Teach or Talk: Back to Basics

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In my 32 years of teaching and coaching all levels of players, I have realized that there is a huge difference between teaching a student and just providing tennis information. The most important thing I have learned is to first be a student and then a teacher. I have seen many coaches who are so focused on what they want to say or teach that they forget if the student is actually learning. A teacher can be saying the right things, but if the student is not grasping or absorbing the information, then the student is not learning. Here are three simple and basic lesson plans to get your students to learn first before you move on to more advanced learning.

1. Is the student fully understanding the concept of 1+1 of tennis?
The concept of 1+1 of tennis is understanding the importance of the ready position before every shot. As simple as this may seem, I have observed tournament players that do not come to a ready position after every shot they hit. We cannot teach advanced strokes or techniques until the student fully grasps the ready position and spend time working on the ready position. This is very important.

2. The split-step
The importance of a correct and consistent split-step is that the split-step goes hand-in-hand with the ready position and many times you can teach both as one unit to your students. If you look at the pros, they are always making a correct split-step before every shot. As basic as it seems, you don’t see a consistent split-step all the time. Coaches need to explain and demonstrate to the students the correct split-step and the importance of it before going into more complicated aspects of the game.

3. Footwork as the foundation
Focus first on teaching footwork as the foundation of the entire tennis game. I see too many coaches focusing on the swing, how the pros hit the ball, their swing paths and preparation before hitting every shot. Concentrate on the student’s mobility and balance, and you will see great results. Remember that we are students first and teachers/coaches second. Our satisfaction as coaches should come by watching the student learn and not on teaching. Focus on one task and make sure that the student has fully learned it before going to the next task.