Whenever I step on to the court to teach a lesson, I ask myself three things: (1) Who am I teaching? (2) What am I teaching? (3) How am I going to teach it?
When planning my lessons, I consider the age and level of the student, what the student's goals are, the strengths and weaknesses in his game, and how many times per week I will be working with them.
Is the student new or have I been working with them for a while? Are they participating in competitions? If so, at what stage are they at (technical, pre-competition, competition or the transition period)? Some of the lessons I design are to build up confidence. However, if I feel the player is too comfortable, I try to challenge them mentally. If the student is a recreational player, when is the next time I will be working with them? If there is a break in the lessons (for instance, a three-week vacation), should I introduce a new topic or skill? There is no sense in introducing the kick-serve if we won't be able to practice it continuously.
Intensity is key. Tennis is an anaerobic a-lactic sport, which means that the body gets the energy from the anaerobic system (without oxygen) and its considered a-lactic, because the average duration of the effort is between 8-10 sec. This is not long enough to accumulate more than four millimoles of lactic acid in the muscles. Based on that information, every game and drill is designed for 8-10 sec. of high intensity and 15-20 sec. for recovery. This simulates game play and prepares the student for the rigors of competition. Sometimes, I will keep the effort longer to challenge the player mentally.
Drills need to be specific and based on scenarios that a player will encounter during competition. You're pulled out wide, where should you hit the ball? How can you work the point to get to the net? Where should you place your first volley? I create situations in which the student needs to solve tactical problems under pressure.
How I’m teaching is what really keeps me motivated and makes my job interesting, because every student learns differently, which challenges me to find new and better ways to teach. Some students pick things up just by watching (visual).
Others need to hear an explanation (auditory). There are students that need to feel a stroke to get the hang of it (kinaesthetic). Custom-tailoring the lesson to each student's learning style is the hallmark of great coaching. It keeps the student's interest level high.
I love to use analogies when I teach. When a student can connect a new concept to
one they already know, the light bulb goes on. Make like you're throwing a Frisbee when you're accelerating through your backhand. Pretend you're dipping your racquet in a can of paint before the pronation on the serve.
Have a sense of humor! Keeping the atmosphere light will help the student feel at ease, and that will accelerate the learning process. But be careful and never make fun of the student because it can result in a negative effect.
Continuity, rhythm and tempo are the three factors that need to be present in every successful lesson.
►Continuity: There is a logical progression in the games and drills from easy to difficult, from simple to complex and from the known to the unknown.
►Rhythm: Is keeping the right level of intensity.
►Tempo: Determines the right amount of time for each activity in the lesson and that is an art the teaching pro picks up over time. What to focus on and when. We need to know how to lead, but also know when to follow our student's lead.
Tennis is a beautiful game and enthusiasm for it is contagious. Plan ahead for each lesson, keeping the specific student's game in mind. Keep practices intense … push, then back off. Simulate game situations. Be mindful of your student's learning style. Use analogies whenever you can. Tell some jokes. In the end, your students will enjoy learning, and they'll see progress in their games.
Salomon is the Co-Director of Tennis at Christopher Morley Tennis in Roslyn. He is a passionate tennis coach that with his unique and creative way of coaching has been making a great impact in the lives of many of his players around the world for more than 25 years. He is a Sports Science Teacher and a Master in Tennis and High Performance Coaching from Wingate College in Israel. He is author of the book Salomon’s Tennis Wisdom. You can reach him at Zenmaster18@hotmail.com or by visiting www.Salomontennis.com.