The world changes. Even I am 26 years old and can call myself a „pretty young person” I see the difference between my adolescence years and modern times. Some people complain about technology advancement and related to it lack of physical activities among youngsters. I have a different approach and I try to understand it. Does it mean that we have to accept all these behaviours? Definitely not. The answer is in the ability to show proper ways that will help junior players achieve their dreams.
I was a competitive player so I have an opportunity to reflect on my experiences. Right now as a coach it is great to see what I was doing right, what I could do better and what stopped me from being my best version of an athlete. I am pretty happy with my results as a player but I see how much more I could achieve if I would know what I know as I got older. Unfortunately I can’t move back in time and implement proper corrections but these lessons are not wasted. My playing career is over but my coaching role is developing day by day. I want to use my reflections to show players where are the opportunities to improve skills and achieve better results on the court.
There are visible differences in life aspects as well as in sport coaching during the last 15 years. When I was a player we were training mostly in groups and we participated in tournaments mostly around our country. Coaches were using different methods but they were mostly based on basket drills and live-ball patterns. Nowadays the whole athletic world is changed. Players have individual tennis coaches who use specific video equipment to get the most of each practice session. Personal fitness trainers care about athletic development of youngsters. Add to this group nutritionists and sport psychologists and you can see that tennis is now an individual sport with a team approach. This new environment is definitely a benefit for young athletes who want to reach their dreams but it also have some drawbacks that have negative impact on athletic and personal development. That is why it is important that coaches and parents together keep an eye on general development of athletes and make sure that no important aspects are missed within the process.
3 activities that stop tennis juniors from improvement. The title of this article shows that there are still ways to get better. I am not saying that modern tennis players do less than we did 15 years ago because it is completely opposite. Nowadays youngsters have more activities but it doesn’t mean that all of them are really effective. Quality over quantity has to be always in mind. So what are these 3 activities that can help juniors today and tomorrow? Here they are:
Education is mostly related to school but I don’t like this relatedness. Unfortunately there are many aspects that school teachers preach but they are not helpful in real life. Again – Quality over quantity. Young tennis players have to develop many skills but to get better on the tennis court they have to also strive for tennis self-education. I mean books. I mean articles. I mean videos. How many tennis-related books have your players read recently? How many videos on YouTube have they watched about emotional control? How many articles have they searched for related to dealing with failures? I bet the answers for all these questions are: zero, zero, zero. Don’t worry because it is normal. I didn’t do it too at the age of 14 or 16. Now I read a lot and I know the value of it. If I could read a book about emotional control at age of 15 I could better deal with this problem after missed balls. The same is with your players. Tell them how self-education can help them achieve better results on the court and encourage to start improving off the court too.
Lack of curiosity
Another major mistake that keeps youngsters from big improvements is their lack of curiosity. Yes they don’t ask questions. If you do it you get knowledge. You get new perspectives. You get better. Players have a lot of knowledgeable members in their teams but they don’t use them effectively. They rely on what these people say at the moment but they should rather ask them to use their knowledge to get better every time. If I could ask my coach about proper nutritional habits at the age of 15 I would never eat chips and drink coke during the tournament. If I could spend more time with my national coach and ask him about off-court activities that can make me better maybe I would be playing Grand Slams right now. Maybe. I can’t move back in time but I can pass my knowledge. Players! Ask Questions! These people around you are for you!
Lack of responsibility
Do 100 push-ups. Player makes it. We have a practice at 12. It will last for 2 hours. Player practices 2 hours. Go and stretch for 20 minutes. Player stretches. Lack of results. Coach is fired.
This is a typical scenario of modern tennis world. Players do a lot of stuff but they are robots. They don’t have responsibility for their careers. They put everything in coach’s hand because it is easier. Coach knows more and coach is to blame if it doesn’t work. This approach stops from the biggest improvements. Players have to change it. Start doing something on your own. Millions of players do the same work as you on the court so do something extra to get ahead. Go and serve on your own. Do extra workout at home. Stretch 10 minutes more than usual. These are the steps that will take you faster to your dreams. Be responsible!
Marcin Bieniek is a professional tennis coach and founder of instructional website http://tennisisland.us. Marcin has been working with USTA, top 100 ITF and WTA/ATP players. He is a frequent contributor to TennisPro and TenisKlub magazines and he was a speaker at International Coaching Tennis Symposium 2016 at Hilton Head Island, USA.