Coaches: Developing Juniors- Where do physical skills come in?

Coolio

Professional
#1
1 hour per week - Get the racquet in their hand for 60mins every week, no time to waste on silly co-ordination and footwork exercises.

5 hours per week - Sure I can do loads of physical exercises to build their skills but where is my proof that it actually makes a better tennis player than playing loads of tennis? Yes, they become more co-ordinated I guess but is practicing tennis skills not excellent co-ordination training also? I can have the children do wonderful mobility warm ups, but for what? I could spend that time playing tennis instead.

10 hours per week - Now we can maybe talk a little...

I guarantee you there are hardly any coaches out there that no how much of physical training is useful vs playing tennis. They just guess. They will throw in a few token physical exercises and warm ups and start the tennis session. Who says that doing a few squat jumps and doing a crab walk and some skipping makes you better at tennis than spending that time playing the sport instead?

@tennis_balla @MethodTennis @Ash_Smith @treblings
 
#2
Hmmm...can't say I have seen a single sports where players just play and not train, or a coach that promotes it. I see parents that pay for a on hour lesson that want their kid drilling hard during that time, so you have to have them bring their kid early to do warmups, but if it is part of a juniors excellence program or continuing work you would be doing a disservice to not include proper strength and conditioning. My mindset is, you can have the most technically sound mechanics, but if you can get your body to where the ball is and adjust to get in position to apply it...continually...throughout a whole match, it's wasted. I just coach my son, work with HS kids and a few other juniors with other coaches, so maybe a full time pro can shed some light.
 
#3
I think that I've said this about your post before, but your post reads like you are in charge of developing a national program for tennis in a country like China. Why need for such control? Why is the goal always singular?

If you see a deficiency in a players physical abilities, mention them to the parents and discuss how they would like to deal with it. Do they (and the player) want you to address in a lesson? Are they willing to work on it outside the confines of the lesson? If so, do they want you to suggest some exercises to do on their own? I don't think there is any need to not be straightforward with your concerns regarding a player's development. If you keep mentioning the issues and the player (and parents) keep failing to address them, then you and the player will just have to accept that the player may never reach his/her potential.
 

treblings

Hall of Fame
#5
1 hour per week - Get the racquet in their hand for 60mins every week, no time to waste on silly co-ordination and footwork exercises.

5 hours per week - Sure I can do loads of physical exercises to build their skills but where is my proof that it actually makes a better tennis player than playing loads of tennis? Yes, they become more co-ordinated I guess but is practicing tennis skills not excellent co-ordination training also? I can have the children do wonderful mobility warm ups, but for what? I could spend that time playing tennis instead.

10 hours per week - Now we can maybe talk a little...

I guarantee you there are hardly any coaches out there that no how much of physical training is useful vs playing tennis. They just guess. They will throw in a few token physical exercises and warm ups and start the tennis session. Who says that doing a few squat jumps and doing a crab walk and some skipping makes you better at tennis than spending that time playing the sport instead?

@tennis_balla @MethodTennis @Ash_Smith @treblings
Busy on the courts right now. You ' ll get my best answer over the weekend as I think it's an important topic
 

sureshs

Bionic Poster
#6
They will throw in a few token physical exercises and warm ups and start the tennis session. Who says that doing a few squat jumps and doing a crab walk and some skipping makes you better at tennis than spending that time playing the sport instead?
In other words, you are a coach who doesn't know why warm-up is important to prevent injuries?
 

Coolio

Professional
#7
In other words, you are a coach who doesn't know why warm-up is important to prevent injuries?
5-10 mins warm ups yes. Then speed training, then some agility games with reaction balls, then some co-ordination catching exercises and add in some plyometrics and you have 30 minutes physical without a racquet. If we then do 1 hour tennis and kids come back a week later, then I think there is a mistake here. It should have been, enter courts. Maybe 3minute warm up and racquets in hand for 90minutes.
 
#9
The thinking in sports science circles is that when it comes to skill acquisition specificity is key - want to get better at tennis? Hit tennis balls - ideally in a situation as close to the format of the game in which you will compete. In tennis that means 2 people, on opposite sides of the net, both hitting with a racquet as far and as often as is possible. In a coaching environment there is of course a case to be made for modifying this arrangement, but the goal should always bee to stay as close to it as necessary to achieve and return to it as soon as possible.*

As for physical preparation - the body needs to be slowly introduced to the range of motion it will be expected to perform, although with younger kids this is somewhat less important as they are pretty flexible out of the can, but the habit forming is really important. As for footwork ladders and such like, they are great for getting really good at running through ladders and training general physical literacy (if it is needed), but it doesn't translate directly to tennis. If you want to train movement for tennis - train it with a ball at the very least - tennis isn't ballroom, you aren't judged on the steps, only on your ability to put the ball where the other player doesn't want it. You can train physical literacy using tennis as the medium.

Even for a full time player, the goal of gym work is to create a body capable of handling the required volume of tennis training - the difference between being able to bench 80kg and 180kg for a tennis player is negligible, but the ability to handle being on court for 5 hour s day is essential. Thus postural work and trigger pointing/foam-rolling and IRM routines are more important than lifting big heavy s**t. (although some enjoy that too).

Not sure if that answered your question (not 100% sure what your question was!!!)

*For those that like to argue such things with little/no understanding of the process - a constraints or games based approach does not mean "no technical coaching", it just approaches technical coaching from a different direction.
 
#10
Thus postural work and trigger pointing/foam-rolling and IRM routines are more important than lifting big heavy s**t. (although some enjoy that too).
Hi, can you elaborate on what you mean by postural work and IRM routines (got trigger point/foam-rolling part covered)? Thank you so much.
 
#11
@spun_out - tennis is a terrible sport for creating imbalance in the body, it's single side dominant, has a tendency to create tight hamstrings and hip flexors amongst other things. A physical programme which aims to redress these imbalances is essential for long term health and robustness in the game. IRM = Injury rehabilitation management - can be both preventative (if you know an athlete has a specific area of concern) or reactive (much less ideal!).
 

Coolio

Professional
#12
The thinking in sports science circles is that when it comes to skill acquisition specificity is key - want to get better at tennis? Hit tennis balls - ideally in a situation as close to the format of the game in which you will compete. In tennis that means 2 people, on opposite sides of the net, both hitting with a racquet as far and as often as is possible.
As always Ash a very enjoyable read and yes, I am very poor at asking questions, I am just questioning my coaching all the time and thinking out loud I guess.

It's tough to know because teaching general physical literacy skills is still useful even if they don't crossover directly to tennis. Say for example ladders, skipping patterns, reaction balls, unusual co-ordination/ rhythm footwork drills etc. Obviously helps in building a better toolbox for the player, that say as they get older, they have the skills required in their toolbox to complete a certain task. I think it's useful, how useful I don't know, I presume it's like a hidden multiplier, a more co-ordinated player improves faster, so with a good athletic base a player can improve in one hour say what takes another 3 hours.

The question is who is better..... The kid who only hits balls 7 hours a week. Or the kid who hits balls 5 hours a week and spends two hours a week developing all aspects of their athletic skills?

Can someone confirm for me that it is true, that kid number two is better, because sometimes I forget this....
 

Enga

Professional
#13
Well I guess if all you have is 1 hour, best thing to do is just play and try to have fun. The goal becomes more about trying to convince kids the game is fun.

Though I agree, I feel like you can't really learn much by just playing tennis without much physical training. All you'll really get is frustration as you come up against a wall constantly, and that wall is ability. It's like attempting to learn fencing with a butter knife. How can one ever learn what's possible or what they're capable of with such a deplorable set of tools? It's not that they'll automatically get better if they're physically more capable, they'll just be able to learn much quicker. I reckon actually playing the game is secondary to ensuring a player has the necessary tools in their arsenal. You would never want to send a soldier to war with nothing but a shovel. And so it is with a player's body. Powerful legs, a strong heart, fast hands, all things you need in a sport like tennis, seldom ever found randomly.

I have experienced what it's like to play sports being so woefully unprepared. My parents were of the mentality that if I showed promise, then after that I might receive the proper equipment or training. They just figured if I had any talent, I'd find a way on my own. Unfortunately, that's not how it works. Maybe 1 in 10 billion chance for that to happen. I've since learned that all you need from a potential player is a show of desire to pursue the sport, and no obvious signs of things that will hold them back. With proof in hand, that's when you choose to invest fully into their development. You slow a person's development drastically by leaving them unprepared. They will simply be outpaced by anyone who has a better set of tools. And so, unless you want or expect a player to fail, then ensure the proper training, and not let them be equipped with a "bargain bin" set of tools.

Sadly, that's more the job of the parents than it is of the coach. A coach can only do what's necessary on a day-to-day basis, without the ability to make large decisions for a player. Unless it's their own child. o_O
 

Coolio

Professional
#14
Though I agree, I feel like you can't really learn much by just playing tennis without much physical training. All you'll really get is frustration as you come up against a wall constantly, and that wall is ability. It's like attempting to learn fencing with a butter knife. How can one ever learn what's possible or what they're capable of with such a deplorable set of tools? It's not that they'll automatically get better if they're physically more capable, they'll just be able to learn much quicker. I reckon actually playing the game is secondary to ensuring a player has the necessary tools in their arsenal. You would never want to send a soldier to war with nothing but a shovel.
Brilliant!
Here's a question for you...if an open level adult just hits 10 hours a week. Is he missing out on something here?
Should he not hit for 9 hours and spend the 10th hour instead doing fluffy co-ordination drills, speed and agility?
 
#15
I agree with Coolio.

Conditioning has zero relevance until the 4.5 level.
Any level lower will have 3 ball rallies and constant breaks between points and serves.
New players will hardly break a sweat in a 3 set match.

The best way to learn tennis is to be shown what to do, and then do it 11 million times.
This is why an iron man athlete will get beaten by a 3.0 with basic experience,
 

Coolio

Professional
#16
I agree with Coolio.

Conditioning has zero relevance until the 4.5 level.
Any level lower will have 3 ball rallies and constant breaks between points and serves.
New players will hardly break a sweat in a 3 set match.

The best way to learn tennis is to be shown what to do, and then do it 11 million times.
This is why an iron man athlete will get beaten by a 3.0 with basic experience,
Not sure you got what I was saying but yeah.
 
Last edited:
#17
@spun_out - tennis is a terrible sport for creating imbalance in the body, it's single side dominant, has a tendency to create tight hamstrings and hip flexors amongst other things. A physical programme which aims to redress these imbalances is essential for long term health and robustness in the game. IRM = Injury rehabilitation management - can be both preventative (if you know an athlete has a specific area of concern) or reactive (much less ideal!).
Thanks for the info. Only tangentially related, but do you think that given your thoughts on specificity, do you believe that it is better for a young tennis player to focus on tennis and develop athleticism in tennis context (and also do physical training as you stated to prevent injuries and imbalances) or, as many recommend, play multiple sports as a way to develop well-rounded athletic abilities (disregarding injury issues that focusing on one sport might bring) with the understanding that doing so will make the child into a better tennis player?
 
#18
^^^ I think it's better for a young tennis player to develop tennis relevant athleticism in a tennis context, whilst simultaneously playing other sports - playing other sports has a whole host of psychosocial benefits that reach far beyond athleticism and there may be some physical literacy transfer which makes it easier for the individual to pick up the tennis specific athletic skills.
 
#19
It's like attempting to learn fencing with a butter knife. How can one ever learn what's possible or what they're capable of with such a deplorable set of tools? It's not that they'll automatically get better if they're physically more capable, they'll just be able to learn much quicker. I reckon actually playing the game is secondary to ensuring a player has the necessary tools in their arsenal. You would never want to send a soldier to war with nothing but a shovel. And so it is with a player's body. Powerful legs, a strong heart, fast hands, all things you need in a sport like tennis, seldom ever found randomly.
I think the point (if i'm wrong @Coolio then pease say) is not whether those things are important or not, but what method is the best for developing them - outside of tennis or inside the game itself.
 

Coolio

Professional
#20
I think the point (if i'm wrong @Coolio then pease say) is not whether those things are important or not, but what method is the best for developing them - outside of tennis or inside the game itself.
Yes, we know are useful but how useful it is difficult to say. Also, if you coach kids playing a few hours a week, one might argue that there is no time to develop physical literacy outside of time on the court hitting a tennis ball and you just have to make do with what the kid has.

Sent from my SM-J330FN using Tapatalk
 

Enga

Professional
#22
I think the point (if i'm wrong @Coolio then pease say) is not whether those things are important or not, but what method is the best for developing them - outside of tennis or inside the game itself.
It's a thing where the coach would have to read the situation I suppose. I couldn't see the problem with trying it out and seeing if the students enjoy it. But if it's only 10 hours a week, then that's probably only 2 hours a day... the only thing you can do is some slight warmups. That's why I say it's a parental decision. Because outside of the coaching sessions, the parents could get the kid some other types of training, like physical training maybe even just some kind of weight system at home, though I guess it could be risky to try to DIY that kind of stuff. Or if it's an adult that is being coached, then they can take their own initiative.
 

Coolio

Professional
#23

Let's talk about this video. All very nice exercises. But how much time should be spent on this?

We know the science is promoting multi-sport skills and lot's of physical and co-ordination training to develop the athlete but remember most children in the world play tennis a couple hours of week.

If you are like a pro that already clocks 3 hours on the court a day, I can see that an extra hour of co-ordination skills and physical development can be done as warm ups but this is not reality in junior development.

How much of training time do you think it is worth devoting to this sort of stuff?
 

IowaGuy

Hall of Fame
#24

Let's talk about this video. All very nice exercises. But how much time should be spent on this?

We know the science is promoting multi-sport skills and lot's of physical and co-ordination training to develop the athlete but remember most children in the world play tennis a couple hours of week.

If you are like a pro that already clocks 3 hours on the court a day, I can see that an extra hour of co-ordination skills and physical development can be done as warm ups but this is not reality in junior development.

How much of training time do you think it is worth devoting to this sort of stuff?

Fed does some of this type of training, so it probably has its place...

 

Coolio

Professional
#25
Fed does some of this type of training, so it probably has its place...

Yes, it will improve a player for sure. If I skip 10mins every day, it will improve my footwork....but should the 10mins eat into my 90mins of tennis practice? Probably not. I'm probably better off just hitting groundstrokes for that 10mins.

What if a kid plays tennis 10 hours a week. How much of that time should be spent doing fluffy co-ordination drills like Fed is doing? Instead of this they could hit 50 serves.
 

IowaGuy

Hall of Fame
#26
Yes, it will improve a player for sure. If I skip 10mins every day, it will improve my footwork....but should the 10mins eat into my 90mins of tennis practice? Probably not. I'm probably better off just hitting groundstrokes for that 10mins.

What if a kid plays tennis 10 hours a week. How much of that time should be spent doing fluffy co-ordination drills like Fed is doing? Instead of this they could hit 50 serves.
Yeah, Fed probably isn't a great example for your line of logic, as he definitely gets as much hitting time in as he wants to!

But in that video he did those coordination exercises for ~10 minutes, even though he had a hitting partner ready to go...

There probably is some sort of sweetspot of hours of tennis per week, past which you get diminishing returns (injury risk, etc). Those hours past the diminishing returns mark would be better spent doing something non-tennis such as coordination, yoga, weights, etc...
 
#27
When you run a business, you have expenses, .....court time. Sometimes the "exercise" doesn't require a court but is a matter of convenience. No doubt the fitness will help, but how to spend each customers money. Some may want to do fitness outside of it. You may not offer that option and reduce hitting time.
 

Coolio

Professional
#28
I think the point (if i'm wrong @Coolio then pease say) is not whether those things are important or not, but what method is the best for developing them - outside of tennis or inside the game itself.
Im making a slightly different point Ash. I'm still struggling to grasp this as I have come back to this thread.
I know all the science suggests that a variety co-ordination and physical drills help to improve the athlete but we must remember that this is time spent that you don't get back.

If a kid is playing only 3,5, or 10 hours tennis a week. Surely we can't afford to waste any valuable time with mobility drills, movement drills, physical training etc.
Do we just have to accept the kids current physical skills and get them hitting loads of balls?
 
#29
Depends what the client, parents, kid etc. want. Like others have stated they are paying a coach for their time so if they decide to dedicate 20 mins of a 60 min lesson with me to focusing on non-hitting drills like footwork, agility and so forth I’m all for it. If they are purely interested in a hitting or drilling session so be it. The discretion arises when the client simply says they want to get better and it’s up to the coach to figure out where their time and money will be best spent. If a 14 year old 3.0 player comes to me asking that, my priority will most likely be developing their hitting skills and not their physical/conditioning
 
#30
Yes, it will improve a player for sure. If I skip 10mins every day, it will improve my footwork....but should the 10mins eat into my 90mins of tennis practice? Probably not. I'm probably better off just hitting groundstrokes for that 10mins.

What if a kid plays tennis 10 hours a week. How much of that time should be spent doing fluffy co-ordination drills like Fed is doing? Instead of this they could hit 50 serves.
Agree. Even in this Dubai vid. If it's the real timing of the sesh, he spends a quick couple minutes doing the drill stuff...bulk of time is tennis specific. Feeds and point play.

He also mentioned...I think in this video. That he's always serving. Everyday. Even on breaks and vacation. Keeping that motion grooved --"oiled" he says. Can't get more specific than that.
 
#31
Yeah, Fed probably isn't a great example for your line of logic, as he definitely gets as much hitting time in as he wants to!

But in that video he did those coordination exercises for ~10 minutes, even though he had a hitting partner ready to go...

There probably is some sort of sweetspot of hours of tennis per week, past which you get diminishing returns (injury risk, etc). Those hours past the diminishing returns mark would be better spent doing something non-tennis such as coordination, yoga, weights, etc...
Good point. I felt the little juggling drill Fed did (and again was super short vs tennis specific stuff) was more for fun, relaxation and bonding routine with coach. Almost meditative. He says it's a little thing they like to do... have done it for years.
The thinking in sports science circles is that when it comes to skill acquisition specificity is key - want to get better at tennis? Hit tennis balls - ideally in a situation as close to the format of the game in which you will compete. In tennis that means 2 people, on opposite sides of the net, both hitting with a racquet as far and as often as is possible. In a coaching environment there is of course a case to be made for modifying this arrangement, but the goal should always bee to stay as close to it as necessary to achieve and return to it as soon as possible.*

As for physical preparation - the body needs to be slowly introduced to the range of motion it will be expected to perform, although with younger kids this is somewhat less important as they are pretty flexible out of the can, but the habit forming is really important. As for footwork ladders and such like, they are great for getting really good at running through ladders and training general physical literacy (if it is needed), but it doesn't translate directly to tennis. If you want to train movement for tennis - train it with a ball at the very least - tennis isn't ballroom, you aren't judged on the steps, only on your ability to put the ball where the other player doesn't want it. You can train physical literacy using tennis as the medium.

Even for a full time player, the goal of gym work is to create a body capable of handling the required volume of tennis training - the difference between being able to bench 80kg and 180kg for a tennis player is negligible, but the ability to handle being on court for 5 hour s day is essential. Thus postural work and trigger pointing/foam-rolling and IRM routines are more important than lifting big heavy s**t. (although some enjoy that too).

Not sure if that answered your question (not 100% sure what your question was!!!)

*For those that like to argue such things with little/no understanding of the process - a constraints or games based approach does not mean "no technical coaching", it just approaches technical coaching from a different direction.[/Q
Yeah, Fed probably isn't a great example for your line of logic, as he definitely gets as much hitting time in as he wants to!

But in that video he did those coordination exercises for ~10 minutes, even though he had a hitting partner ready to go...

There probably is some sort of sweetspot of hours of tennis per week, past which you get diminishing returns (injury risk, etc). Those hours past the diminishing returns mark would be better spent doing something non-tennis such as coordination, yoga, weights, etc...
I'm not sure how close the Fed thing was to a real practice in terms of timing but would seem to support Coolio. Fed spends almost no time on any conditioning...super token by other sports standards. Really just a light warmup for body and mind. The juggling thing more of a bonding/meditative routine w coach. The pushups for losing volley game treated like a joke. Mainly right into tennis specific work for the rest... What 95% tennis specfic?
 
#32
Yeah, Fed probably isn't a great example for your line of logic, as he definitely gets as much hitting time in as he wants to!

But in that video he did those coordination exercises for ~10 minutes, even though he had a hitting partner ready to go...

There probably is some sort of sweetspot of hours of tennis per week, past which you get diminishing returns (injury risk, etc). Those hours past the diminishing returns mark would be better spent doing something non-tennis such as coordination, yoga, weights, etc...
Interesting...not sure how close the Fed thing was to a real practice in terms of timing but would seem to support Coolio. Fed spends almost no time on any conditioning...super token by other sports standards. Really just a light warmup for body and mind. The juggling thing more of a bonding/meditative routine w coach. The pushups for losing volley game treated very light-hearted. Mainly right into tennis specific work for the rest... What 95% tennis?
 
#33
If a kid is playing only 3,5, or 10 hours tennis a week. Surely we can't afford to waste any valuable time with mobility drills, movement drills, physical training etc.
Do we just have to accept the kids current physical skills and get them hitting loads of balls?
But are such drills a waste? Isn't it possible that working on them could produce dividends in a lot of other areas down the road?
 

Coolio

Professional
#35
But are such drills a waste? Isn't it possible that working on them could produce dividends in a lot of other areas down the road?
Yes, I agree and the big trend now is towards physical development and mobility, strength and conditioning even for kids to improve the athleticism and movement qualities.

But if you have kids only doing 1-5 hours a week do you have time to spend on co-ordination training, speed and agility training etc etc.
I don't think so.

If they are getting their quota of tennis a week, then you can add in some yoga or physical training to supplement that but only after 10+ hours of tennis is taken care of surely.
 
Top