by Ignacio Cresini
In my years as a touring coach in Asia and supervising tournaments in Argentina, I learned a very ugly lesson: kids with coaches at tournaments have definite short and long term advantages! This is also the case at the pro tour level and is highlights to be more unfair as top players can travel even with larger teams while journeymen barely share a coach with one or two players.
In the short term (during the tournament) coaches can make adjustments to tactical options, scout opponents and provide the stability of organization and calm. In the long run, the fact that the coach is there watching his or her student will provide first-hand information on adjustments to be made in the development process of the players.
Therefore, is vital at the junior level for coaches to go to tournaments and provide parents & players with an emotions-free view of their performances and how what happens in the competitive atmosphere has to be related to the program the player is receiving.
With that insight from the coaches eye, the parents and players can start to have a clear vision of why a result happens or is still elusive. Parents can start discussing with their children, A FEW HOURS AFTER THE MATCH, what are their views on the performance and the oppositions performance. Both aspects need to be discussed, matches do not only happen with one player’s mistakes or winners, it takes two to tango.
Enhancing the views
As coaches, many times when we cannot attend tournaments we receive texts and emails from parents giving us the results and their conclusions. What is relayed often relates to a few stark numbers, like the amount of double faults or just one or two major faults (lack of footwork activity between shots or misses in the net).
This is a normal occurrence and it is not supposed to be taken lightly by coaches, but coaches have to take it upon themselves to educate and provide parents with verbal or written information of what their child is learning and what they should expect in tournaments. That way, the future examinations of performance from the players and parents will be more accurate and help us in the case we cannot attend a tournament. Having clear black and white descriptions of events from parents or players are going to be a thing of the past.
Process vs Outcome
Does this sound familiar?
“I played well but lost” and “this is not working”
Well, this is where coaching has to be clear and establish goals of performance and then results to be achieved in certain time. Our players can be winning without achieving a performance goal and be losing while achieving it. Winning while executing to a very acceptable level the areas that have been focused on in lessons but still losing to more experienced or consistent players.
During the March Labor Day weekend the scene repeated itself many times. I went to see a player who controlled the point from the first shot and makes a mistake at the end of the rally to loses it. Like a chess player who makes 20 perfect moves to get towards checkmate, but then makes one bad move and the castle falls down, junior tennis can be similar.
Do we come to the conclusion about what we have been training as a failure due to the player not winning? Do we dismiss the work done over one shot that needs to be executed? Or do we assess the progress and keep making small adjustments of the templates we are building to win points, that will turn into games, sets, matches and ultimately a season of tennis?
Simple guidelines to watch your child’s match
During the past period of training you child has been developing technical skills that are linked to a tactical results. For this reason we are going to only check the achievement of those tactical results with four main good that the player has to deliver on.
Here are some examples of key focus areas for matches. Note that are not related to winning the match of the result.
Serves with spin and depth after the bounce (using legs and correct swing paths)
Active footwork and balance
Depth from the baseline (2mts behind service box line)
Spin to the corners or sidelines inside the court to close at the net
If our player can check at least two of his or her objectives in each point of the match, this means he or she is trying to achieve their specific goals. They are trying to apply the tactical principles that we are teaching during coaching. The next stage of development is to keep quality and intensity through entire matches and tournaments. Reaching these objectives can be explained by the player himself doing a post match evaluation, hopefully after the cool down and being less emotionally involved in the match a couple of hours later.
Hope this helps you to watch and analyze matches in the upcoming tournaments.
See you on court :)
See below a simple structure
Post match Evaluation
- Opponent name:
- Opponent Age:
- Focus areas for the match (4):
- How do you evaluate your performance? (1-10)
- What do you think was the determining factor of the match? (Who was doing what to who?)
- How well did you execute the plan you had for the match?
- Which one was the turning point of the match?
- In case you have to face the same opponent in another occasion what would you change?
- Did you achieve your 4 focus areas during the match?