Is the coaching mentality mentioned here the reason the Next Gen is so lost?

xFullCourtTenniSx

Hall of Fame

Tom Allsopp talks about how coaches are overly concerned with stroke mechanics at an early age over playing points and competing. Recently, I've noticed that the younger generation's groundstrokes look far more polished than before, but their mentality and strategy are way worse (okay, maybe strategy isn't significantly worse, but maybe strategy relative to skill).

This reminds me of how coaches and parents heavily favor two handed backhands due to how quick they are to learn and become very proficient with. They want better strokes now rather than developing a better player. Pete Sampras grew up playing in the 18s division since he was young enough to play the 12s division, and got beat all the time.

I also recall that the way kids used to start was by practicing with a wall until they were consistent enough at hitting the ball to play. Federer had to hit 50 in a row before his parents allowed him to play, the same for my high school doubles partner (basically spent a good chunk of time practicing with a wall, though maybe after he started taking lessons), the same for my friend's family (100 or 200 before any lessons), and I remember stories of Sampras and Borg starting by picking up a racket and hitting against a wall. I used to do the same, though my parents didn't like me using any of the walls in, or, or near the house so they quickly sent me outside onto a court instead (maybe that's why I struggled with the idea of being consistent over being flashy when I was young).

Is the notion of [learning optimal technique ASAP and learning how to compete on the way] worse than [learning how to compete ASAP and improving your technique on the way]? Is this a problem with younger generations (for example, players say born in the 90s or later)?
 

Dragy

Hall of Fame
What about developing as an athlete, learning good attitude for training, developing tennis-related basic skills - movement, footwork, hand-eye coordination? Developing competitive approach and involvement through various games and sports more suitable for kids than actual tennis?
Then decide, if the kid can try it as a pro, and should it be tennis, and so start polishing techniques and learning tennis strategy?
 

fuzz nation

G.O.A.T.

Tom Allsopp talks about how coaches are overly concerned with stroke mechanics at an early age over playing points and competing. Recently, I've noticed that the younger generation's groundstrokes look far more polished than before, but their mentality and strategy are way worse (okay, maybe strategy isn't significantly worse, but maybe strategy relative to skill).

This reminds me of how coaches and parents heavily favor two handed backhands due to how quick they are to learn and become very proficient with. They want better strokes now rather than developing a better player. Pete Sampras grew up playing in the 18s division since he was young enough to play the 12s division, and got beat all the time.

I also recall that the way kids used to start was by practicing with a wall until they were consistent enough at hitting the ball to play. Federer had to hit 50 in a row before his parents allowed him to play, the same for my high school doubles partner (basically spent a good chunk of time practicing with a wall, though maybe after he started taking lessons), the same for my friend's family (100 or 200 before any lessons), and I remember stories of Sampras and Borg starting by picking up a racket and hitting against a wall. I used to do the same, though my parents didn't like me using any of the walls in, or, or near the house so they quickly sent me outside onto a court instead (maybe that's why I struggled with the idea of being consistent over being flashy when I was young).

Is the notion of [learning optimal technique ASAP and learning how to compete on the way] worse than [learning how to compete ASAP and improving your technique on the way]? Is this a problem with younger generations (for example, players say born in the 90s or later)?
I think that the older generations have been criticizing the younger ones on the same issues - laziness, looking for instant gratification, etc. - pretty much forever. The A.D. at the high school where I coach read a quote to everybody at a sports awards ceremony that sounded like it had been written a week ago by a talking head sports curmudgeon and it offered that same sentiment about "kids these days" and their work ethic. The quote was from Socrates... hilarious how the more things change, they sorta don't.

Okay, so that being said, I get the impression that a lot of kids have expectations that aren't so much what I'd call "wrong" as maybe more along the lines of "improper". The thinking among many kids I'm around (I coach high school teams and teach in the summer) seems to be that if they work hard, that effort will eventually pay off and they'll win. But I see a couple of big problems there.

One is the fact that they don't know how much work it will take to win until after they put in enough of the hard yards and start earning good wins. The other killer is that they sometimes don't know how to work smart. They typically love hitting let's say a ton of big forehands, but hate hitting backhands on the run, low volleys, etc. They're not so eager to confront their weaknesses and endure that frustration.

Sampras probably had a more healthy definition of "progress" and "success" when he was getting knocked around as a kid. When we equate progress with winning early on, that's when we look for shortcuts. Sampras obviously wasn't looking for shortcuts when he was taking on the older kids.

Is it more important to learn to compete ASAP or learn optimal technique? Well, we need the tools and we also need the know-how to properly put them to work if we want to have a decent game. I'm not routinely working with kids who are trying to become pros, but the imbalance I see a lot in my circle is an emphasis on technique over honing match management. Lots of kids might learn to hit a pretty good ball, but then play matches with almost zero consciousness of how to manage the action. When they try to dig in and compete better, they often just try swinging harder and then the errors pile up.

So the art of it all might be about striking a good balance with the development of technique and the capacity to compete. Hope that doesn't sound like too much of a cop out...
 

Born_to_slice

Hall of Fame
When you're talking about Djokovic, his own attitude as a child was special, according to Jelena Gencic, his first coach. He showed incredible dedication from day 1 in every possible way and uncanny seriousness for a child. He actually started with 1h bh but changed to 2h because everyone picked on it. So he changed it to be able to compete, not because it was easier to learn. He was just too tiny and weak as a kid to have a stable 1h bh. Gencic said that by the time he was 8 barely anyone wanted to play against him, because he was beating everyone, including much older juniors than him. Those are just special talents with special mentality players who are capable of reaching ATG level.
 

heninfan99

Talk Tennis Guru
There's a lot of theories on this. Teach a conservative stroke and grip and juniors with naturally modify those things as they progress or teach them the modern way from day one.

What was Marcus Willis like as a kid?

See that? The chair says PRO CIRCUIT...eat your Snickers!
 

user92626

G.O.A.T.
Is the notion of [learning optimal technique ASAP and learning how to compete on the way] worse than [learning how to compete ASAP and improving your technique on the way]? Is this a problem with younger generations (for example, players say born in the 90s or later)?
Why can't they be done at the same time?

If you say you don't have time, effort for both at the same time, then you don't have what it takes.
 

xFullCourtTenniSx

Hall of Fame
I think that the older generations have been criticizing the younger ones on the same issues - laziness, looking for instant gratification, etc. - pretty much forever. The A.D. at the high school where I coach read a quote to everybody at a sports awards ceremony that sounded like it had been written a week ago by a talking head sports curmudgeon and it offered that same sentiment about "kids these days" and their work ethic. The quote was from Socrates... hilarious how the more things change, they sorta don't.

Okay, so that being said, I get the impression that a lot of kids have expectations that aren't so much what I'd call "wrong" as maybe more along the lines of "improper". The thinking among many kids I'm around (I coach high school teams and teach in the summer) seems to be that if they work hard, that effort will eventually pay off and they'll win. But I see a couple of big problems there.

One is the fact that they don't know how much work it will take to win until after they put in enough of the hard yards and start earning good wins. The other killer is that they sometimes don't know how to work smart. They typically love hitting let's say a ton of big forehands, but hate hitting backhands on the run, low volleys, etc. They're not so eager to confront their weaknesses and endure that frustration.

Sampras probably had a more healthy definition of "progress" and "success" when he was getting knocked around as a kid. When we equate progress with winning early on, that's when we look for shortcuts. Sampras obviously wasn't looking for shortcuts when he was taking on the older kids.

Is it more important to learn to compete ASAP or learn optimal technique? Well, we need the tools and we also need the know-how to properly put them to work if we want to have a decent game. I'm not routinely working with kids who are trying to become pros, but the imbalance I see a lot in my circle is an emphasis on technique over honing match management. Lots of kids might learn to hit a pretty good ball, but then play matches with almost zero consciousness of how to manage the action. When they try to dig in and compete better, they often just try swinging harder and then the errors pile up.

So the art of it all might be about striking a good balance with the development of technique and the capacity to compete. Hope that doesn't sound like too much of a cop out...
Not criticizing work ethic, but it just feels like something is different nowadays. Looking at newer players in leagues after mainly only competing with my old teammates, these newer players hit groundstrokes with way more work on the ball than we ever used to. They make the same strategic and tactical mistakes we made when we were young (too many shots down the line, going too big and missing easy shots when they should be played as approach shots), but they seem even a little more mentally fragile. It seems way easier to break them down mentally. Maybe we were as mentally fragile (I know some of my old teammates were definitely ticking time bombs), but we didn't know it. Maybe thinking you're "fighting through" and "holding it together" doesn't hold up in the perspective of the outside compared to your own inner perspective.

A good balance is definitely needed, I agree. The problem is where is that balance? Are some coaches tipping the balance too far in the wrong direction? Yeah, we need working strokes, but what do we define as working? Little Djokovic is basically lobbing every groundstroke. It's clearly enough to compete with though. As he gets stronger, he can do more. As his opponents can do more, he will be forced to improve to stay competitive. This is something Federer and Nadal should be heavily credited for in respect to Djokovic's game. Would he be as great of a player without them? No. He never would've learned to consistently dig as deep as he does, and his strokes likely wouldn't have been as amazing as they are now. Necessity is the mother of invention. Honestly, if you look at the strokes of pro players, how many look "pretty"? They are certainly powerful and athletic, but compared to someone like Federer? There are plenty of shots that are fully functional but not pretty. They share many characteristics of a solid shot that we might associate with "good", but a 3.0's pusher shots share some of those characteristics as well, yet a majority of the tennis community will denounce those pushers, even when they might arguably have more in common with pro players (strategically and technically) than those that would degrade them.

Why can't they be done at the same time?

If you say you don't have time, effort for both at the same time, then you don't have what it takes.
Guess Federer, Nadal, and Djokovic didn't have what it takes. Must be sad to be where they're at. If people didn't know who Djokovic was and saw footage of him hitting in 2005, they'd all talk about his WTA forehand, even when he's good enough to make it into the main draws of the majors consistently. If Nadal spent the extra time in his younger years obsessing over his serve to get it to USO 2010 or 2019 level, he likely wouldn't have won the French Open in 2005. Nadal got to where he was by competing, not by obsessing over what optimal technique is.
 

user92626

G.O.A.T.
Guess Federer, Nadal, and Djokovic didn't have what it takes. Must be sad to be where they're at. If people didn't know who Djokovic was and saw footage of him hitting in 2005, they'd all talk about his WTA forehand, even when he's good enough to make it into the main draws of the majors consistently. If Nadal spent the extra time in his younger years obsessing over his serve to get it to USO 2010 or 2019 level, he likely wouldn't have won the French Open in 2005. Nadal got to where he was by competing, not by obsessing over what optimal technique is.
You're not part of Nadal team. I doubt you know anything about him to talk about.

However, we can readily observe that Nadal changed his serve and maybe his FH a little over the years while he was competing. While the changes were happening, Nadal still consistently made the deep rounds and even won tournaments.
 

RajS

Semi-Pro
I wonder if the top players started with a different focus (ball/hand focused as opposed to mechanics focused) as kids, but developed good technique along the way, so we are not able to tell by looking at them how their mind works when they see a ball coming at them. Do they try to move their feet first and/or turn their body, or do they try to get their racket and hand in the right spot to hit the ball, and their bodies move to accommodate this? Does it make any difference in the end how they learn?
 

xFullCourtTenniSx

Hall of Fame
You're not part of Nadal team. I doubt you know anything about him to talk about.

However, we can readily observe that Nadal changed his serve and maybe his FH a little over the years while he was competing. While the changes were happening, Nadal still consistently made the deep rounds and even won tournaments.
I don't need to be a part of his team. There are enough interviews out there from his team to get an idea of how he was raised as a player.


He stopped trying to hit a "proper" forehand in order to compete with professionals that were stronger than him. Aside from the serve, most of his changes are likely on the fly to stick with his competition and execute the slight variation of strategies he's had over the years.

Roddick didn't chase the perfect serve either, he just happened to land on his "abomination" of a serve and stuck with it because it worked better than what he had.

 

sneezeey

New User
I don't know where the idea of the current Next Gen being bad comes from. The current crop of up and coming players are the best since the '86-'89 range of Nadal, Djokovic and del Potro, and their rankings reflect that. To compare their slam results to Federer, Nadal and Djokovic at the same age is to dispute their status as GOATs because if they could be so easily matched, they wouldn't be the greats that they indisputably are.
 
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