“Armbeep can untangle the Gordian Knot of tennis development, not by cutting it, but by untangling individual knots one by one.” – I.B.
Being a tennis coach in charge of long-term development of the future tennis stars is one of the most demanding jobs on this planet. Additionally, that can be an extraordinarily challenging task if the players are in the middle of their teenage years. As a tennis coach, you quickly learn that coaching them isn’t about appearances. Hoping or pretending to be someone else – someone better – doesn’t mean that you will be able to be of assistance. Either you deliver the goods, or you’re out.
This kind of long-term development requires the ultimate goal setting and planning. Especially planning is the first and essentialstep toward aspired excellence. Besides an excellent understanding of the principles of sports training, the coach must take into consideration the age of his players, their physical development, fitness level, level of motivation and self-confidence, their experience and success in competition, the impact of the school and their social life on their tennis development, etc. Quite a task, as some of this factors are hard to crack or track.
We all know the drill. As a coach, you have to do your work the best you can to gather as much data as possible about all the influencing factors that can impact your player’s development. That’s the only way to create a bulletproof practice and competition plan. When your player is fighting for victory in a tennis match, you don’t want him to feel like he is standing with one foot on the edge while standing with the other one on the banana peel. He has to have a firm footing. But sometimes this is easier said than done even for one player, while with the increasing number of players the planning process gets exponentially more difficult and sometimes seems almost like mission impossible.
THREE BOYS, ONE TENNIS ACADEMY
This is a story about three boys that all compete in 16 & under age-group and will compete in Moscow in July at the upcoming 16 & Under European Championship,the most prestigious event for this age group in Europe. One of them will represent Slovenia, the other one Croatia and the third one Serbia. The interestingfact is that they all live and train together at a somewhat small LTC Tennis Academy in Ljubljana, Slovenia. And they all use Armbeep Tennis Performance Analysis Systemto log their practices and matches and track their tennis development.
When talking about tennis hotbeds, LTC Tennis Academy is unquestionablyone of them. Each of the about thirtyplayers that trainthere is ranked in the topten in their age-group nationally. Additionally, most of the players progress quicker through the rankings than their counterparts from other Academies, no matter what level they play – WTA, ITF, Tennis Europe or National tournaments.
So where is the secret to the success of those three boys? How has the mission impossible gotten a little bit more possible for them? A quick analysis reveals the following influencing factors – they’ve practiced and lived together for the last two years, they are highly motivated, talented for tennis, they have similar practice and competition plans that are conducted by very experienced, knowledgeable and motivated coaches and as we mentioned before, they all use Armbeep Tennis Performance Analysis System daily. But let’s talk about Armbeep later. Let’s talk about some other things first.
Most of the people in tennis believe in hard work. In my experience, hard work doesn’t get you far, unless it’s a subset of smart work. Tennis players should work only as much as they can on all the things that are important for their development; they have to do it at the right time, in the right amount and right frequency. If it were not so, miners, one of the hardest working people, would take home most of the trophies in any sport. Or LeBron James, one of the best athletes ever would easily switch between several sports to win even more. We know that this is not happening.
But to work smart one needs, among other things, a lot of knowledge that is based on objective and measurable data to create a bulletproof short-, mid-, and long-term plan.
THE ADVENT OF NEW DIGITAL TECHNOLOGIES IN TENNIS
In one of my previous articles, I’ve described five factors that are in my opinion important to run a successful Tennis Academy. Here they are in a nutshell: talented players, educated coaches, excellent relationship between coaches and players, supportive environment (school, parents, peers) and use of the latest breakthroughs in tennis coaching.
When an impactful breakthrough happens (e.g., new methodology, new technology), the old might not matter anymore. The cards are reshuffled anew. It has happened before in other sports as well as in tennis.
In the sixties, people jumping off boxes were much better and faster, and much more successful in sports that required speed, agility, and acceleration. What seemed silly to some back then is now known as plyometrics; jumping of boxes was a secret weapon of Soviet Union era track-and-field athletes against competitors from the other nations.
In tennis, for example, thirty years ago nearly everyone was laughing at the players with oversized racquets. Nowadays, everyone plays with oversized racquets.
In both cases, those that didn’t adapt and start to use new technologies stayed behind, never able to catch up.
The latest breakthrough in tennis comes in the form of Armbeep Tennis Performance Analysis System. At LTC Tennis Academy they’ve been using it to daily track the physical state of the players, total and active time on the court, the number of shots, the speed of the shots, the length of the rallies, etc. Therefore, coaches have been able to see much better how close their players were to the edge without slipping on a banana peel. Being able to practice every day at the edge of their abilities has helped players develop faster; and in the long run, that produces better results. If you don’t know where the edge is, you may play it too safe. Or you may not play it safe enough; this way injuries happen. Armbeep has also helped players to prepare better for tournaments and recover faster after the activity.
Technology itself, of course, is not enough to change anything; weneed to know how to use it. Having a fancy computer doesn’t help if you don’t understand how to use it. And if you don’t know how to use it, you may not be able to get a job you want. Another example – not even twenty years ago people wondered what the purpose of the @ was; now because of it, US Postal Service is almost bankrupt. So we learn and evolve, sometimes because we want to and sometimes because we have to.
We live with computers in our offices, andwe live with computers in our daily life. At first, we all hoped that the digital technology would make our life easier. Now we know it doesn’t make it easier, but with the use of it,we can accomplish more in less time. The progress happens faster. Companies develop products more rapidly than in the past. They have better knowledge about their products and markets. Technology helps us understand and improve processes that used to take years to comprehend,improve orcalculate. They can control them better and react to unexpected more appropriately.This way, the role of luck insuccess is less important than it used to be.
FUTURE IS NOW
It’s not even a question if technology will ever play a dominant role in tennis; the only questionis when. It has happened in other areas of our lives, andit will happen in tennis as well. Early adopters are already reaping the fruitsof their, for some people hasty decision to jump into this affordablestate-of-the-art digital technology early. The results prove that. But some are still not persuaded.
It used to be the same with heart-rate monitors. People found them unnecessary at first. They planned the practices the old-fashioned way, e.g., – “When I can’t talk anymore, my heartbeat is high enough, and I’m running at a proper pace.” Nowadays, most of the runners own a heart-rate monitor. Usinga heart rate monitor won’t make us winners at the next event. But without it,we may never be. It allows us to have a better plan, to train smarter, and to develop our abilities more rapidly. However,we still need great coaches, good running shoes, proper nutrition, recovery, and dedication to do the work, among other things.
There area lot of successful Tennis Academies with the vision, knowledge, experience, and passion around the globe. A lot of them run outstanding programs. So what about them? Should they change their proven systems? Should they risk and go with this latest technology? The answer is definitive yes! As I said before, new methodologies, new technologies can reshuffle the cards every single time. Either you adapt or risk becoming obsolete. On this playground called tennis, players don’t compete only against their compatriots, but against the players from the whole world. The differences between them are small, sometimes almost indistinguishable. However, what is virtually indistinguishable is what matters. I’m talking about incremental improvements, called marginal gains, which will, in a final consequence, separate the great from the good; and will make the difference between winning and losing. If winning is what matters to you, then digital technology like Armbeep can help you be one step ahead of the competition.
I know, it might require a change in the whole philosophy of coaching. It will probably call formore and more detailed work on and off the court. But the results will follow, like in the case of LTC Tennis Academy. Or in the case of three boys that will represent their countries at the European Championship in Moscow. They will travel there knowing that they are 100% ready for the event. In competition, when you need a firm footing, that is the best that can happen to you.
Good luck in Moscow, guys. Tread firmly.