Monday, December 11, 2006

Whew!


Monday was my first day off, after 16 straight days of junior tennis coverage. I did laundry, wrote my SMASH column and unpacked for the eighth time since leaving Michigan.

It was decidedly strange to have an unscheduled day, but it won't be long before the Junior Orange Bowl begins!

I ran across this story by Linda Pearce at The Age, who is keeping close tabs on the player development changes in Australia. I'm still not convinced that athleticism and technique are paramount, but at least Craig Tiley and Steve Wood have a plan and criteria.

The most recent Inside Junior Tennis podcast centered on the Eddie Herr, is now available through this link. You do not need an iPod to listen to it, just a computer connected to the internet. Kevin McClure has also recently posted an interview with Intercollegiate Tennis Association Executive Director David Benjamin.

4 comments:

AndrewD said...

Collette,

You mention that you aren't convinced that athleticism and technique are of paramount importance. Why is that?

Colette Lewis said...

I think love and understanding of the game are equally important. Here's a recent quote (thanks again to Linda Pearce) from Australian John Alexander:

"I think, basically, we have gone down a path of over-emphasis on technical aspects and believing that there was a magic in discovering a biomechanically perfect action on every shot. That is simply not the nature of the game at all, and any casual observation will you that every leading player plays differently.

"Roger Federer doesn't hit the ball anything like … Rafael Nadal or Lleyton Hewitt, and the game is magnificent because of the differences. By allowing people to develop individually, they will be able to fulfill their potential. That subtle understanding of the game, I think, was lost at times, albeit well-intentioned."

Anonymous said...

The statement by Alexander is so true. So many people are looking for the coach who can make the amazing grip change or wave their magic wand and change a players' fortunes. This has been the result of far too many private coaches being employed over the years. Each coach has to justify their position by making unwarranted changes that just end up confusing the kids. There are so many ways to effectively hit a tennis ball.
I feel the US players have become much too reliant on the magic wand technical change rather than getting back to the work ethic and mental toughness that was our signature in the past. We use technique as the panacia to hide our lack or desire and hunger. I was a top ATP player in the 80's and saw so many great players over the years. In the past 20 years the US trend has totally moved toward technique. The results of our players have deteriorated. At Kalamazoo 20 years ago you would see participants hitting with each other and playing practice sets. Now when you peruse the practice courts you see private coaches feeding out of buckets and making all kinds of technical comments the day before matches. How can you play when your mind is on technique? I remember one time when Bjorn Borg was asked what grip he used on the f.h. he looked puzzled and said " I just hit the ball". We need to get back to playing a lot more matches and focusing on how to win with mental toughness and hard work. We used to play 40 or 50 matches over a summer. Now kids play 2 or 3 events that lead to maybe 10 matches a summer and spend the rest of their time searching for the perfect technique. They need to practice competing and learning how to play points and win matches. Thanks for your great site Collette.

AndrewD said...

If you look at the beginning of the third paragraph it is pretty apparent that Tiley is talking about producing 'great' players, not merely introducing people to the game. So, yes, when your focus is on the elite within a sport (Steve Woods deals with the rank and file, as his comments illustrate) technique and athleticism are of paramount importance. JA would appreciate that because it was the soundness of his own technique that allowed him to have a successful career.

John Alexander's comments are in no way a contradiction of Tiley's position. Alexander isn't suggesting that players should be allowed to just 'make it up as they go along' as regards technique. All he's saying is that there must be flexibility within technique.

Tiley asks for a certain degree of uniformity when it comes to coaching but he isn't suggesting that individuality must be eliminated. All he's saying is that you don't create a situation wherein a player is forced to re-learn the basics at a later stage because their initial teaching was flawed. You teach tennis, not 'adult technique' and 'children's technique'. Hardly a revolutionary concept.