Friday, 30 December 2016

'A FINAL POST FOR 2016'

As always I write a post to thank those who have tuned into this site over the past 12 months and in particular to those who I have upset with the content of some of my posts, well it's like this, we are all entitled to an opinion.
Tennis is the type of sport where so many perceptions confuse what's really important and that is of course simply getting the ball over the net and keeping yourself in the point as long as possible. Nothing worse than losing a match as opposed to being beaten, there is of course a huge difference though some 'gurus' will tell you otherwise.
My theories on the sport of tennis are perhaps not unique however every coach has a different way of explaining things, I am no different in that aspect. 
Part of me hates tennis due in large to the way in which it is now run by Governing Bodies who have taken all the uniqueness away from the game with their 'modules' and their 'latest methods' as far as teaching the game is concerned. Creating robots is now the 'norm'.
Part of me loves tennis because it keeps me amused as both a side project with my writing and my coaching as the thought of teaching the game full time repulses me for more than one reason. If you have read any of my book you will understand my reasons for coaching on a part time basis and why I charge accordingly.
If the public choose to spend up to $90 an hour with someone who claims to be a full time tennis coach even though they only 'work' before school and after but charge like a wounded bull to make up for the hours they sit on their arse during the day then good luck to 'em.
Just because someone owns a price tag that looks like they know what they are talking about it doesn't necessarily mean that they know how to teach tennis. I had a lesson before Xmas with a Doctor who hit me just two tennis balls on her backhand side before I corrected the obvious problem which was the grip, as always the grip.
'I had a lesson last week in the South West on our tour'.
So how did that go ?
'Yeah ok'.
So why are you holding the racket like that ? Did the coach not tell you how to hold the racket ?
'No I was only taught how to swing'.
( At $70 an hour personally I would like to be taught from the beginning, the grip may just help )
It seems that the public is more interested in spending big dollars or rather looking for the most expensive 'Zen Master' to learn from however it can be deceiving in a sport such as tennis as many charge that price to make them look and sound a whole lot better than what and who they really are.
All of these examples of course keep me entertained and keep me writing which hasn't been a whole lot lately due to work committments in my 'real job'.
The year 2016 will also be a year that I will remember for quitting the ATPCA ( Australian Tennis Professional Coaches Association ). I asked them for a full refund due to their inability to control who joins their association which is in fact in opposition to Tennis Australia.
Allowing TA coaches (who gain funding from their Governing Body to run their own programs) to be part of the ATPCA is in my opinion nothing short of farcical. I believe you should follow one or the other because if you follow both it shows that you have an identity crisis of epic proportions.
If you know nothing about either well I suggest you look up the ATPCA and do some research, these guys have no time for TA yet allow TA coaches into their system. All way too contradictory for my liking, yet that's tennis in Australia for you.
Remember if you are an ATPCA 'qualified tennis coach' it will not be recognised as a qualification by Tennis Australia as they have stated. So you do the sums on what I have just written. I refuse to be a part of either, way too much bullshit involved and no loyalty required.
I will leave you with a couple more posts from my book 'Delusions of Grandeur' which I put together in October this year and posted on this site, a book I am proud of and one that begins on my parents garage wall in Albany, Western Australia and then took me to Paris nine years later.
We all have a tennis story, we all have a theory or two on how the game should be played, I am sticking with my ideas and my rather affordable lesson costs that many wouldn't get out of bed for. Difference is simple, I aren't full of my own self importance, many in this sport are.........
All the best in 2017
Regards GT

'PERCEPTION'. ( A post from my book )



Tuesday, 12 May 2015  ( BLOG POST )


'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 owns substance. 
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 instil 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 it'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.......

' THE RUSH'. ( A post from my book )

'THE RUSH'
'To those dead souls inching along the freeway in their metal coffins, we show them that the human spirit is still alive' ( The late, great Patrick Swayze as 'Bodhi', Point Break 1991 ).
Possibly one of my favourite movie lines of all time as the thing I loved about that statement was the defiance to conform to the ho-hum day to day activities of 99 per cent of the population. 
To me hitting tennis balls for a living was my dream and I did not want to be one of those 'dead souls' travelling to work on a congested freeway each day from 9 to 5. The thought repulsed me.
I have often likened surfing to tennis, I believe it has similarities. The adrenalin rush of riding a wave I am sure is one that cannot be replicated by another sport yet in my own silly mind I could imagine it to be like the feeling of hitting tennis balls to perfection. My adrenalin rush came from training, I lived for not only the hitting drills but the hill sprints to get my legs strong, the bike riding to gain fitness. I loved training for tennis. 
I was so dedicated to it that I would never eat my dinner until I had done my ten sprints up the hill or a ten kilometre hard slog on the bike no matter what the time was. I stuck to my schedule.
I lived and breathed tennis as a kid to such an extent that it consumed my thoughts no matter where I was. 
I am sure that I would have become a surfer if I hadn't almost drowned in a backyard pool when I was about 7 years of age as since then I feared the ocean. I was destined to find a sport away from the water and tennis gave me a rush right from the start. 

There was something so magnificent about striking a tennis ball when I was around 12 years of age that it consumed me for the rest of my schooling days. If I had put as much time into my schoolwork as I did tennis I could have ended up a scholar, instead I turned into someone who relied on things to maintain a sense of hype.
Drinking, gambling and fitness binges among other things  would give me a lift, a hit of adrenalin that I can only put down to my obsession of tennis because I lived and breathed it for so long. Coming down off tennis was like someone going cold turkey from drugs, at least that's what I likened it to so I went in search of other things for a lift.
My mind is still like a tin of worms as I struggle to find things to occupy my head space and that's why I write, it lifts me. Many have told me that my writing is entertaining, others find me to be nothing more than an argumentative prick as I question many things about the sport on my Blog. Personally I am just happy that I found something to keep myself occupied outside of work and kids. 
Writing relieves the head of things that build up and despite the occasional complaint of my Blog content I am happy with the progress of my silly mind and the many posts that I write for 'therapy'. My tennis days are long over and despite a win in the State 45's two years ago I am not about to chase titles that I was not good enough to win as a young man when it really counted.
The adrenalin rush of sport cannot really be replicated by anything else in life though at times we are all guilty of trying something and perhaps trying to hang onto something for a little too long. I wished I had written this book years ago instead of chasing glory in tennis tournaments as a 40 plus player looking for redemption.  
Tennis even up until age 45 for me was something that I was still trying to master even though I knew it was close to an impossibility due to the physical nature of it though I still managed a few wins along the way. I felt that I was becoming smarter as a player due to my teaching philosophies and ability to think my way through a match more so than when I was a kid.
Like a famous quote from the great Jimmy Connors ''Experience is a great advantage. The problem is that when you get the experience, you are too damned old to do anything about it".
Tennis is a rush, no doubt about it, a physical challenge that asks the body to keep pushing after the legs no longer want to move. That side of tennis however pales in significance to the mental limitations of it that have many players screaming at their inability to deliver what they know they can yet for some reason can't.
Looking back on my early days I suppose school work may just have been a whole lot easier.....

Thursday, 22 December 2016

'THE COST OF LEARNING TENNIS'

As the year winds down to Xmas I am rather tired, I have a 'real' job, not hitting tennis balls, that's simply something I do as a side project. I will leave you this year with a few posts I wrote which helped put my book together titled 'Delusions of Grandeur'.
The following is another post from my book which has a rather subtle dig at the cost of learning tennis.
It aint rocket science though many 'coaches' of the sport will treat it that way and charge 'accordingly'...........
 
I wrote countless posts on my Blog taking a swipe at the cost of tennis lessons as I felt that it has spiralled out of both control and reality. I have looked up what our Governing body TA 'recommends' for private tennis lessons and I have to say that I find the recommendation to be nothing short of disappointing.
If you look at the numbers of kids playing tennis in most towns you will notice that they are well behind team sports such as AFL, Soccer, Hockey and Basketball but of course they are team sports and have a cost that is relative to that fact. If your child plays tennis then the cost of a weekly group session will probably be around $15 to $20 for an hour or perhaps two hours depending on the lesson structure.
When I ran group sessions at a local club I charged around $12 for a two hour session for the advanced students which also included 30 minutes of point play after drills and technique work. The Intermediate group were charged pretty much what the beginners were however we gave the Intermediates 90 minutes and the Beginners 75 minutes. Those sessions cost each student $10.
Saturday morning Junior Club was not a real hit amongst the Intermediate and Advanced players yet we would usually fill five of the six courts and offer singles and doubles point play for two and a half hours for $5 per student. So if a kid was interested in playing tennis twice a week it cost less than $20 and they received anything up to four hours on court with both tuition and match play. That's around $160 per School Term for anything between 25 and 32 hours on court over 8 to ten weeks. Was this good value ? I thought so.
As far as private lessons were concerned, well I didn't really push them because most of the students were happy with their modest amount of tennis hours per week however I offered a one on one session for $30 per hour. Why so cheap ? I wasn't coaching full time, the overheads ( court hire, Insurance ) were not astronomical and I wanted my students to learn the sport at a price that their parents would not cringe at. I had some advanced students who regularly booked a one on one session and those sessions would ultimately take those students to the final rounds in junior tournaments locally.
My theory was simple, don't overcharge, believe in your own tuition and the sport takes care of itself in relation to results, word of mouth etc. As previously mentioned I also made a point of competing myself as there is nothing more inspiring for a student than to see or hear that their coach is actively playing and testing themselves.
So what happened to the cost of learning tennis over the years and why is it so expensive ? Well as per usual I have my theories but I believe the one thing that stands out from the rest is 'self importance'. A coach fresh into the fray will naturally go for what they can get and if our governing body recommends $60 to $80 per hour for a 'qualified' coach then what figure do you think that newly 'qualified' coach will command ?
A coaching course will teach someone how to pass down tuition to a student yet it takes years of both playing and coaching to reach a level of competence that can actually mentor someone and teach them the intricacies of a sport such as tennis. Is it right that an 18 year old with minimal tennis knowledge can charge per hour what someone does who would run rings around them as far as knowledge is concerned ? It's where the fun begins.
Why do you think that some coaches in fact charge up to $100 per hour for private tennis lessons ? Once again that's easy to answer, it's because they need to separate themselves from the 'ball hitters' of the sport who say things like 'It's just what the market commands now days'. Self justification is big in tennis as well as self importance. Some will say that their overheads command a hefty hourly rate and in many instances this is a fact but many use that old chestnut to blend in with those who do actually have to charge big to keep their business running.
Tennis Clubs quite often will charge outrageous amounts from the resident coach which is a blight on the sport because if it keeps getting passed down to the consumer then parents will continue to move their kids into team sports which cost little to play. I believe that tennis requires a bit more honesty from everyone when it comes to pricing and a lot less 'follow the leader' type of mentality as it will continue to be known as an 'elitist' sport if the current costing follows the same trend.
Around ten years ago I charged $40 per hour to a Production Company in town to film a mini series for their lead actress to learn how to hit a tennis ball in two sessions. Briony Stewart from the 'Lochie Lennard' series knew less than nothing on how to hit a tennis ball and it took every ounce of patience that I owned to get her up to scratch to film a scene at a local court. I actually felt bad that I charged that much however someone told me that a local surfer was charging $50 per hour for their tuition. The scene went beautifully, Briony looked the part !
I will never conform to either a program recommended to me or a cost suggested by any governing body just so the sport can continue to look like it's one that leads the way in modern sporting trends. To me a lot of tennis is self indulgence and unjustified and I will stick with my 'Dinosaur' methods and pricing that so far have had no complaints about either.
Each to their own.....

Monday, 19 December 2016

' STRUCTURE '

I wrote the following post in April, 2015. If I was to write one thing about tennis and hang my hat on it I believe that this would in fact be the one. For those of you who have not yet read my book titled 'Delusions of Grandeur' this is on page 70 of the 76 posts that I put together and sits on this site in the month of October......
 
Saturday, 25 April 2015  ( BLOG POST )

'STRUCTURE'


It's no secret that my influences from tennis stem from the late 70's and early 80's, even through to perhaps 1990, after that well I really didn't care too much, the game changed. From the Swedish domination of Borg, Wilander, Edberg etc to the emergence of Agassi in '88 the game saw some classic matches and some real characters, players who left a lasting impression.
I remember some matches vividly where some players had styles that almost resembled robots like Lendl, even Borg, two players who sat on the baseline and simply waited for the opposition to miss or 'commit suicide' by coming to the net. These guys owned a structured game that took an amazing amount of discipline to implement day in, day out, it's why they became so successful. They didn't really own a Plan B, they had such a good Plan A that not too many players could infiltrate so they stuck with what they knew best. Fascinating to watch a player that good.
I have been meaning to read the Brad Gilbert book titled 'Winning Ugly', a book about 'Mental warfare in the game of Tennis' however I have not had the pleasure so far. I have though read some snippets of it and it typifies the sort of player Gilbert was, a genius. The man who took Andre Agassi from almost a waste of talent to the World's best player had a unique style of his own that could only be described as 'unconventional'.
Brad Gilbert would dish the best players up all sorts of things like short sliced balls, high looping topspin balls, balls with no pace and he would also mix the play up with net advances just to dispel the theory that he was perhaps a baseliner. In other words Gilbert gave his opponents 'nothing'. The American had a nasty habit of almost 'poking' balls back into court with just a breath of wind on them especially from his backhand and then ripping the next ball past his incoming opponent.
Brad Gilbert had an uncanny knack of almost lulling opponents into a false sense of security not unlike the great Czech Miloslav Mecir who could also put an opponent to sleep then wake them rather rudely. How Andre Agassi found Brad Gilbert was nothing short of a master stroke but it worked to perfection, two contrasting players, a genius with no weapons and a player with many weapons who was no genius. 
The win by Gilbert at the 1987 US Open against Boris Becker in the round of 16 will go down as one of the all time great upsets in New York as Gilbert was seeded 13, Becker 4. What made the win even more remarkable was that Becker won the first two sets, he was all over Gilbert but the unconventional American had a structure to his game that was all about self discipline, just as Borg's and Lendl's was.
With winnings of over five and a half million dollars, a highest ranking of 4 in singles and an intelligence that attracted a player of Andre Agassi's standard it is no wonder that Brad Gilbert was destined for success in coaching when he finished playing professionally in 1995.  
In fact in 1992 just two years before he started helping Agassi he belted his future student 6-1, 6-2 in Paris when Andre was ranked 8 in the World, perhaps a match that stuck in Agassi's mind regarding talents versus brains.
Some days when I see kids play the game it seems to be all about the ego and how to out hit an opponent who is playing big shots, much of it lacks thought. If you have ever seen Gilbert play it surely will remind you that tennis can still be won now days without the glamour if certain structures are put into play from the outset.
Watching the AFL matches each weekend it is noticeable that the best sides have a discipline about them that at times seems ridiculously effective. When these teams are on song it is almost like they have an extra man or two on the field and it has opposition coaches scratching their heads at ways to break the structure.
It is one thing to offer a style of play by a coach but it is another totally different thing for a player or team to implement it. So it begs the question once again.
As a coach of a sport are you teaching tactics just as much as you are teaching technique or are you simply hoping that when they come up against another good player they will simply have a better day than their opponent ? When two juniors come up against one another with no game plan but similar styles then who will win ? It's a raffle, correct me if I am wrong.
If however a player has certain structures in place and can implement a Plan B as well as a preferred Plan A then they will go a long way to winning against a player who doesn't own the ability to keep thinking when in trouble.
Brad Gilbert had no weapons, no glamour and no obvious physical advantages yet he beat players in the Top 10 on 27 different occasions. How is that possible ?  Simple, he owned a mind that outweighed his deficiencies in the way he hit the ball. That's tennis for you, anyone can hit a ball, it's what you do with it that matters.... 

Saturday, 3 December 2016

'WHAT DID YOU EXPECT' ?

I find the following article to be not at all surprising. Tennis is a sport that does not look after the players who are battling to make their way, it only keeps paying the elite more money.

Not too many players are ever going to win a Slam yet they keep increasing the prize money in the major tournaments to an obscene amount with no justification.

Perhaps inflation ? If that's the case then increase the prize money in the lower tiered events. Those players are the future of the game yet most will never get the opportunity to finally show their full potential as they will not be able to afford to stay in the sport.

This article is typical of where the sport is currently, a sport which is happy to help Novak surpass the $100,000,000 mark yet fails to help future champions stay in the game......

Spanish authorities have detained 34 people, including six tennis players, involved in a tennis match-fixing network that made more than half-a-million dollars from lower-tier tournaments in Spain and Portugal.

Key points:

  • Alleged fixing occured in Challenger and Futures-level tournaments
  • Police say they found evidence of fixing in 17 men's tournaments in Spain and Portugal
  • If convicted, 34 face prison sentences of up to four years
Police said that Operation Futures probed several Futures and Challenger tournaments in Iberia for the past several months and found evidence that results were rigged.
The tennis players were not identified, but authorities said they were ranked between 800 and 1,200 in the world. Their Spanish rankings ranged between 30 and 300.
Police said they found evidence of match-fixing attempts in 17 men's tournaments in five cities, including Madrid, Seville and Porto.
Authorities said the two alleged leaders of the network were among those detained across 12 Spanish cities. The leaders were based in Seville and La Coruna. All those detained were Spaniards and are expected to remain free pending trial.
If convicted of corruption in sports, they could face prison sentences of up to four years.
The investigation began after a tip given by a player to the Tennis Integrity Unit, the sport's anti-corruption body.
"Investigation of corruption allegations by law enforcement agencies takes precedence over tennis disciplinary action," the body said in an email.
"The TIU will continue to work co-operatively with (Spanish police) and offer its full support and access to resources."
Authorities took the case forward after noticing an unusual amount of online bets related to the suspected tournaments.
The network allegedly used instant-messaging groups and social media to attract online betters who would pay for the information about rigged results.
The players who accepted participating in the scheme would receive about $1,000 for each match. In some cases, they were asked to lose specific points or games.
The network's earnings in some of the tournaments surpassed $10,000.
The Challenger tournaments are second-tier events organized by the ATP, while the Futures are single-week competitions organized by the International Tennis Federation offering either $10,000 or $25,000 in prize money.
There were nearly 39 Futures tournaments in Spain this season, and more than 10 in Portugal.
AP