The reverse forehand and other stories...

Ash_Smith

Legend
Lasith Malinga is one of the most successful bowlers in world cricket - he developed his unique action growing up as a kid playing beach cricket with a tennis ball, it was the only way he could take wickets as a more traditional action meant the ball sat up to be smashed for runs. By developing his action he found a way to make the ball skid across the sand and make it very tough for the batsman to read...



Rafa Nadal developed his reverse forehand as a teen in response to playing up against adults on slow, bouncy clay courts - he could only counter their pace and bounce by adopting the reverse finish.



Andy Roddick is known to have developed his serve technique by himself after growing disillusioned with the work his coach was doing on his serve as a teen.

Just a couple of examples where the environment and athlete self organisation have shaped an efficient technical solution, but how often do coaches work in a way which prevents this from happening? Why is someone like Lasith Malinga lauded as an exceptional story rather than being a variation of the rule?
 

Ash_Smith

Legend
@JohnYandell - Not exactly, I'm talking more about how many coaches work to direct technical models and directive coaching and how in some cases that could potentially hamper an athletes development/ability to reach "their" potential.

For example - we would never have a Lasith Malinga playing cricket here, or an Ernest Gulbis forehand or a Bubba Watson or Jim Furyk golf swing.
 

JohnYandell

Hall of Fame
I think coaches should learn from athletes as much or even more than the other way round. They are the ones who pioneer. The Lansdorp story is Pete is running wide and reverses a forehand over his head. Lansdorp says something about hitting through the ball, but then gets to thinking about it and watching more and more players and decides Pete opened his eyes.
 
Great examples. What is even more interesting, though, is even players who are widely considered as great technical models to stay actually did incorporate something unorthodox that coaches would have/did discourage. You mentioned Mallinga. Sachin Tendulkar is widely regarded as one of the most technically perfect batsmen in the game but his grip - where both hands were placed close together - was picked apart in the beginning. He stuck to his guns and proved them wrong. In fact Dileep Vengsarkar, a great in his own right, thought Tendulkar's uppish cover drive hit on the rise would land him in trouble. Instead, it became one of his signature shots. On the same lines, how many players can actually use Fed's straight arm forehand?
 

Ash_Smith

Legend
Lots of talk here about why England can't produce a world class class leg spinner like Yasir Shah?

Simple, we do not create environments in which a spinner can develop and then thrive. Kids learn to play in astroturf nets or on green, grassy pitches in early April. Prepare more wickets that turn and you'll see more kids wanting to try and spin the ball all over the place! Second, when young a leg spinner is probably going to get smashed about the park as they learn to spin the ball and get control over it, so there needs to either be an incentive for them or the importance of results needs to be reduced in the short term.

Like most things in skill acquisition, it is less about telling kids exactly how to do something, but creating the right environment in which they can experiment and find solutions.

Tennis should be no different.
 
Lots of talk here about why England can't produce a world class class leg spinner like Yasir Shah?

Simple, we do not create environments in which a spinner can develop and then thrive. Kids learn to play in astroturf nets or on green, grassy pitches in early April. Prepare more wickets that turn and you'll see more kids wanting to try and spin the ball all over the place! Second, when young a leg spinner is probably going to get smashed about the park as they learn to spin the ball and get control over it, so there needs to either be an incentive for them or the importance of results needs to be reduced in the short term.

Like most things in skill acquisition, it is less about telling kids exactly how to do something, but creating the right environment in which they can experiment and find solutions.

Tennis should be no different.
One point on which I want to differ slightly. Leg spinners don't depend as much on turn from the pitch as they do on bounce, unless the spinner goes by the name of Anil Kumble and even he loved bounce more than turn. Kumble was more successful in Australia than England because the pitches in Aus offered bounce. Eng pitches aren't so bouncy and added to that the grass, moisture due to intermittent rain in England, put together make it difficult for spinners. What turning tracks will encourage much more though (and which Eng could use) is finger spinners.
 

treblings

Hall of Fame
i know a few examples of very well-known coaches in my area who are extremely directive in their coaching. talking about tennis now, not cricket;)
i tend to be much more non-directive.
in a sport like tennis, where we still have a high drop-out rate with youngsters, i wonder if directive coaching that yields short-term success doesn´t have it´s place
i also wonder if not so talented kids really develop the ability to self-organize and find their own technique that doesn´t limit them
 

RetroSpin

Hall of Fame
I'm of two minds about this overall topic. I think it is appealing to celebrate the athletic geniuses who find their own way, but at the same time we must not forget that there are thousands, probably hundreds of thousands, who try to do it "their" way and fail miserably. The odds favor going with the rule, not the exception.

That said, innovation occurs at the margin, not in the safe middle.
 

Ash_Smith

Legend
^^^ The point is less about just allowing people to find their own way and more about manipulating the environment to help them find a technical or tactical solution.
 
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Curiosity

Professional
..................(deletions)...............
Rafa Nadal developed his reverse forehand as a teen in response to playing up against adults on slow, bouncy clay courts - he could only counter their pace and bounce by adopting the reverse finish...................
Very interesting post/question and replies. I've long wondered about another Rafa technical fact, and whether it came from, or evolved despite, coaching: Most often over the years when Rafa hits a forehand from the open or semi-open position he uses atypical leg action. Rather than using his hitting-side leg to to advance UB rotation, to push the hitting-side hip forward and up......he does the opposite. He uses the off-side leg to push the off-side hip backward, thus driving rotation of the upper body and providing very high trunk rotation speed. Self-organized or taught?
 

treblings

Hall of Fame
^^^ The point is less about just allowing people to find their own way and manipulating the environment to help them find a technical or tactical solution.
of course, the problem is what kind of deviations from the norm do i as as coach accept.
 

GuyClinch

Legend
^^^ The point is less about just allowing people to find their own way and more about manipulating the environment to help them find a technical or tactical solution.
Ash is likely 100% correct about this - I have come to believe. Problem is it takes really good coach and personal instruction to create a useful environment and correct constraints..
 

Limpinhitter

G.O.A.T.
@JohnYandell - Not exactly, I'm talking more about how many coaches work to direct technical models and directive coaching and how in some cases that could potentially hamper an athletes development/ability to reach "their" potential.

For example - we would never have a Lasith Malinga playing cricket here, or an Ernest Gulbis forehand or a Bubba Watson or Jim Furyk golf swing.
I'm not sure that's true. In my view, a good coach should teach established, proven, techniques. Some will learn to execute those technique to perfection. An elite few will build upon those techniques and establish a new paradigm. But, if they all had to reinvent the wheel so to speak, I think that the evolutionary process would basically grind to a halt.

PS: BTW, Nadal didn't invent or even perfect the reverse forehand. Jack Kramer was doing it over 60 years ago. Many have done it since. I remember a lesson in World Tennis Magazine from the 70's describing that finish and recommending it for hitting dipping passing shots.
 
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I'm not sure that's true. In my view, a good coach should teach established, proven, techniques. Some will learn to execute those technique to perfection. An elite few will build upon those techniques and establish a new paradigm. But, if they all had to reinvent the wheel so to speak, I think that the evolutionary process would basically grind to a halt.

PS: BTW, Nadal didn't invent or even perfect the reverse forehand. Jack Kramer was doing it over 60 years ago. Many have done it since. I remember a lesson in World Tennis Magazine from the 70's describing that finish and recommending it for hitting dipping passing shots.
For me I try and encourage players to explore the range of different solutions (techniques) for any given problem. Some will be non-starters at a high end (a coach will know this, simple e.g. waiters tray serve) and the coach will arrange the learning environment to perturb that particular behaviour (e.g. by raising the net height and/or shortening the service box). It's not about reinventing the wheel but allowing the player to find their optimal solution to their unique problem. Most of the time it will be a very similar solution to what a coach could tell them however you have allowed them to come up with it (proven and established techniques). This promotes autonomy (Self-determination theory and motivation) and motor flexibility. I believe the reason why you see similar solutions is because the individual problems are close variations of the same general theme (we are generally all built in a similar way and the forces constraining us are the same). Of course, I will provide minimal guidance or questioning from time to time. Skill acquisition does not take place outside of social context so we have to be mindful of the broader picture - how many times do we bemoan the football coach who doesn't run up and down the touchline screaming at their players with wild gesticulations as being aloof and detached. In fact for me, the biggest issue I have is convincing my players that they are capable of finding these solutions without me telling them! This is generally because it is what they expect our relationship to be like (fountain of all knowledge & the empty vessel). Finally, I am not saying this is the only right way to coach but I can see the many benefits this approach provides.
 
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PittsburghDad

Guest
I truly believe on of the main things that can be done is severely limiting or eliminating competition at young ages. Competition in the sense of matches. It does very little to help a talented young kid.

So much better off hitting thousands of fed balls from myriad angles and just recieving and processing feedback by the truckload.
 

GuyClinch

Legend
I'm not sure that's true. In my view, a good coach should teach established, proven, techniques. Some will learn to execute those technique to perfection. An elite few will build upon those techniques and establish a new paradigm. But, if they all had to reinvent the wheel so to speak, I think that the evolutionary process would basically grind to a halt.

PS: BTW, Nadal didn't invent or even perfect the reverse forehand. Jack Kramer was doing it over 60 years ago. Many have done it since. I remember a lesson in World Tennis Magazine from the 70's describing that finish and recommending it for hitting dipping passing shots.
I think most coaches 'suggest' technique adjustment - rather then dictate exact positions and movements. I realize some players around here find this frustrating - but I have come to believe the teaching pros have it right.. Ash strikes me as even more extreme - less guidance and more discovery.. I think of a continuum.. 100% self-discover/with constraints ... 100% technical position based teaching..(at time x - x y z are happening)

Very specific guidance like you see on this forum (which falls on the second part of the continuum)- aka you should move your racquet to here - pronate to xyz etc - this does not seem to be effective... I think this holds true for all sports.

A couple of years back I took a ski lesson with my girlfriend. I can ski okay - but she doesn't ski much.. Anyway instructor was a pretty good skier (naturally) and he was attempting to 'teach' her how to slide slip.. Which of course is extremely basic..

But he was using alot of biomechanical references unweighting the top ski - unweighting edges etc etc. Then another instructor stopped in - saw the trouble my g/f was having with the super technical describtion and explained - go like this (demonstrating it) - and bam of course she coudl do it.

Skiing is a great reference sport for tennis - because so much is by feel. I do not know exactly which muscles and the exact biomechanics that cause me to turn - or how to land off a jump etc etc. I don't need to - part of my brain remembers. I remember without knowledge of the biomechanics of skiing...or any real specific instructions. I have learned by feel - and most skiers do in fact learn this way, IMHO. Does a ski instructor give some guidance..of course..

Tennis is not so different - coaches will guide and demonstrate some. But you have to fill in the gaps and gain the feel of how to hit the shots.. Pros will develop 'strokes' on their own using this technique.. Hey I did this - and the ball moved like this. I liked that - let me repeat it. This is essentially self-discovery.. So some combination of simple guidance and self discovery - that works better then super technical breakdowns of strokes..IMHO.
 

GuyClinch

Legend
I truly believe on of the main things that can be done is severely limiting or eliminating competition at young ages. Competition in the sense of matches. It does very little to help a talented young kid.

So much better off hitting thousands of fed balls from myriad angles and just recieving and processing feedback by the truckload.
Totally agree. This is something that we should be done - and is done at some academies. What we generally have around here is adults looking a quick technical fix - and thinking they can bring that on court. After reading this forum for a long time - I don't think it really works..
 

Bender

G.O.A.T.
Totally agree. This is something that we should be done - and is done at some academies. What we generally have around here is adults looking a quick technical fix - and thinking they can bring that on court. After reading this forum for a long time - I don't think it really works..
If only that worked.

I'd be a 5.5 by now at least.


Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
 

Ash_Smith

Legend
I truly believe on of the main things that can be done is severely limiting or eliminating competition at young ages. Competition in the sense of matches. It does very little to help a talented young kid.

So much better off hitting thousands of fed balls from myriad angles and just recieving and processing feedback by the truckload.
Competition is important - the problem is that for the most part we put the emphasis on winning whilst in competition and that influences how kids perceive it and therefore react to it. If we could change the attitude towards competition to "Competition is just another training session, but in the best training environment you can ever have" then we'd all be better off.
 

Limpinhitter

G.O.A.T.
For me I try and encourage players to explore the range of different solutions (techniques) for any given problem. Some will be non-starters at a high end (a coach will know this, simple e.g. waiters tray serve) and the coach will arrange the learning environment to perturb that particular behaviour (e.g. by raising the net height and/or shortening the service box). It's not about reinventing the wheel but allowing the player to find their optimal solution to their unique problem. Most of the time it will be a very similar solution to what a coach could tell them however you have allowed them to come up with it (proven and established techniques). This promotes autonomy (Self-determination theory and motivation) and motor flexibility. I believe the reason why you see similar solutions is because the individual problems are close variations of the same general theme (we are generally all built in a similar way and the forces constraining us are the same). Of course, I will provide minimal guidance or questioning from time to time. Skill acquisition does not take place outside of social context so we have to be mindful of the broader picture - how many times do we bemoan the football coach who doesn't run up and down the touchline screaming at their players with wild gesticulations as being aloof and detached. In fact for me, the biggest issue I have is convincing my players that they are capable of finding these solutions without me telling them! This is generally because it is what they expect our relationship to be like (fountain of all knowledge & the empty vessel). Finally, I am not saying this is the only right way to coach but I can see the many benefits this approach provides.
It seems that you may be mistakenly assuming that teaching established, proven techniques requires a dogmatic, inflexible, one size fits all approach, and is mutually exclusive of allowing players to find their optimal solution. Rather, I think that teaching proven technique (which otherwise may take years to acquire, or, in many cases not occur at all), provides an understanding of shot making that promotes players' ability to find their own optimal solutions.
 
It seems that you may be mistakenly assuming that teaching established, proven techniques requires a dogmatic, inflexible, one size fits all approach, and is mutually exclusive of allowing players to find their optimal solution. Rather, I think that teaching proven technique (which otherwise may take years to acquire, or, in many cases not occur at all), provides an understanding of shot making that promotes players' ability to find their own optimal solutions.
Not at all, I have no problem with proven techniques. I'm guessing, not assuming, that I differ with some other coaches on how you encourage your athletes to explore the variations around those techniques. I don't see it as black or white, right or wrong. This approach suits my coaching ethos and style. It hasn't been shown to produce better skilled players (yet?) but it has been shown to improve player motivation/commitment, and enjoyment which cannot be a bad thing. Like I said, I don't sit in my 'dynamical systems silo', I appreciate that certain situations requires flexible coaching approaches.
 

Coolio

Professional
Competition is important - the problem is that for the most part we put the emphasis on winning whilst in competition and that influences how kids perceive it and therefore react to it. If we could change the attitude towards competition to "Competition is just another training session, but in the best training environment you can ever have" then we'd all be better off.
Great, but what if you find yourself playing a match and you are so tight that you don't implement any of the things you are practising in training because you are tight and just want to do whatever it takes to win. For me I revert to type 1, grind and don't make mistakes no matter what.
Sure you win the match but you feel crap afterwards because of how you played, then again, if you play as if it's a training session and implement the things you are practicing, you will probably improve faster (as you are trying to do the right things, irregardless of whether you can consistently do them) but with that comes the added risk of losing the match....?
 
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PittsburghDad

Guest
Competition is important - the problem is that for the most part we put the emphasis on winning whilst in competition and that influences how kids perceive it and therefore react to it. If we could change the attitude towards competition to "Competition is just another training session, but in the best training environment you can ever have" then we'd all be better off.
Totally agree competition is important. In organized drills with immediate feedback. And I'm sure for alot of talented kids, rushing right into three set matches is perfect. For some. I made a massive mistake. I had an seven year old who's strokes were plenty good enough to play matches against kids 12-14. But she wasnt ready to compete. She'd take a game here and there, hit a winner, but was so internalizing the pressure and without any real framework to deal with competitive dissapointment, that it was a net negative. And I just kept listening to "coaches" who said, "Don't worry. She will learn to compete. This is the process." I'm sorry, there is no one process. I was naive and dumb before I realized it and decided to just find competition in different ways. And start having fun again. Everybody develops on their own schedule and you just cant force it.

No matter how you tell a kid that winning doesn't matter, when they step onto a court for a match it definitely does.

It feels absolutely nuts to me to have a kid developing a talent and then have a major factor of that, these two hour matches with ZERO encouragement and feedback. No other junior sport does that. Its insane to do that to 8 year olds.

Give kids good training environments with multiple types of competition with numerous "results" and challenges. And good coaching feedback. And lots and lots of hugs and encouragement. Its brutally hard out there for them. Its hot, its lonesome, its mentally exhausting. Don't assume kids are just "born to do that". It can be guided. But not the way the USTA is set up. I ask again....What other junior sport does that to kids?
 

sureshs

Bionic Poster
Why do tennis coaches have to mention other sports like baseball or cricket to make a point? It seems to be fashion among coaches and commentators.
 

sureshs

Bionic Poster
Malinga is a product of relaxed rules regarding overhand bowling. He was called Slinga Malinga for his delivery style, which was ruled legal after people challenged that is was actually chucking, not bowling.

Nadal is a product of powerful rackets and poly strings without which the reverse forehand motion is not possible without severe risk of injury.

These players are examples of those who cultivated motions in modern times which would have been illegal or impossible under the original conditions of the sport.
 

Ash_Smith

Legend
^^^ The rule has never been relaxed - he meets what has always been the rule - that is that the arm must be straight at the point of delivery ( straight in this context being defined as within 15 degrees of hyperextension) and his delivery point is above the shoulder - hence not a "chucker".
 
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Ash_Smith

Legend
^^^ Okay, if you don't like the Malinga example let's go with Wasim Akram (arguably the greatest swing bowler of all time) - he too was largely self taught and developed his ability to bowl conventional and reverse swing as he grew up bowling with a tennis ball on one side of which the felt was roughed up - from playing around with different grips and release positions he realised he could shape the ball either way. A friend of the family invited him to his club to bowl in the nets with a real cricket ball and he found he could do the same thing after a bit of practice - he received no formal coaching, but again his environment and his enthusiasm led him to develop probably the most effective swing bowling the world has seen.

No relaxed rules here
 

5263

G.O.A.T.
Imo, the reality is that some players will always be better than others and we can rarely know who they are. Sure we can spot someone who will be pretty good, but we don't know how far it will go and we will have little insight as to the effects of his coaching. It is nearly impossible to evaluate the coaching style and how a particular player will do under it. I like Ash's insights, but in the end, we never know if the player would have done better or worse under another style of coaching. Coaches do what they do because they believe in it at the time. Later, they may believe in something a bit different.
 

sureshs

Bionic Poster
^^^ Okay, if you don't like the Malinga example let's go with Wasim Akram (arguably the greatest swing bowler of all time) - he too was largely self taught and developed his ability to bowl conventional and reverse swing as he grew up bowling with a tennis ball on one side of which the felt was roughed up - from playing around with different grips and release positions he realised he could shape the ball either way. A friend of the family invited him to his club to bowl in the nets with a real cricket ball and he found he could do the same thing after a bit of practice - he received no formal coaching, but again his environment and his enthusiasm led him to develop probably the most effective swing bowling the world has seen.

No relaxed rules here
What about Nadal's RFH? Is it something that could have evolved in the wood era?
 
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