in 250,000.
Compare that to domestic sport such as the Australian Football League (AFL). There are 18 teams, each of which needs at the very least 38 players on its primary list. Given that it’s estimated that just under 1 million people play AFL, your chances of making a living in AFL are comparatively greater, at one in about 1,500!
Being a pro tennis player is like running a small business. Prize-money is not tax-free income, and you’re generally not backed by a club.
So unless your ranking belongs in the upper echelons of the sport, you likely have to pay for your own coaching and training staff as well as flights, accommodation, medical expenses, balls, rackets, strings etc. All that doesn’t come cheap.

An opportunity for change

It’s not the intention here to be critical of the tall poppies of our sport. Who could argue that what the likes of Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer and the Williams sisters, Venus and Serena, bring to the sport is not worth the investment or cost?
Despite the commercial prerogative, some thought does need to be given to the viability of a tour where almost all the prize-money goes to a handful of people, who in some cases don’t rely on prize-money to sustain their career anyway.
Unfortunately, most of the time, nobody cares much about the 160th and 150th-best male and female tennis players, which is a shame because they have to be ridiculously good tennis players to outperform the other 74,999,850 odd people who pick up a racket.
If you think grand-slam finals are tense, it’s nothing compared to final-round qualifying where entire livelihoods are on the line.
But with recent announcements of prize-money increases, grand slams have an opportunity to continue to distribute growing amounts of prize-money to those who exit earlier in the tournament.
While it may seem counter-intuitive to reward players who “turn up and lose first round”, the bottom line is that if talent is lost simply because people can’t pay the bills, the sport and fans suffer in the long term.

Friday, 12 February 2016

'WORTH A READ'

I find the following article fascinating if not rather disturbing as it brings to light the struggles of budding tennis professionals. With a ranking in the low 300's you would imagine this particular player to have a realistic shot at making a living from the game, yet he can spend a week at a Challenger event and only pick up what a tennis coach makes in an hour's lesson. It's farcical.
Novak picks up nearly 4 million for a Slam win and the 'next Novak' in an obscure event has to rely on someone giving him accommodation and quite possibly food also just so he can chase his dream.
The ATP seriously need to look at it because the next Novak may never even get a chance to show the World his talent due to the ridiculous prize money discrepancies.
It's all very well to pay a winner of a Slam 4 mil but if that was capped at 2 mil and the semis, quarters etc were capped at a more realistic rate could sponsorship dollars at major events be put towards the growth of future champions ? 
Would the Worlds best players not turn up just because they could win ONLY 2 mil do you think ? What about players who have received funding from their governing bodies to help them out initially have a pay back scheme in place if they make the big time ? Could those funds then be used to help future stars survive their initial years on tour ? Many questions, not many answers. The rich keep getting richer........

THE FOLLOWING ARTICLE IS WRITTEN BY SIMON BRIGGS OF 'THE TELEGRAPH', LONDON....
Even by the standards of British tennis, 2014 has been a turbulent year. The exit of Roger Draper last autumn was followed by the arrival of Michael Downey, a tough-talking new boss in Roehampton, who has slashed back funding and questioned the players’ hunger. Meanwhile, a number of promising young talents have been walking away from the game.
In the view of Oli Golding – who won the junior US Open in 2011 but joined the exodus in August – the two themes may be connected.
In his first interview since leaving the tour, Golding was keen to credit the Lawn Tennis Assocation for supporting him since he was a young teenager. But he also described the reduction of the LTA’s popular bonus scheme as “crazy” and admitted that the closure of the high-performance programme at the National Tennis Centre – the glitzy £40m training base only 15 minutes from his family home in Richmond – had felt like the last straw.
“I was struggling to find places to train that were good enough,” Golding told the Telegraph. “When I heard that the NTC was going to close, I decided that I was going to go and base myself in France but that would have been another 15 weeks away per year, and it’s not a secret that I have found the travelling difficult.
“Just before I was going to move overseas, I played a tough run of tournaments in Taiwan and Kazakhstan. I thought ‘If I am struggling to do this when based in London, it’s going to be even worse when I’m based in France.
“It’s surprisingly difficult to find places to play in London. Either the clubs aren’t keen on having performance players based there or, if they are keen, they don’t have adequate facilities. It was frustrating for me that the NTC closed, having been born 10 or 15 minutes around the corner. I’m not saying it won’t turn out to be the right decision, but it didn’t help me.”
Golding – who turned 21 in September – is one of five young men who all seemed to have a chance of becoming regular tour players, yet decided this year to step off the treadmill. Three of them are close contemporaries of his, in George Morgan, Ashley Hewitt and Jack Carpenter. And then there is 19-year-old Harry Meehan, a 6ft 5in left-hander with a bomb of a serve, who told the Telegraph in October that “I was beginning to struggle with my mental state.”
If there is a common thread, Golding suggests, it is the amount of expectation heaped onto players who are not ready for it.
“It’s an issue in UK that we don’t create enough tennis players,” he said. “Which means there is more pressure on the ones that do try to make it. People tend to write you off very early, and if things aren’t going well for six months it’s a disaster. Yes, we’ve got a gap in that area of players from 30 to 70 in the world, but those players don’t usually break through at 20, more likely at 24.

Promise: Oli Golding was ranked No. 327 in April (PAUL GROVER)
“In my case, my head wasn’t in it at the end, for the last couple of months. It was funny because I was playing some of my best tennis but at the same time I felt I was going through the motions. Taking a break was the best option, because nothing was going to happen while I felt like that. There are too many other people out there who are feeling fresh and enjoying it and when the score’s 5-5 in the third set, nine times out of ten they find a way to win.”
Golding – who reached a high point of No. 327 in the world in April – has spent the autumn and winter helping out with his mother’s tennis-coaching business while he decides what to do next. A career in business is a possibility, though he does not rule out returning to the tour in a year’s time if he feels he is missing it. (Which he hasn’t, particularly, as yet.)
If he does go back, Golding says that it would have to be on his own terms, rather than under the watchful eye of LTA coaches and sponsors. “When I was a kid I used to swing in quite a carefree way, but after I won the US Open juniors a lot of people wanted to have an input into the way I was playing. The result was that I got regulated and lost touch with the way I used to hit the ball.”
Yet while Golding might like the idea of trading as a lone wolf, how would he support himself? With the exception of Andy Murray and perhaps three or four others, British players have long relied on matrix funding (which used to be handed out on the basis of junior results) and the bonus scheme (which assisted senior players who reached the later stages of Futures events).
Now that the first safety net is being taken down, and the second cut back, Downey's critics argue that a professional tennis career will soon be out of reach for everyone but once-in-a-generation talents and those with wealthy backgrounds.
“It’s crazy,” says Golding. “The people who need funding are the ones at the lower levels. You just can’t make ends meet playing Futures $10,000s. I think a hell of a lot of people will give up.
“It’s a hell of a tough life. The rewards are very limited. I can understand that the LTA want to have targets but I think it’s tough enough as it is. When you look at the conditions at a Futures, it’s below the minimum wage. I entered one 128-player draw, qualified and won a round, and reached the semis of the doubles. I was there from Thursday to Thursday and after tax my pay packet was 88 Euros. Considering how much money there is at the top level, more should filter down.”
So what about the main criticism that Downey, implicitly, has been aiming at Golding, Morgan et al? That they just don’t want it enough? Heather Watson added her own voice a fortnight ago, when she told reporters that “A lot of British tennis boys I’ve grown up with think it’s a jolly, that you’re going to play some tennis, get all the girls, go out, but it doesn’t work like that.”
Golding disagrees. "People who say that wouldn’t have any idea how difficult it is. How much you have to put in and how little you get back. I was incredibly hungry, I used to get frustrated on the court because I wanted to win so much. I gave it absolutely everything for six or seven years of my life, travelling for 25 or 30 weeks a year. In the end I felt I didn’t have much in the tank, and that it wasn’t honest to take sponsorship from people in that state.
“What Downey’s been saying, it’s a bit of a generalisation, because everyone is different. When he and [performance director] Bob Brett came in they started saying stuff and taking decisions without talking to people.
“I felt about 18 months ago there was a good spirit and team atmosphere around British tennis. Everyone was pulling together really well but that was lost slightly. The NTC was quite busy for a while but then it did start to empty out even before the new regime arrived. I’m not sure why that was; the players didn’t get told very much. What I would say is that tennis is a very individual sport but the new LTA seem to be making their decisions on a group basis.”
If he can work out which path to follow, Golding should have a bright future. He is intelligent and articulate, as well as confident enough to have appeared as a child actor in major films and theatre productions, including Chitty Chitty Bang Bang on the West End stage. And then there is his acute analysis of the British tennis scene, which is so well-informed that Downey should think about giving him a different sort of role in the NTC's administrative offices.
“It is difficult for the LTA,” says Golding. “They are rich in terms of money but poor in terms of facilities, which isn’t the fault of Downey or Brett. Clubs in Europe are much more interested in generating players, more community-based. Here it’s all about money. They don’t want someone on court for free when they could be making £27 an hour.
“Around me, most of the courts are either artificial grass or macadam – two surfaces that are used for zero pro tournaments. They’re cheaper to install, survive the weather in this country, and are easier for the older generation to play on than clay. On artificial turf, you can’t rally for more than three or four shots if you’re putting any pace on the ball. People wonder why we struggle to create players in this country and that is a big part of the answer.”

Thursday, 11 February 2016

'CLEARING IT UP'

For those of you who read this site who are a little unsure as to my motives for having a regular shot at 'tennis coaches', I thought I should clear a few things up. The main reason I don't have any time for these type of people is because many have ruined the future of local tennis clubs through greed.
Many clubs miss out on kids walking through the gate after school to soak up the atmosphere of it all because some greedy bugger is conducting lessons at the school just down the road. Sometimes it's within a mile, sometimes less.
Sure it's more convenient for the consumer to have those lessons either before or after school on school grounds however it is to the detriment of a tennis club and potential future members.
If the tennis club is the ONLY place to learn at then it creates a sense of worth for the club, a place that is looked upon as precious for the sport. School tennis courts do not offer anything except convenience and an easy venue for 'coaches' to place an assistant at to earn anything up to $150 an hour for babysitting, because that's all that happens at school 'coaching' due to the large numbers on court.
Think about it, sometimes 15 or more kids are on a court for an hour paying ten or fifteen bucks a session, nice money if you can get it.
I have stated that some 'coaches' command up to $80 an hour for a private session and that in itself puts the sport out of reach of the everyday player who wants to get better. How is that sort of pricing going to entice people to take up the game ? How many lessons would you expect a beginner to need to take their game up to a reasonable enough standard to play even club tennis ? Or rather how many dollars do you think it would cost ? Why isn't the sport being regulated as far as hourly coaching rates are concerned which puts the sport into an exclusive league all of it's own ?
How is it that guys and girls as young as 18 years of age can look a consumer in the eye and say they are worth $70 or $80 an hour for a lesson that offered not much more than a cardio workout ? Some will argue that their lessons are fun. I could take $50 off that 'fun' session and find 25 other things to do that would be more fun, less expensive and more educational for a kid. Yet people pay it.
I have made a point of saying that some coaches are worth their fees but I say that with some caution because I don't really believe that an hourly rate like that is justified. In saying that however I could find you a coach or two in the City who would not only teach you how to hit a ball well but actually teach you how to play the game in half the time that most others could due to their ability to coach with knowledge, not gimmicks.
I don't really like the whole tennis coaching industry as it is full of people who have no real background in experience yet join the bandwagon of the experienced ones. They get lost in the dust only to appear at a club somewhere down the track with an accreditation certificate that commands a fee that real workers take four hours to achieve.
I am sceptical of the tennis coaching industry because it is not looked after by a governing body that should be doing more to make it affordable. It is a sport of kings, like horse racing, a rich person's past time.
Do I rate myself ? I have been to Europe, seen the game at a high level, played it as high as I possibly could. I got belted by many Frenchmen with big forehands who knew the art of clay court tennis. I played the challenger circuit in Queensland in the late 80's, I have coached for 28 years. Does it give me the right to charge a fee that some take a day to earn ? I think not.
I am back in the pack still learning the way the game works, learning how to teach with meaning, with substance. I don't have my head up my own arse, I don't make the game unaffordable to learn. I suppose that makes me a little different than many who teach tennis.
Happy with that...........

Wednesday, 10 February 2016

'THANKS CHAMP'

I thought that last chapter of mine may get the 'usual suspects' talking. It comes up on my stat counter as to who tunes in.
Thanks 'Champ', always makes my day when you tune in. Remember only those who aren't doing a good job should take offence to things I write.
For those 'real' coaches out there, the ones getting results, well, keep up the great work......
Regards GT

Tuesday, 9 February 2016

'A BIT HARSH'

I had a phone conversation recently with someone who knows a thing or two about the tennis coaching Industry and it seems I may have been a bit harsh in my previous judgement on certain individuals. So here is my apology to all of those 'hard working' tennis coaches out there.
Firstly I am sorry for what I said regarding your $70 to $80 per hour fees. I realize that you do in fact pay court hire and Insurance as well as fuel to and from the tennis club so I think it's fair to say that we could knock each hour down to say $55 to $65. Would that be a fair assumption ? Apparently some coaches only do private sessions and let their assistants do the group lessons so I suppose if you were in a fairly well to do suburb you would be looking at a couple of hundred clear each day with just private lessons. On top of that however add what you would take home after a group session of say eight kids who would pay around $15 per session but after of course you pay your minimally qualified assistant around $30 for the hour or so. Still great dollars hey ?
So what does a tennis coach really earn ? Well for a start the word 'earn' can at times be rather loosely used because many 'coaches' don't in fact coach, they hit balls, babysit kids and have their assistants throw balls to their students so 'coaching' at times is not really what it is supposed to be. I was under the impression that tennis coaching was all about teaching kids how to play tennis yet if you witness the gimmicks involved now days you would have to question just what the consumer is in fact paying for.
Many 'coaches' of tennis believe that if they put their hourly rates up high enough it will in fact attract a crowd but the problem with this is simple, you have to be able to produce the goods regularly and not just in a one off session that makes you out to be god's gift to teaching the sport of tennis.
A lot of pressure is put on a 'coach' with an hourly price tag of 'self importance' yet some choose to accept the challenge and good on them for doing so as some consumers believe in paying those ridiculous sums of money, most times for the status of it all. In all seriousness though it's like the parents who send their kids to the school with the highest school fees in the country just because it looks good, not because it works. 
One of my children received 8 A's out of a possible 9 subjects at an 'average' school with 'average' fees. Usually it's all down to the application of the student and not the exorbitant fee structure that has people chaffing at the bit to be seen at the school gate along with other parents who have to take a loan out to have their children seen there also. Status symbol written all over it.
So what is it with tennis coaching and why is it so expensive ? Exclusiveness, status, a chance to rub shoulders with other parents who like to throw money at people who command a fee who have never ever had a job outside of the sport they teach so they have no real concept of what it's like to really earn a real dollar in the real World.
Some feel that throwing that sort of money at someone means that what they are receiving in turn is in fact good value. On a rare occasion maybe it is, on most occasions though that $80 could be better used on a few dozen tennis balls and a basket and the parent throwing those balls to their kid and saying 'great shot'. That's all that many 'coaches' do for the entirety of a lesson.
Someone told me a while back that the 'market' drives the price of learning tennis up and up but what really is the 'market' ? I reckon the 'market' is full of people who have never had a job outside of a tennis court and who really don't know what a hard day's work is. Hitting tennis balls as a coach is a breeze though many will tell you otherwise. Tennis is tough as a player, not a coach. Perspective should come into play here.
If however a coach is getting a regular result and I mean a REAL result with his or her students then I suppose they are entitled to a decent hourly rate but I am sorry I haven't met too many over the years, most just talk themselves and their programs up. Much hype, very little substance.
I could name a handful of real tennis coaches who I have met over the years who are worth every cent they charge because what they teach has meaning but they are a rarity, hence their worth.
It's like finding a gold nugget, it's rare, they are worth a lot of money, fair enough. People will pay for the privilege of owning one. If every rock on the side of the road was a gold nugget, well, think about it.
That's the tennis coaching market now days, not enough gold nuggets, way too many rocks...........

Monday, 8 February 2016

'TRUE STORY'

I have seen some strange things in my time both on and off a tennis court however I believe that this may just be the strangest. There is a budding tennis professional who is doing his best to qualify for some tour events who stands at 6 foot 2", is 86 kg's and is 24 years of age from the US.
He has won just shy of $200,000 in his career, he is ranked 248 in the World. Now here is his name.
TENNYS. Yep his name is TENNYS. His last name is Sandgren. Forget his last name, you tell me how to say his first name and then tell me if you get any pronunciation other than TENNIS. What were his parents' thinking other than him becoming a tennis professional from the day he was born ? !
There are some great tennis professional names both past and present but be honest, have you ever seen a better name than this ?
I wish the young man all the best with his 'tennys'. Can you imagine if he makes the big time ? The sponsorship dollars would flow freely to a man who's name is the same as his chosen profession.
All the best Tennys, go get 'em...........

Friday, 5 February 2016

'FROM RAFA'

"The spin is the right shot to play on the clay, because when you play with a lot of spin you can produce a lot of important shots, a lot of winners, but without the risk, so that was the key to my success on clay " . Rafael Nadal.....
There is a video going around that involves Rafa and his take on the intricacies of spin. Interesting insight into the mind of possibly the greatest clay court player of all time.
A kid will have the perception that winners will need to be hit to win a tennis match, even Rafa says so in a way yet Rafa believes in spin and not hitting flat balls as many kids do.
Hitting flat balls with little margin for error leaves the ball in the opposition's hitting zone, a no, no, particularly on clay. It's why Rafa has owned both Monte Carlo and Paris for ten or so years with a net clearance that makes the opposition feel uncomfortable.
I love watching clips like this as it reinforces tennis fundamentals of consistency and smart play. The thing I noticed in this clip also is the grip change of Rafa which many times is neglected by coaching 'gurus'.
It's an old story that more than one 'coach' teaches the two handed backhand with a forehand grip and it's why the backhand of many kids is not one of substance. Watch Rafa slow motion and how he changes the hands between forehands and backhands.
Next time your coach gives you a lesson, ask the question...........

'IRONY'

I wrote the following chapter one night after reminiscing about my European adventure. It's been sitting in another file for a while. I write a lot, sometimes I don't post it, just sit on it. The European trip of '91 has relevance I believe as it takes someone out of a comfort zone, a necessity for future growth and improvement........

'IRONY'

The tournament in Bordeaux was yet another learning experience in a long line of character building moments. For me personally being in a foreign land and trying to win a tennis match was like trying to buy a ham and salad roll, an impossibility. ( They didn't sell them, you had to get a croissant and they were nowhere near as good as a roll ). That afternoon we sat around a television and watched not only my hero but possibly everybody's hero of the 70's Bjorn Borg attempt a comeback to the tour at age 35.
Now we had heard of the attempt by the great man to get back onto the main pro tour through news broadcasts and we were simply fascinated by the whole idea. Once I knew that Borg was getting back on court again I would occasionally have a look through a sporting magazine in a French Newsagency to gain some sort of insight as to how the comeback was looking. Problem was simple though, I could not understand French so I relied on the pictures to paint a picture. I recall seeing photos of Borg training, doing push ups, hitting balls, getting his body in shape for another go at the big time and I was inspired all over again, just like when I was a kid learning to play the game.
Borg was looking in a word magnificent, he was ridiculously fit and lean for a man in his mid thirties and he looked fresh, unlike his former 26 year old jaded self who burned out of the sport in his prime.
Seeing Borg on court again was like being in a candy store as a kid where your eyes lit up at the thought of what you could get your teeth around. Borg had an aura about him all those years later and with each warm up groundstroke that he hit in the comeback match at Monte Carlo my mind took me back to my garage wall hitting days as a kid. Without Borg I would not have even played tennis and here I was in Europe testing myself to the maximum for the very first time with my hero doing the same thing, albeit after ten years away from the game. It was ironic.
Bjorn Borg retired when I was just starting my tennis adventure and the devastation of it I have documented in other chapters. Heroes are a necessity in all walks of life and Borg was my hero, he inspired me to play and to me he was larger than life , a rock star type of character who once waved to his wife in the stands at Wimbledon during an epic match. To the uneducated that may have meant almost a form of arrogance but even as a kid I perceived that as a man who knew his capabilities and he was simply letting his loved ones know that he was in control despite the score. Imagine that sort of confidence in one's own ability ? To wave and let someone know you were ok and knew how to fight your way out of a brutal battle ? That's confidence of a rare nature.
As the match wore on in Monte Carlo I could tell that the Borg fairy-tale comeback was not meant to be as the Spaniard Arresse simply had way too many answers for him yet I still took heart from watching my hero play once again for more than one reason. My philosophical mind did the sums on it all as it does when analysing matches and players and I came up with a few conclusions however the biggest factor was obvious. It doesn't matter how much you practice a sport, unless you are playing regular competitive matches it will account for very little. Match play really is the number one factor in determining whether your game has substance or whether you are simply a 'practice champion'.
I likened my own ability to that of Borg's which was silly in a way as I would not have won a game off Borg, probably not even a point but I always look at relevance in tennis, it's how you improve. I was a 'practice champion' no doubt whatsoever, someone who loved practicing and could do it with no fear of any consequence. Borg quite possibly felt the same as he started to gain form leading up to that  match against Arrese. Was he oblivious to how tennis really works or was he simply just trying to play from memory and hope it was going to be good enough ?
Whatever transpired that day in Monte Carlo I look upon it to this day as one of the greatest examples I have ever seen when looking at the intricacies of tennis. It is an impossibility to hit tennis balls either against a wall, against a hitting partner or a ball machine and expect that form to hold any substance whatsoever because it is not reality. When looking at improvement in a sport as complex as tennis you have to put yourself into a real life situation with point play that tests the thought process to the maximum.
I took heart from the Borg comeback and I didn't see it as a failure from my hero, I simply saw it for what it was, someone who was testing themselves to the maximum and not someone who was looking for a watered down version. I went to Europe to test myself against players who I knew were way better than me so I could learn just how good you needed to be and I was under no illusions just as Borg probably was also. Yet it's how you get better, it's how you get educated as a tennis player. Don't tinker around the edges, get in and get your hands dirty, test yourself.

Thursday, 4 February 2016

'PERCEPTION' ( PART 2 )

 

'PERCEPTION' (2)

I vividly recall watching a practice set between two of my advanced students several years ago. One had magnificent looking strokes, the other, well his needed work yet he was a thinker, you just knew it by his quiet nature that something else was going on with him. He never said a word. I paired these two up for a match because I was fascinated to see if a 'glamour' style could really be taken apart by a not so glamorous style that had the word 'hacker' written all over it. ( More on 'hacking' later )
It didn't take long for my idea to come to fruition, within ten minutes of the commencement of this particular match you could see quite easily that the 'hacker' was way on top both mentally and physically. The glamour player had dropped his bundle, he was a mental wreck even after ten minutes of play and his body language was one of a player who had played two sets, not one who had played ten minutes. Why ? Well I believe it was all to do with two different perceptions.
The glamour guy felt that his magnificent looking shots should be way to magnificent for the player who was just beginning tennis but he had a much different perception that in fact held way more substance than the other's. Mr Glamour was not used to so many balls coming back at such an uncomfortable height and frequency. He was basically frustrated to such an extent that he started mimicking the opposition by throwing the ball up high himself but that wasn't his game, it was his opponent's so quite simply he was not as efficient at it, so he invariably lost easily.
After the sets were completed I called the guys in and we had a chat about the points played and where they believed they went right or went wrong, I asked for a self assessment. This was Mr Glamour's assessment " He's just a hack " ! Yep that's all he could come out with, he had no time for his opponent's smart play that totally put his game out of rhythm. I didn't get a word out of the 'hacker' so I offered some myself.
"That buddy was brilliant play, it wasn't pretty but no one said you have to look pretty when you play tennis, you just have to out smart the opposition. You did that to perfection". I turned to Mr Glamour and said " You were outplayed both by his shots and his mind, you can call him anything you like but until you beat him, well, he owns you Champ".
From memory it didn't take long for Mr Glamour to exact revenge as the 'hack' was just learning the game and his shots needed some work so the technique expertise won over the next time they played but it took some thinking by the previously vanquished to turn it around.
That whole story to me is typical of perception in tennis as we all have an idea of what we think is good enough to win yet as we all know it is almost an impossibility at any level to keep winning at a sport that has numerous styles of effectiveness. The kid who was new to the sport believed that by simply just getting the ball back at six to ten feet over the net and deep it would beat anybody he played and because he was new to it he feared nothing and no one.
The kid who owned a technically gifted game but not enough tennis smarts thought that by just hitting the ball with a fancy style that his game would be way too good for not just that new kid but for anyone. That match that I set up between the two was a perfect learning curve for both because of the difference in hours on court yet the surprising result.
Sometimes I wonder whether a kid with a totally unorthodox style could in fact be regularly successful in tennis through the junior ranks and then take it to the senior level such as Borg and McEnroe both did with styles that have never been replicated since. Who teaches a Borg style backhand or a McEnroe style serve now days ? The answer is no one because most coaches have the same perception as to how a style should look on a tennis court so they quite possibly do not embrace 'quirky' styles.
When a kid shows some potential what is the first thing that happens ? A coach will 'refine' the player's shots to a style that is what we all refer to as 'text book' and then it really is just a type of race as to which kid can make the grade with it. When you look at it however over the years the most successful players have all had a rather unique perception as to how the game should be played. Take Jimmy Connors for instance. If a 'regular' tennis coach had got a hold of him do you think they would have allowed him to keep thumping the ball that hard and that flat ? Jimmy's record speaks for itself. Do you think Borg's backhand would survive in today's playing and in particular coaching climate ? It would have been thrown out as 'outrageous'. Mac's serve with that footwork ? Too side on Mac.
The list goes on but one thing is for certain the champions of the World of tennis all had a unique perception of what they believed to be the correct and most effective way to hit a tennis ball.

'PERCEPTION' ( PART 1 )



'PERCEPTION'


Perception is the process by which stimulation of the senses is translated into meaningful experience.
Perception is the process of acquiring, interpreting, selecting and organizing sensory information. Many cognitive psychologists hold that, as we move about in the World we create a model of how the World works.... (New World Encyclopedia).
Fascinating isn't it as to how we all grasp hold of something that we feel comfortable with but really it is up for debate as to whether or not what we are holding is in fact something that is worth holding.
I have always felt that with a sport such as tennis there are in fact way too many perceptions of what is correct, hence the discrepancy from coach to coach, player to player, pro to pro. So who is correct ?
I have often spoke fondly of Gilbert's perception of the game and how he took an almost waste of talent in Agassi to the best player in the World. I have and always will speak fondly of the Swedes of the 70's and 80's and how they had a perception of the sport that looking back on was not really rocket science.
Bjorn Borg inspired a whole generation of Swedes who pretty much all played the same way from the baseline with perhaps Edberg being the only exception. Borg's perception was basic, don't miss and out rally the opponent. Wilander, Nystrom, Pernfors etc all followed with the same game plan, an almost 'fool proof' game plan that produced many tournament victories.
 Coaching can instill some ideas yet it cannot guarantee success, a common problem that is tough to find answers for. A tennis coach can work all they like with a student yet they cannot teach them how to play tennis without simulated play in practice.
I have seen countless lessons that are a total waste of time except for the cardio workout that could have been so much more yet the coach failed to teach the vital ingredient. That ingredient being a game plan that should come from a knowledgeable tennis coach with a theory or two on how to win a tennis match.
You can rabbit on all you like as a coach, in fact you can talk yourself blue in the face but if you are any sort of 'mentor' of the game then you will have a way of teaching that should include a tactical view on the game that has substance. 
Technique is useless without tactics and tactics are useless without technique so if a player lacks in one of these areas then why would you be teaching anything but the one that lacks progress ?
I have seen countless kids who's perception of tennis was simply to out hit their opponent where having a rally was not on their agenda. My way of dealing with that type of player was simple "Hey Champ have you somewhere else you need to be ? What's the hurry " ?!
So where did that type of perception begin ? Possibly by watching a player in the 'zone' who felt he could regularly hit a one dollar coin on the other side of the net and who owned no fear whatsoever in regards to winning or losing.
My earliest perception of tennis was in fact to look for the opponent and actually hit it back to them ! ( I thought that's how a tennis match was played. ) 
Borg did it in the 70's against Vilas and Lendl to such a crazy extent that some of their rallies would be regularly 50, 60, 70 shots, particularly on the clay. Dad saw what I was doing on court one day and explained that I in fact had to hit the ball AWAY from my opponent. ( That made a difference )
I am certain that Jonny Mac's perception was to break the rhythm of a player, never allow the same shot to be played twice and rush them into making errors. 
Perception in tennis quite possibly is the one thing that prevents a good player from becoming a very, very good player. If a student of the sport has no idea of what it is that they are supposed to be doing to win enough points to secure a match then surely that area of their game has been neglected. 
The best tennis players in the World are the best thinkers, not necessarily the best ball strikers. They are the ones who have been taught to think about each shot and how to construct their points with purpose rather than just going out and hoping their opponent will miss more than them.
Tennis is a sport that needs feel, not unlike a surfer who knows when to stand up on the board when the wave is about to peak. It's a sport which requires instinct and an ability to understand a situation, like a boxer needing to duck a right hook before t's too late. 
Tennis is a sport that without perception is like a famous quote from Edward de Bono....
"Most of the mistakes in thinking are inadequacies of perception rather than mistakes of logic".
A thinking man's game is tennis but it's all how you perceive the task in front of you.......