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Training Methodologies: How and Why?

The importance of the 4 components

Tennis is an extraordinarily complex sport, with a lot of details that makes it one of the most difficult sports to play. It is common for us to think that tennis is merely hitting the ball, but there is a lot more to it. We can divide tennis into 4 different components:

  • Technical: Mastering every stroke in tennis is essential to achieve and elite level of performance, because if you can´t hit the ball properly you won´t cause damage to your opponent and you won´t be able to take the chances that will come up during the game.

  • Tactical: The knowledge of tactical concepts is necessary to develop a playing style and a game strategy specific (in the way possible) to the player´s characteristics and to the opponent that he faces.

  • Physical: Every tennis player must have a high level of physical conditioning, in order to be able to produce high levels of power and force when hitting the ball, to move around the court with great levels of speed and agility and good stamina to endure the effort and maintain optimal performance levels during the games´ duration.

  • Mental: This component is one of the most underrated and the one that is least talked about. The mentality of a player is what sets apart really good players from elite players.

Most people have already been working out for years, and have reached a point where their progress has stagnated, resulting in a lack of success. Whether it be reducing body fat, increasing strength, building muscle, or improving athletic performance, everyone ́s definition of more success is different. For a 100-meter sprinter, it means improving his/her 100-meter time. For a footballer, it means being faster, more agile, and less susceptible, to injury. For a manager it’s about maximizing output in their everyday work.

The formula for greater progress and therefore more training success is consistency.

Every component has its place and needs to be developed individually, because the more holistic the training program is, the better performance levels achieved will be. In this article we will talk about how we can create a training methodology that enables the harmonic development of our players.

What is a training methodology?

The concept of “training methodology” can be defined as an organized and structured way of presenting information to athletes, according to a well-defined set of rules/patterns that helps us and the player to achieve the goals that were established.

As coaches, we must realize that the selection of the correct training methodology for the player in question won´t by itself lead to better performance levels and to the optimization of the learning process, because learning is a bilateral process.

A good training methodology will:

  • Accelerate the learning process

  • Include, as much as possible, the player on the subjects regarding his development

  • Correctly establish a progression to the training program

  • Create a sustainable training program, applying in the most efficient way (cost/benefit wise) the resources of the club

Some common mistakes in the teaching of tennis, that have a clear negative impact on the players´ development are:

  • Not making evaluations during the training cycle (initial, mid-cycle or final), to every component. This is a mistake because without assessing the player we won´t have objective information about their qualities and their evolution (whether it being positive or negative)

Furthermore, there are currently a lot of test batteries, scientifically validated that can be used to evaluate our players with a high degree of precision, and that are cheap, which means there are no excuse to skip this important step.

  • Not including the physical and mental component on the training program

  • Using the same training methods for different players

  • Using out of date training methods -> Not investing into one´s education and the actualization of knowledge will lead to the stagnation of our practice

What are the characteristics of "Good Teaching"?

The concept of “Good Teaching” corresponds to the achievement of the goals that were established at the beginning of the training program in the most efficient way possible. Many times, especially with younger coaches, it can be difficult to assess if the training methodology being used is or not the right one for the player in question.

Here are some examples of “Good Teaching”:

  • The athlete´s experience reflects, in part, the behaviour of the coach during the training sessions -> The more dedicated and motivated the coach is during training the higher the probability of a better and more solid player development

  • There is a visible progression of the player´s qualities (forehand, backhand, strength, agility, etc)

  • There is a correlation between our intentions (what we want the athlete to do) and the athlete´s actions (what he actually does in a training and/or competitive environment)

To achieve these, we need to prepare ourselves when we create a training program or when we are developing our training methodology. We can do that by:

  • Thoroughly evaluating the player: The assessment of our players will allow us to pinpoint their strengths and weaknesses, and therefore creating a tailored made training program and not a universal one, that wouldn’t fit to the majority of the players, as well as making adaptations or changes during it´s course, as a response to the player´s development (for example: if the player is developing at a faster rate than expected the training program needs to be adapted).

The absence of an evaluation process makes it a lot more difficult to plan the training sessions and to perceive what are the priorities that need to be tackled with more urgency.

  • Work with supporting staff: As we´ve discussed previously, tennis has 4 different components: technical, tactical, physical, and mental.

Many times, coaches don´t have the expertise necessary to act in all these components, which calls the need for help with professionals that are better suited to develop the player in those areas. For example:

Physical component: Strength and Conditioning Coach

Mental component: Psychologist

  • Working with the clubs conditions and available materials at disposal

  • Goal setting: Short term and long term goal setting are crucial to help the player grow, because they allow us to precise point A and point B, where the player is right now and where he needs to be in a given period of time.

Goals should always be planned with the player and it´s family to increase the commitment everyone has with the training program and therefore move a step closer to the level of playing we want our player to reach.

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