Coaching kids and baking cakes

Ash_Smith

Legend
Learning to Bake - Child Learning is Messy

Let’s talk cake!

At the start let’s be honest it looks like a mess. The ingredients don’t seem connected and even when you start to mix things together it still has little resemblance to the end product. Of course, you must have a plan, a picture of what it will look like but even when you mix it up, stick it in the tin, slide it into the oven and turn the oven up to 180 it looks like nothing is happening. Starring through the glass it still looks like nothing is happening for some time. This mirrors the way kids learn. At the start it is supposed to look messy as kids organize the movements and impulses into pathways. The key is to trust the process. Just like our cake, on the outside it looks like nothing is happening but on the inside things are firing. Suddenly it all comes together, rises and looks like the cake (or forehand) you were expecting.
The rise followed by the browning, as the learning becomes consolidated into a form that is identifiable and refined is just around the corner!
It’s amazing how we trust the baking process but we want to micro manage the learning process in tennis from the start often limiting the challenges a child faces, tossing the ball from a few feet away to make refine the shape to perfection even though the player lacks the most basic receptions skills. The most common response from coaches seems to be “We have to do it this way because the kid can’t do it!” Don't forget, the kid fails at lots of things and just keeps going, it’s supposed to look messy at the start, it’s called learning!
Once our cake is out of the oven and cooling, we're ready for icing! This brings up another analogy as we prepare for the next tough job. Icing requires a level of refinement, it’s a tough job that must be done with care. It will only qualify as a culinary masterpiece if this is done to perfection and yet much of the hard work to create the taste, texture and substance was done at the start.
Great coaches are required at all stages of the player development process. The coach that refines the product at end has a tough job but so does the one that started everything, so trust the child’s first coach. You can’t get the results everyone wants unless you use the right ingredients, in the right proportions and in the right order. Turning up the oven runs the risk of burn out. The player needs the time to learn, so trust the process, trust the coach and even though it may look a mess at the start the masterpiece will emerge.
 

RiverRat

Professional
It's an interesting analogy. There's plenty in there for the cooks. I think the chemical reactions taking place in the rise, which are mysterious and unknown to all but a few, should give us all reverence and respect for what is beyond our control. The browning is inevitable and has much to do with habits that form over time. For me the analogy misses a bit at the messy beginning where some think there is a recipe. I've heard great bakers refer to the love that goes into the cake and there I agree. Keeping the passion, the fun, the adventure, the experimentation of a great baker who works less with recipes and more from intuition is paramount.
 

Ash_Smith

Legend
The thing to take from it is that learning is a messy process, especially for kids. They try, they fail, they try again, they fail again, but they keep going and they self organise and eventually things slot into place.

There is a danger that coaches try to control too much too soon, to try and make it "perfect" before enough raw ingredients are in the bowl.
 
I think it's a good analogy for most but I'll offer a counterpoint.

Baking is chemistry. If you understand why the recipe calls for a certain ingredient and the ratios, you'll be better informed how to substitute ["I need an ingredient that's acidic, sweet, causes browning, breaks down gluten", etc]. If you wing it, you will more likely than not end up with a disaster [unlike cooking, which is much more forgiving].

The analogy to coaching breaks down a bit because kids learn differently whereas if I make a recipe under nearly identical conditions, I should get nearly identical results. If I apply the same coaching to two different students, I could get two radically different results [see thread about "Mechanic vs Magician", for example].
 

AnyPUG

Professional
I think it's a good analogy for most but I'll offer a counterpoint.

Baking is chemistry. If you understand why the recipe calls for a certain ingredient and the ratios, you'll be better informed how to substitute ["I need an ingredient that's acidic, sweet, causes browning, breaks down gluten", etc]. If you wing it, you will more likely than not end up with a disaster [unlike cooking, which is much more forgiving].

The analogy to coaching breaks down a bit because kids learn differently whereas if I make a recipe under nearly identical conditions, I should get nearly identical results. If I apply the same coaching to two different students, I could get two radically different results [see thread about "Mechanic vs Magician", for example].
First, student is also an ingredient using the baking analogy. Second, you won't get a "radically" different result - all of them will turn out to be good or great tennis players and not a baseball pitcher or a javelin thrower.
If you don't see that, you are wildly missing the point of OP.
 
First, student is also an ingredient using the baking analogy. Second, you won't get a "radically" different result - all of them will turn out to be good or great tennis players and not a baseball pitcher or a javelin thrower.
If you don't see that, you are wildly missing the point of OP.
The point of the "Magician vs Mechanic" idea by Annacone is that applying the same teaching methods to both type of students will produce different results because they learn and are motivated differently. That's what I meant by "radically different", not that they'd somehow learn a different sport.
 

giantschwinn

Semi-Pro
Are UTR 8 or 9 bad cakes? From what I see with the older kids in my son's academy, I think it's very easy to get to utr 8 or 9 by age 18, as long as they start playing young and get private coaching. You don't even need to work particularity that hard to get to those levels. You get there even with mediocre coaching. Most of them plateau at that level. To get to 11 or 12, you need physical talent or lots of hard work.
 
Are UTR 8 or 9 bad cakes? From what I see with the older kids in my son's academy, I think it's very easy to get to utr 8 or 9 by age 18, as long as they start playing young and get private coaching. You don't even need to work particularity that hard to get to those levels. You get there even with mediocre coaching. Most of them plateau at that level. To get to 11 or 12, you need physical talent or lots of hard work.
Maybe the baking powder was old.
 

giantschwinn

Semi-Pro
I think if parents know what it takes to get to utr 11 and 12 and what little scholarship there are for those kids, they will chill out and not push so hard and spend less money.
 

AnyPUG

Professional
The point of the "Magician vs Mechanic" idea by Annacone is that applying the same teaching methods to both type of students will produce different results because they learn and are motivated differently. That's what I meant by "radically different", not that they'd somehow learn a different sport.
A great rebuttal on "Magician vs Mechanic" theory -

A post from tennisplayer.net -

Magic or Art?...Mechanic or Engineer? Think Architectural Tango!


how can you coach/teach this stuff. If you teach/coach for this, then the shot is never as pure/original as this...


In fact, I do teach this shot. Especially when a player wants to try/learn the between the legs shot, which I strongly discourage. The mechanics are necessary to learn the actual move of hitting that backhand on the run backwards. In some ways, it is easier to do than a forehand because the hitting arm is connected to the front shoulder and the shoulder doesn't have to turn forward or even move to hit a strong shot, whereas it does for a forehand. This is not a tough shot for a one-handed backhand player to learn; tougher for the two-handers. The magic comes in recognizing the opportunity while running away from the net and making the ultimate transition from defense to offense in a blink! Every time I see a player botch a tweener, I think they could have tried this shot and had ten times as good a chance of winning the point.



This whole point is a work of art...I prefer artist to magician. Engineer to mechanic. That magnificent stroke was conceived and built. What a beautiful setting first of all to use as the back drop for that little bolt of lightening...center court at Wimbledon as the canvas. McEnroe with the Dunlop Maxply and Connors with the steely Wilson T2000. Two brash American left-handers fighting it out on English turf. It’s an epic already.

The McEnroe windup and the serve...it’s a bullet into the Connors two-fisted backhand. Connors answers with a return that he nails on the screws crosscourt. As fast as the serve and the return were...there is McEnroe with the left foot planted inside the service line and leaning forwards another meter on the grass carpet as the ball screams into his wood racquet. The hands of Mac absorb the speed as the racquet head recoils backwards with the impact and he volleys solidly back crosscourt without the help of his off hand...he never had the time to get it on the racquet yet he meets the ball dead center in the string bed. The McEnroe volley is so good, solid and crisp, that he catches Connors a bit off balance. So off balance that he doesn’t even attempt the down the line pass which Mac has given him...instead he opts for the rolling lob crosscourt over the head and just over the out stretched racquet of Johnny.

Now take a look at that footwork as McEnroe foregoes the impossible smash and he turns and scurries full speed to get behind the ball to literally smash a backhand down the line...just inches from the line...on the dead run backwards. What is he doing with his feet...dancing the Tango? Improvising...dancing with the tennis ball. Feeling the music he creates the necessary steps. No patterns. No rehearsals. Perfect point of contact. Flourishing brush or magic wand? Flourishing brush. McEnroe actually creates the three lines with his racquet, feet and body just as he turns to hit the ball. Rather amazing athletic maneuver...and he doesn’t act very surprised to pull off this shot. He expects to.

tennis...chiro, you teach that? I want a lesson. It’s doable...like you say. I take that shot on the left side of my body (being left handed like Johnny) and running backwards with an upside down forehand on the wrong side of my body. This is also a better option than the tweener. The tweener could leave you scarred for life if you muck it up. But I think that the version that McEnroe offers up here and the same one you teach is more accurate. Like I said...I see McEnroe really lining this one up. Even Connors knows he has been had...see him nod his head out of respect...knowing how much he hates McEnroe.

I know that Paul Annacone and Chris Lewis say magician and mechanic...but truly it is better to say artist and engineer. It is more fundamentally correct (FC). Because then you might say that the coach is an architect or a metaphysical engineer...a man with an eye for creativity and the brains and the know how to use sound scientific principles. I believe Hopman had a hand in the building of the McEnroe game...Hopman was the coach/architect. Magician is too flimsy of a term...it implies something less than what it is to master the art of playing tennis...and the same is true of mechanic as it is just not that simple as that word implies. This point is a perfect case in point...that gokulms so adeptly shares with us. A perfect example. This is art and engineering. This is not slight of hand or a mere tune up. It’s no accident either as tennis_chiro points out. This shot has been rehearsed and choreographed. Wonderful to bring it out on such a special occasion...center court at Wimbledon. Great sense of timing in more ways than one. Seize the moment...Johnny Boy! Carpe Diem!

It is up to the coach to understand the student and what they need from him. An architect does just that...using the surroundings as the basis to apply the sciences. Building on a sound foundation...lifting his vision to beautify and to function simultaneously. This shot is pure art and perfect engineering...an architectural masterpiece.


 
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J011yroger

Talk Tennis Guru
I like to think of it like gardening; you create an environment where they can grow and thrive, and then within that environment you give them what they need to continue to grow to their potential, removing weeds, adding specific nutrients, trimming, bracing, etc.

J
 
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