Every Sport has it’s Myths and Misconceptions, and Tennis is no different.
While many of these M&Ms are harmless, some can have the ability to hinder the your development.
Below are 3 Common Myths that need to be crushed, especially in an effort to help you develop.
1) One-on-One with the Coach is the Pinnacle of Training
Parents complain that other young players get more one-on-one time with the Coach… Players often feel they need more one-on-one time…
It’s as if it’s the Holy Grail of Tennis training.
And it’s not! Not by a long shot.
First up, the Coach is almost at the furtherest part of the court they can be from you.
Secondly, they have to watch you AND the ball. In other words, at best, they are multi-tasking.
Thirdly, as soon as a Coach steps on the court they immediately take (at least some) of the ownership away from you.
(Please do not underestimate this point.)
And the last point I’ll make about this, the more one-on-ones you have the greater the chances are your Coach will over-coach you.
Unfortunately, you won’t realise this until it’s too late but one of the worst things a Coach can do is over-coach their Players.
It’s a natural phenomenon, and trust me, it’s very easy to do.
What should you do? Instead of worrying what your Coach is doing, focus on what you are bringing to training and how hard you go.[As an aside, in my facility I actively discourage one-on-one training and rather get each Athlete to train in small groups. Once I set up the session and everyone knows what they are doing I try to step back as much as possible.
We often have situations where Athletes coach each other (or at least give feedback); discipline each other and help and encourage each other).
In other words, they are on their way to being independent.]
2) I must Hit Up
“Hitting Up” (the term used to practice with someone better) is another myth Players and Parents chase.
There is a clue that Nadal, Federer, Djokovic, etc. don’t/can’t hit up yet are constantly improving and evolving their games.
Think about that for a second: the Top 10 (and possibly Top 20) almost never hit together, are almost always hitting down, yet manage to get better year to year.
So how do they do it?
Well, for a start, they focus on their game and aren’t worrying who is across the net from them. As long as the ball comes back, they’re content.
Secondly, they don’t rely on their hitting partner to bring the intensity, they bring that themselves.
Thirdly, by being the better player they drive the session: what they’re working on, how they work on it and how long they go.
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So instead of always looking to Hit Up, try this theory I call the “Rule of Thirds“.
Aim for about a third of your hitting time to be Up. During these sessions you’ll improve on hitting balls that come to you a bit quicker, you can work on your defence and hopefully see what the Players the next level up are doing.
Aim for a third of your hitting time to be Down. Now you’re working on driving a session, setting the intensity and putting into practice what you’re working on under less pressure. You are also required to generate your own pace of the ball.
If you need to, you can increase the pressure by ‘constraining‘ yourself. For example, you’re only allowed to go cross, second serves only, they get the alleys, or they get a head start in every game (e.g. they start each game 30 love up).
The last third should be with those that are as close to your hitting standard as possible. Sometimes they beat you, other times you beat them.
By mixing up the abilities of your training partners ensures you get to work on more aspects of your game than just your ability to hit a ball.
What should you do? Don’t focus exclusively on hitting with those *better* than you, be proactive in organising a group of players to train with who allow you to develop all aspects of your game.
3) To Improve Footwork, I need ladders, cones, etc.
No one argues that improving ‘footwork’ (or ‘agility’ in most other sports) is beneficial to one’s progression, it’s the manner in which so many tennis programs try to improve said footwork that is the issue.
Going back to the definition of agility – a whole-body response to a sport-specific stimulus – we can immediately see that ladder drills lack 1) a sport-specific stimulus (e.g. another player hitting the ball over the net); and 2) a response (i.e. you know where your feet are meant to be before you start).
MORE: Hard Road v Easy Street
There are a few more reasons (most people look down, not up; the ground reaction forces are rather low; there is a difference between ‘agility’ and ‘change of direction’; etc.) too but we won’t go into all of them here.
The point is, if your Tennis or Speed Coach brings out the ladders, it’s probably time to look to improve your footwork elsewhere.
What should you do? If you don’t have Hitting sessions that ignore Footwork you probably shouldn’t have Footwork sessions that don’t include hitting.
In other words, you probably should make sure Footwork is included in every session, all session.