A SECTION DEDICATED TO TENNIS AUSTRALIA COACH MEMBERS
54 Take a leaf out of someone
else’s book: No matter what sport, there are a number of similarities in a coach’s role.
56 What do you see? Mardy Fish’s stable backhand volley is well worth emulating.
57 Dynamic team training: a
group environment can help an athlete become stronger, fitter and ultimately maximise their athletic ability.
58 Coach talk 59 Legends inspire: after
dedicating his life to a playing career, Wes Horskins became an inspiration to other aspiring professionals.
Australian Tennis Magazine | September 2011
A SECTION DEDICATED TO TENNIS AUSTRALIA COACH MEMBERS Tennis Australia Coach Membership T: 03 9914 4191 F: 03 9650 1040 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Website: www.tennis.com.au/membership
Take a leaf out of someone’s book No matter the sport, there are a number of similarities in a coach’s role. These similarities begin from the onset and at times can continue at the professional ranks. By Daniela Toleski
Brennon Dowrick was a keynote speaker at the Australian Tennis Conference in March 2011.
thletes can be students of all sports, and so can coaches. Certain aspects of what other sports coaches implement for their athletes or team can be used and tailored for the tennis environment to achieve desired results.
Build the foundations All qualified coaches are well aware that there is nothing more important than setting the correct foundations at the beginning of an athlete’s developmental phase. Australia’s first Commonwealth Games male gymnastics gold medallist Brennon Dowrick, who presented at the 2011 Australian Tennis Conference, knows from personal experience how learning the correct foundations helped him to achieve his goals. “To begin with, it took me longer to get those foundations built solidly and correctly, but they not only allowed me to climb to the success I was striving for, but if something 54
Australian Tennis Magazine | September 2011
did go wrong … I didn’t have to go back to that previous foundation right down the bottom,” he said. “I only had to go back to the one before because it was built solidly and correctly. In the long run it allowed me to climb higher and get results I could only dream about.” Dowrick went on to represent Australia at two Olympic Games, three Commonwealth Games and seven World Championships. But had he not have mastered the basic foundations it could have been quite a different story.
Team work Although tennis is seen as an individual sport, for many junior players their first experience in competition is in a team based environment representing their local club or metropolitan association. The format is usually four players per team, with athletes participating in singles and doubles in home and away matches.
With tennis though, the major difference to traditional team sports is that each team member would possibly have a different coach. But with everyone’s results (both singles and doubles) combined for the overall outcome on the day, the objective of working well in a team environment is of great relevance. If compared to a soccer team, for example, highly acclaimed team manager Sir Alex Ferguson of England’s Manchester United has helped many individuals excel in his team while creating a unison team for many years. For 90 minutes a soccer team is working together to achieve a win, but in a final situation it could come down to a penalty shoot out, urging the individual to step up to achieve that team victory. Dowrick shared his insight with achieving team work within, like tennis, an individual sport. “As gymnasts we’re up on the apparatus as individuals but what we do as individuals directly affects the team. The most sought
Communication Another key component for any athlete is communication. There is a lot of importance placed on a coach’s communication skills, but a variety of sports whether it be athletes on a soccer pitch, a football oval or playing a doubles match, have to communicate at some stage during a match. In all scenarios an athlete at the baseline or in defence can quickly let the net player or midfielder know that a ball is going out or if they need to pass the ball swiftly. A few seconds can make a sizable difference and once again reinforces the importance of team work. Brennon Dowrick received a 9.9 for his pommel horse routine at the Commonwealth Games in 1990.
Sir Alex Ferguson has helped many individuals succeed in a team environment.
Strong communication skills, which may also include secret hand signals, give an advantage to the team who has established the understanding of messages. Fostering this during practice will in effect give the athlete better judgement when they’re on the court competing in doubles matches.
Minimise distractions With mobile phones having more functionality these days they have the potential to become a major distraction to athletes, especially during match days. In the AFL earlier this year it was highly publicised that Hawthorn coach Alastair Clarkson banned mobile phones when his team was playing Sydney away. Hawthorn hadn’t recorded a win at the Sydney Cricket Ground (SCG) for eight years. “I handed my own in too,” he said at the time. “We needed to change our mindset coming in to Sydney. Great motel, beautiful harbour, just everything in our time here has been too comfortable. We just wanted to make it quite clear.” Clarkson’s aim was to make the players focus on the task at hand and what followed,
Minimising distractions helped the Hawthorn Football Club to victory.
coincidence or not, was a 46-point win. If athletes are becoming complacent, slight changes have the potential to improve the discipline an athlete is showing. Another way is to increase the standard slightly for your athlete and test their drive and dedication to their development. That’s just what Dowrick’s coach asked of him while he was at the Australian Institute of Sport – commit to an additional 15 minutes of training in order to be the last person leaving the gym. “After one year of training by putting in that extra 15 minutes at the end of each day, that worked out to be another 70 hours more work than my teammates,” he said. “That’s something pretty good to have in your side both mentally and physically when you’re faced with a situation when you’re going for one remaining Olympic Game spot against 10 of your teammates. Now it’s good if it’s time well spent, spent productively.” This extra effort proved to be beneficial to Dowrick’s development and not long after he received a 9.9 for his pommel horse routine, Australia’s highest international gymnastic score, to claim Australia’s first Commonwealth men’s gymnastics gold medal in 1990. “If something is worth striving for yes it’s going to take a lot of hard work, but the beauty of putting in that hard work it’s so much more rewarding when you get there,” Dowrick said. “And because year after year you’re constantly putting in that drive, that discipline, that enthusiasm, when you do get to those goals you know how to continue on year after year because you are dedicated and you have the right direction.” Ultimately it comes down to a coach’s ability to motivate athletes to believe in themselves. Once an athlete has self-belief, all negative barriers are broken down and in most cases the athlete will prosper. “You need to believe in yourself if you truly want to achieve your true potential,” Dowrick said. Australian Tennis Magazine | September 2011
after medal in gymnastics is the team gold so … I put the pressure on my back that I was always going to be a team player,” he said. “That meant both in training and in competition. In training I’d help my teammates get through their hard sessions because I knew what they did would directly affect me and what I did would directly affect them. When they did a good job I felt great, I wanted to continue on that momentum.” Bernard Tomic’s recent run to the Wimbledon quarter-finals was a source of inspiration for up and coming juniors, including the All England junior boys’ winner Luke Saville. “He is an unbelievable player and a very unique player for that but it gives us all belief and gives confidence to the group which is good,” Saville said. Therefore team spirit is powerful and encouraging this from an early age will only assist athletes to translate their individual performances in a team atmosphere. And who knows one day down the track, they could be put to the ultimate test – representing Australia in a team competition such as Davis Cup/Fed Cup or even the Commonwealth Games or the Olympics.
What do you see? By the Stroke Master
American Mardy Fish made his first All England Club quarter-final appearance at Wimbledon 2011 â€“ a feat that propelled him as his countryâ€™s best-ranked male or female player. This month we take a look at his stable backhand volley. Head is balanced and eyes are fixed on the hitting zone.
Shoulders are aligned to the oncoming ball.
Weight is transferred from the back to the front foot.
Australian Tennis Magazine | September 2011
Arms will continue to separate as the right arm extends forwards and the left arm extends backwards.
Wrist is stable and in a fixed position.
Dominant arm is straight to ensure the hit is generated by the shoulder.
Dynamic team training Tennis has become such a physically demanding sport, that you no longer can achieve success just by being a great tennis player. You must become a world class athlete and an important role as a trainer is to motivate and educate the athlete to become stronger, fitter and ultimately maximise their athletic ability. By Yutaka Nakamura
thletes are more likely to push themselves harder and raise their level of intensity while training along with other athletes. Dynamic team training programs are an effective way to push athletes further.
Importance of a warm-up
Understanding their bodies When running an active and dynamic stretching program, the athlete is focused on their technique and becomes aware of the condition of their own body. One of the reasons for doing this in a group setting is to give the athlete an idea of their flexibility level. When they look around and see the others it gives them an idea of where they are. As some players are much more flexible than others it
Dynamic team training ensures athletes reach their full potential.
helps to motivate them to spend more time and improve in this area of their training. Tennis is a highly technical and skilled sport that requires great stamina and endurance. An average match lasts about an hour and a half, but this can extend to three to five hours in a Grand Slam. In order to win a Slam the player must win seven, best of five or best of three set matches. To have the mental stamina to achieve this success, the athlete must have the necessary physical stamina as well. When the body is at its fittest the mind will follow suit. An athlete needs to be as fresh in the third, fourth or fifth set as he/she is in the first.
Interval training This form of training is probably the most gruelling of all. It involves two parts: running and resting. This training relates directly to the court. During the match a point lasts for about 10 seconds with rest for 30 seconds (rest time between points at Grand Slams is 25 seconds). This is the type of training that no one likes to endure as it’s mentally and physically taxing. During the resting period, some athletes become negative and lack motivation under the pressure, which can be referred to as ‘hitting the wall’. However if there is someone next to you that is trying harder and running faster, it encourages you to keep going. Before starting these tough sessions, I encourage the group to get vocal with each other and push one another out
of their comfort zones. Running together, working together, and ‘pumping each other up’ creates an extremely positive and successful environment.
Incorporate during the off-season As tennis is an individual sport and at times can be a very lonely and almost segregated lifestyle, it gives me great pleasure to introduce this dynamic team training program to certain periods of the season. For example offering a team training block in the off-season helps to motivate and enhance the performance of athletes for January. During the past two years Tennis Australia has developed a dynamic team training program for the lead up to the Australian Open. A six week Davis Cup Squad training block was conducted last year and there was nothing but positive feedback from the players and coaches. Although tennis is purely an individual sport, the dynamic team training gives the athlete an opportunity to compete with his/ her peers during their off-court training. A world class tennis player thrives on the competition; so why not incorporate their strength, speed, agility, movement and endurance training in a competitive environment. Yutaka Nakamura is a Tennis Australia Strength and Conditioning Coach with the AIS Pro Tour Program. Australian Tennis Magazine | September 2011
Each day begins with a dynamic activation warm-up session. This is one of the most underrated and overlooked aspects of the training program. Preparing the body for its movement for the rest of the day, each drill is designed to increase core temperature, create blood flow to working muscles and activate the nervous system to gain balance and coordination. Most athletes have at least one muscle group that is completely ‘shut-off’ due to either over working or still recovering from a previous training session. This can cause other areas of the body to over compensate which eventually leads to injury. Therefore it is imperative to continue to educate the athlete of the importance of this part of their training. Early morning group warm-ups can be very interesting. These sessions really show the level of each player’s dedication and professionalism. You have the athlete who shows up early and is already a step ahead of the rest of the group; then you have the others who are not as self-disciplined or motivated. But the athletes feed off of one another’s strengths and weaknesses and this is why group training sessions are so beneficial. They learn how to push each other, which is a direct result of their own motivation and drive. As a trainer it is a thrill to see and hear them challenging one another to train harder and push their limits.
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On site at Melbourne Park prior to Australian Open 2012 Australia’s premier professional development event for coaches 58
Australian Tennis Magazine | September 2011
After dedicating his life to his own playing career, Wes Horskins became an inspiration to other aspiring professionals as an award-winning coach.
always someone else out there who is willing to work longer and harder than what they think is their longest and hardest,” he says. Horskins is someone who admires the athletes who, like him, have also made tennis the cornerstone of their life. “I really get a thrill out of seeing the kids who continue coaching all the way from juniors to adults. We have a group of girls who commenced coaching in our modified program and continued until they were 19 and now, some 20 years later, are still playing night competition together,” he says. Horskins’s personal urge to compete is still evident, having represented Australia twice in the over 35 World Team Championships and reaching the singles quarter-finals in 2000 at the over 35 World Individual Championships in Amsterdam, Holland. He claimed the Australian 35 and over Clay Court Championships in 2000 and won his first pennant flag playing for Kooyong in the Grade One Vets team in 2009. “I just want to simply stay fit enough to be playing and coaching on court into old age,” he says. “Although I understand that my career is now heading towards a greater managerial role, administering the clubs and supervising the 12 coaches we employ.”
Wes Horskins founded Futures Tennis Academy in 1992.
He was on the ATP Tour for six years, achieving an Australian singles ranking of 39, an ATP singles ranking of 434 in 1983 and represented Oklahoma a i State University after receiving a l s a n st r sk i Hor s Au iploma full scholarship. His most vivid i s n e D en e: W ch , s: T memory though was qualifying Na m cation na l coa li fi s s io for the Australian Open in 1982. rn e , v Qua P rofe b l Ma n is Clu ch t a n s Having this vast playing o o a C en at i :E duc ues Pa rk T rowa n e experience, Horskins knew of E o K r ie ng v ch i ub, A rd lub a nd a exactly what career path he o r C C Cl Yea n i s Ten n i s t he wanted to pursue once his f Ten o s ch oh n Coa S t J S c h o ol professional playing days b u l n is s VC Ten Gi rl T CA came to an end. C : L s M l a rd 010) a l ia on a Aw “I had devoted my life u str r, Nati d (2 r A a s aw n n i a s s a d o up to being a tennis player e T b ro er : O t h h o t s A m i s or y G and it was natural to v S Hot g Ad want to pass on that ch i n Coa experience” he says. Before settling in Melbourne 26 years ago Horskins started coaching in Fuengirola, Spain at the prestigious Aquarius Tennis Centre on the Costa Del Sol. This coaching stint lasted for two years, after which point Horskins moved back to Melbourne, where he worked for two years as a self-employed coach at numerous clubs, while completing his Diploma of Education. He founded Futures Tennis Academy in 1992 and this full-time academy is helping to shape the future talent of the sport. “All our coaches are Tennis Australia qualified and some of my head coaches have been part of Futures Tennis Academy for 15 years or more,” he says. “I hope all kids we coach leave It may have been a black and white TV, with the same passion and love for but the moving images of Rod Laver, John our great sport that we have.” Newcombe and Ken Rosewall in a 1973 In 2008 the East Malvern Tennis Davis Cup tie left a lasting impression on a Club, one of Futures Tennis young Wes Horskins. Academy’s coaching bases, was Within a matter of days the 11-year-old ranked the number one largest picked up his first tennis racquet and from Community Based Tennis Club in that moment tennis was engrained within the state. the Horskins psyche. Horskins’s hard work and He went on to become a promising junior dedication to tennis coaching was claiming the prestigious Czechoslovakian recognised last year when he won National Junior Championships and the Swiss the TCAV Club Coach of the Year National Junior Title along the way. award and was also finalist in two Horskins had the opportunity to represent categories at the 2010 Australian Australia in the World Junior Esso Challenge Tennis Awards: Coaching Excellence and Victoria in both the Wayne Reid and – Club and Coaching Excellence – Linton Cup teams. In 1980, he was ranked MLC Tennis Hot Shots. as the number one junior in Victoria and “Getting to know what ‘drives’ top five junior in his age group in Australia. the kid to be at coaching is the At just 17, Horskins played State Grade 1 key. With the players we coach that pennant, which is the highest open grade want to make it as a player – we pennant in Victoria. always remind them that there is
Australian Tennis Magazine | September 2011
The 10 habits of highly effective coaches The great philosopher (and possibly coach) Aristotle once said, “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, therefore, is not an act, but a habit.” Make training more challenging and more demanding than the competition your athletes are targeting Great coaches realise that competition is not the time to find out your athletes’ physical and mental limitations. Training needs to be more challenging and more demanding – physically, mentally, technically, tactically, emotionally – than the competition your athletes are preparing for.
Learn and develop as a coach at a faster rate than your athletes Great coaches realise success is a moving target and to stay relevant they must be committed to life-long learning, honest personal and professional evaluation and continuous improvement.
Accelerate your rate of learning faster than your opposition The internet has ensured there are no secrets in sport. Everyone knows what you know. Anyone can get anything, anytime, anywhere and for free. Everyone is learning something everyday. Great coaches understand this and strive to accelerate their rate of learning faster than their opposing coaches.
Enhance your creative thinking skills Creativity is the defining difference between good coaches and great coaches. Good coaches can follow programs: great ones invent winning programs and in doing so create new directions and new ideas which in turn, change the sport. Copying kills. Following others and trying to duplicate their success is a recipe for failure.
Coach individuals – even in team sports There are no true team sports left. Every significant moment in every sport is ‘person on person’ and with performance analysis now at the level of millimetres and fractions 60
Australian Tennis Magazine | September 2011
Great coaches engage with athletes and inspire them.
of seconds, every athlete’s strengths and weaknesses are well known by their opposition. Great coaches engage with athletes and inspire them: they inspire them to consistently prepare with passion and to realise their full potential.
Ensure that every athlete that you work with out prepares (in every aspect) their opposition The days of winning by having the ‘fittest’ athletes are over. Sport is so multidimensional that winning comes from being the best in every aspect: training, preparation, skills, attitude, recovery, gym-training, sleep, travel management, nutrition etc. Great coaches know this and strive to create winning environments where a culture of excellence underpins everything and everybody.
Adapt your training plans and programs to optimise their impact on each individual athlete at every training session The best coaches plan: they plan meticulously and with great attention to detail but, ultimately they also understand that the core goal of every training session is to ensure it provides the optimal environment and opportunity for their athletes to prepare.
Performance practice – not practice makes perfect Everyone practices and lots of coaches believe in the ‘practice makes perfect’ approach. But great coaches take this a step further: performance practice makes for perfect performance. Want to master a skill? Adopt the ‘practice makes perfect’ approach. Want to master a skill so that it can be executed the right way at the right time in a competition? Then follow the ‘performance practice’ philosophy.
Adopt an integrated, multi-disciplinary approach to talent development and performance enhancement Athletes are only athletes for an hour or two each day. For the other 22 to 23 hours each day they are human beings. Many coaches concentrate on preparing the athlete to perform: the great ones prepare the human being to be all they can be, then, as a result the athlete will perform.
Lead The great coaches are leaders. They dare to be different. They do things that others are not prepared to do. They drive change. They thrive in creative conflict situations and fight hard for what and who they believe in. They take risks. They are comfortable talking about winning: it is, after all, what they were born to do. They are individuals. They are unique. They are the best because they are prepared to lead and with it accept the responsibilities that come with leadership. These are The 10 Habits of Highly Effective Coaches … so what did you do today? Read the full version of this blog at sportscoachingbrain.com/ten-habitshighly-effective-coaches or sign up for regular email posts from Wayne Goldsmith at sportscoachingbrain.com.