As we´ve openly discussed it, one of the most difficult aspects of being a coach is having the ability to successfully create a training program that suits the player we are coaching, since there are a great number of modalities available and the decision making process can be nerve racking. However, we are here to help, offering a simple yet very effective training periodization model, that can be divided into 4 steps:
Step 1: Preparation
Our work with the athletes we coach doesn´t begin on the court. Before we even step foot into one, there is a lot of preparatory work that must be done in order to correctly design a training program, such as:
-> Goal Setting: As we´ve mentioned in previous articles, goal setting is a crucial part of the training program, helping us to determine where the player needs to be, performance wise, in a given period of time.
Specific: The goals we set must have a high degree of specificity for the task we are looking to developing in our players.
For example: If we are looking to practice the serve our goals need to be related to it, like % of serves in, % of 2nd serve in, etc.
Measurable: We need to be able to extract objective information regarding the goals.
It doesn´t matter if we aim for improving the player´s forehand if we don´t retrieve data that reflects the player progress (like % of unforced mistakes, % of successful forehand balls in 100 balls, maximum shot speed, etc)
Achievable: When we set goals, we can´t do it in a way that the player can´t achieve them. Yes, they need to have a high level of difficulty, in order to stimulate the commitment of the player to the training program and to entice him to keep training so that he can achieve them.
On the other hand, if the goals we set are too easy, the player will simple be bored with the training sessions and will not have as high levels of motivation as we´d hope for.
Relevant: The goals we set must be meaningful for the player, because otherwise his motivation levels won´t be high enough, and his development will therefore be slower than expected.
Timed: Every goal needs to be included in a time frame:
o Short term goals: Up to 1 month
o Medium term goals: 1-3 months
o Long term goals: > 6 months
-> Physical and Mental Assessment: From the day one that we have said that the tennis player must be looked from 4 different perspectives: technical, tactical, physical and mental.
That being said, we need to gather information about the two last qualities, in order to better understand the players´ strengths and weaknesses, so that we can figure out what needs to be worked on first.
If you don´t have the technical knowledge to do so, you can call a S&C coach (for the physical component) and a sports psychologist (for the mental component) to help you.
-> Methods of Evaluation: At every stage of our training program we have evaluate the player, in order to assess if the goals that were set were or not achieved, and if the player developed as expected.
To do that, we must select the appropriate means of evaluation for each component, not forgetting that the methods we use to evaluate the players have to be as specific as possible to them, so that the results are more reliable.
Furthermore, only by evaluating our player we will be able to have the information about his response to training, and if any changes need to be made. Below we can see a graphic that can be used to evaluate the impact of the training load on the player´s performance, highlighting the importance of these kind of assessment strategy.
Step 2: Structuring
It includes the following steps:
2.1.- Fragmentation: Briefly, fragmenting a task is finding out the best way to teach it, taking into account:
The number of task components
The complexity of the task
That being said, we can use the following strategies to teach a task to our players:
Fragmentation: Teaching each component of the task in isolation.
Once each component (on it´s own!) is mastered, the task is taught and performed with all its components.
This strategy is very useful for tasks with a high level of complexity and for the early stages of learning, where the player needs to be introduced to each component in an isolated manner, because he doesn´t yet have the ability to properly execute the full task.
Segmentation: After teaching one of the components, the coach immediately adds another one, and so on, until the complete task can be performed.
Simplification: Teaching the task with all its components but with a low degree of complexity.
This teaching strategy is useful for tasks with a low level of complexity, that can be taught with all components included right from the get go.
2.2.- Rest Period vs Activity Period: Whilst we are planning a training program we must take into consideration this ratio between training hours and resting hours, so that we can optimise our players´ performance levels.
When we are trying to develop a certain quality (whether it being tactical, technical or physical) we need to remember that the player needs to practice a lot, and that practicing 3 times a week is better than practicing 1 time a week. The more hours of effort our athlete’s put in, the higher the probability of a faster and more organic development will be.
However, we can´t forget that the recovery part of the training program is a very underrated key to success. By effectively resting we are minimizing the effects of fatigue and lowering the risk of injury. As we can see below, the inclusion of recovering periods into training programs is a key to success.
2.3.- Variability: As we know, varying the type of stimulus we give to our players is crucial, because the more contexts the player practices in, the better prepared he will be when he faces new scenarios in court.
That being said, we can conclude that varying the drills we carry out in training is important. However, that variation can´t be randomly done, and it has to take into account the stage of learning in which the player in question is, at the moment we are coaching him.
To help you we present here a sequence that can be use to progress the training, relating to it´s variability:
Step 3: Feedback + Analysis
-> Feedback about the Result: After a drill, after a training session and after a game we need to communicate to our players about whether the results that were expected were or not achieved and if the task in hand was completed.
The more training hours and court experience the player has, the less this feedback will be needed, because the player will have by himself the ability of understanding if the result was or not the one that he worked for. However, until the player reaches that point of high self-awareness, we need to utilise this feedback strategy.
-> Feedback about the Performance: Whilst feedback about result was only related to whether the performance of the task was successful or not, this type of feedback is related to the quality of the execution and movement produced by the athlete.
This means that even if the result was good, the performance levels might not have been, with the quality of the execution being far from what was expected for that training session/game.
We can give feedback about the result in a lot of different ways:
Visual Feedback: The coaches show has visual proof of the player performance, trough the means of video of photos.
Video analysis is a type of visual feedback and is, in our opinion, one of the best tools to use with our players, because the player can undoubtedly how he executed the task, figuring out what went well and the mistakes he committed.
In addition, there are a lot of softwares that can be used to enhance the use of video analysis systems, giving coaches even more options to analyse their players´ performance.
Verbal Feedback: The coach gives verbal information about the performance of the athlete.
It´s the most frequently used, across all sports.
However, we mustn´t forget that although verbal communication is one of the best tools to spread our message to athletes, we need to be very careful about the way we do it, because too little and too much information will be prejudicial to the player´s development.
Kinematic Feedback: The coach will retrieve information (from the player´s performance) related to kinematic (movement of the body) variables, such as:
o Speed of the movement
o Change of direction