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For Tennis Instructors Only please
For those of you who consider yourselves Coaches and/or Tennis Instructors, what is your approach in training the basics?
Do you prefer the more advanced Students over Beginners?
Do you prefer or simply have large Classes or are your Sessions with a limited number of Students, say5 or less?
Do you teach what you know or do you prefer to enhance what the Student(s) bring to the table?
Example: If you prefer a one-handed Backhand and your Student (Novice) likes two hands on the backhand side, do you attempt to change their method?
In an evening's session, do you attempt to work on all the aspects of a play or do you schedule your sessions for specific areas of play?
Example: like one night you drill the forehand, next meeting, the backhand with a short forehand refresher.
Do you have the availability of various surfaces other than just hard courts?
For Beginners, do you work on as many aspects of play as possible that include shots like, Drop Shots, Lobs, forehand & backhand Slice, etc.
or do you wait until they've advanced into the next level which would be around a 3.0 - 3.5 rating?
Do you separate the students that are slower in catching on from the fast learners?
Do you use the more advanced students to assist you at times with the others?
In an hour's session, how much of it is spent retrieving balls?
Are you a USTA Certified Instructor or an Advanced 5.0 + Player who knows how to teach the game?
Do you like Coaching?
The only acceptable loss is when your opponent was better than you on that given day.
It is never acceptable to lose when your opponent was not.
Here's a long answer to a long question:
My approach to training the Basics is (duh) Oscar Wegner's Modern Tennis Methodology. He is insistent on following the basic tenets that all pro players follow and which all players of any age or ability can and should also use. Any violation of these basics will be detrimental to the players development and feel for the game. This is why it's not a good idea to mix conventional with pure modern techniques - like oil and water, they just don't mix.
I specialize in kids and beginner adults because at the higher levels I cannot keep up myself when hitting with the student (my level is 3.5/4.0 and I am 57 years old, 5'3" and 115 lbs., so if I am hitting with a 16 year old high school boy who is 6 feet tall and hitting/serving hard I'm in trouble!) I can observe, make recommendations, demonstrate and feed balls/rally lightly with more advanced students, but going past the 3.5-4.0 (intermediate) level takes me out of my comfort zone as far as physically keeping up with the student.
I prefer privates but I do teach semi-private and groups of maximum 4. If I participate in conducting a clinic then sky's the limit.
I am a proponent of letting the student do his own thing and I learn from him as much as he learns from me, as long as he does not violate the basic tenets as mentioned above. I never insist on changing a student's technique, even if I believe it is less than optimum - instead I invite him to try a different way and if he is willing I take it as far as the student is able to go. I find that students who are resistent initially change their minds if given the chance to agree to experiment rather than be dictated to.
The variety of material covered in a given lesson depends on the student's interest and enthusiasm. I go by what the student wants to work on if he has a preference; otherwise I go with the flow and see where each lessonn takes us naturally and spontaneously, depending on the student's needs and focus at that moment. One thing I won't do is jump the gradient of learning (one of Oscar's basic tenets) just because the student wants to. In MTM we progress gradually and introduce new concepts in increments so the student doesn't get overwhelmed or confused. When one element is performed consistently I move on to the next and weave them together gradually and effortlessly so that the student performs naturally (not mechanically!). This technique is remarkably effective and the students love it.
In California I play and teach on hard courts only. In Florida I get to play on clay sometimes! I haven't taken on students there yet, but if I do I will need to learn more about clay before I can teach with authority on that surface. This is a big topic with Oscar, who is a proponent of clay training.
Although I teach the open stance, finish over the shoulder and topspin right from the start (even with 3 year olds), I do not teach the volley right away. The gradient in MTM requires consistent execution of the groundstrokoes before moving on to the other strokes. It is preferable to get the student able to wait for the bounce and track the ball first, rally back and forth over the net with regulariaty, then add the other shots gradually. If a student is more advanced, I work on the whole game sooner, but I still emphasize the basic forehand and backhand techniques first before focusing on the other shots.
I try to keep the ball retrieving to a minimum. When I have parents on the court they help pick up balls; I use more balls and pick up less frequently, usually when the student needs a water break and a little rest anyway. It's never a problem.
I am MTM certified and personally trained by Oscar himself; I am also an associate member of USPTA and PTR, and I have taken Quick Start and Cardio Tennis training courses with the USTA.
I love coaching tennis because it is extremely gratifying to see the phenomenal results my students achieve thanks to Modern Tennis Methodology. I just love the sport and love introducing that to newcomers and reviving it in students (especially conventionally trained players) lost, burned out or frustrated with their game. I also love teaching MTM to the parents of my students so they can carry on as coaches in between lessons.
PS - I hit with my students just for fun, too.
Last edited by Tennis Angel; 08-23-2009 at 04:16 AM.
How good can your game get?
You too can
play like the Pros with The Wegner Method
Discuss The Wegner Method
here at TW in the MTM forum
or visit www.tennisteacher.com
for more info.
Well, I mainly have coached college players, high-end juniors, and young professionals. I have absolutely no issue with coaching beginners as long as they really, really want to be good and they are there because they want to be there. I just don't have the patience to train kids whose parents are the only ones with the desire. That's just how I am though. I guess it's because I love tennis so much and it bothers me to see someone not putting forth effort and not caring about it. My specialty would be claycourt, mental, and hardcore physical training. I truly believe in helping a player learn to think for himself/herself. I want that player to be mature and have respect for the game as well as their opponents. I see that in the true greats. I think Borg and Federer were the two best at it.
There has to be someone though, who coaches beginners who are getting their first impression of tennis, and that is where I would choose to stay. I did not become a good tennis coach for first 25 years of my life though I was enthusiastic and as knowledgeable about the game as anyone, or so I thought. I thought Braden and Bollettieri knew how to teach tennis to beginners, as well as the USPTA and PTR, and of course, we know millions of tennis players took lessons and found the game too difficult.
Originally Posted by tennisking1
I simply teach that tennis is simple, three basic fundamentals of find the ball (as if you were going to catch it with your hand), feel it (by moving across it) and finishing over the shoulder learning to associate the racket butt with the direction of the ball. I am known for getting every player to not only get better, but to think that tennis is a far simpler game than they ever realized, but because they enjoy instant success, ignition often occurs.
I make no secret I am helping reform grassroots tennis instruction by partnering with Oscar Wegner, who still plays a pretty mean game for a senior citizen. I do think anyone pretty knowledgeable today about how the modern game can play can coach the most determined and better athletes, but tennis will only draw those better athletes if the grassroots proper techniques allow a player's natural instincts and athletic potential to prosper. This is proven not to happen through strict, mechanic based teaching.
I will say this, I have spent thirty years studying and teaching this game off an on, and thought I would never be comfortable coaching tiny tots and beginners; I used to prefer coaching the intermediates, ages 9-12, and motivating them to want to be the best tennis players they could be. Now I seek to make the game boom again, and I think that is a very important role. I could have stayed in California after 2007 where I had the privilege of working with high performance juniors (you had to have a national ranking to be in the two day clinics I taught with former Davis Cup Chinese player Lin Di, known as the Pete Sampras of China). I got to work with many great juniors, and it was a pleasure to feel like I had however small a part in helping players like Emily Inge scholarship at Pacific Azousa, given her full time coach Dan Mainzer, Head Pro at Long Beach Tennis Center raised her on Oscar Wegner's MTM to a #27 USTA ranking at one point, but I returned to the midwest because my son is still young, and I know that my role is best served at the grassroots, with players and particularly in helping reform grassroots tennis instruction. I help train grassroots coaches looking to simplify tennis instruction and find the quickest way to help their players get better faster.
I want to thank Bubo and Tennisking1 for their incredible experience and sharing their insights. Though I think tennis should be taught as simply as possible, it is true that tennis excellence is a long journey, but then tennis is never about tennis, is it. It's a great vehicle to ride in our journey through life.
Keep in mind tennis is not only filled with misconceptions, but it is filled with revisionist history. I hope my History of Tennis Instruction posted on www.moderntenniscoaches.com/forum (in the MTM library) helps stop that. Revolutions, even in teaching tennis, are never without spilled blood, so I also tied the History of Tennis Instruction into the biography of Oscar Wegner, given there is so much misinformation about him, and as has been noted elsewhere in this site, some people tell lies enough until they are believed. As a tennis historian, I know I have to be careful as to may claims which is why before I publish the complete book I am posting excerpts and timelines on the internet for free to allow any corrections to be made.
I hope you look at it and offer any insights or feedback as to anything I may have left out given tennisking1 and Bubo remind me of Bungalow Bill in your long history in the game as well as your extensive astute insights. Everyone has their role, even the greatest marketer of the tennis academy, Nick Bollettieri, though he is far from without his critics. I read your extreme Academy discussion and you (tennisking1) are funny. If you want to read a very witty tennis blogger, the funniest tennis analysis on the internet might be found on www.tennisterritory.com. Hilarious sight and the Letter to Rafa in the archive left me rolling on the floor. His nickname is so right on for Rafa "John Rambo with a racket." By the way, Tony Roche as a player and Nick might not belong in the same sentence as far as players.
Originally Posted by teachestennis
I think the same way. I believe in simplicity. Even with pros I have worked with. The simpler, the better. Developing analysis paralysis is the worst thing that can happen to a player. Bollettieri is a great guy and he really helps make a player believe in him or herself. His positive attitude is just phenomenal. Yeah, old Tony Roche would put a hurting on Nick. I worked with Nick and Red Ayme for awhile before heading over to Hopman. I hate to sound like a don't enjoy working with beginners, I do, but they have to have the real desire to play. The one thing that disturbed me about the academies is how many of the juniors did not want to be there. I had many a kid come to me crying and wanting to go home and their parents would have none of that. But, again, I like the idea of simplicity.
My coaching experience is the same as yours, although I have worked with Top 150 ATP and Top 30 WTA. Obviously, players of this caliber are far more focused, have a superior work ethic, and a much higher tolerance for pain, so working with them is easy, when compared to other segments of the tennis population.
Originally Posted by tennisking1
With that being said, Oscar deserves a lot of kudos for structuring a specific coaching methodology based on how players hit a tennis ball--I am not associated with MTM--but he was certainly not unique. He just marketed his method, which was unique. There were more than a few high level coaches who were not stuck in the traditional mentality and taught players to hit the ball the way top players did, and also taught unseen future techniques to combat what was currently successful at the time.
Just as he did in the UK, he presented his methodology to the USTA and the NYJTL in the early Nineties. The USTA passed; NYJTL incorporated his methodology with their competitive juniors, while maintaining the USPTR methodology with their lower level juniors. Either way, with an average of 50,000 kids, Oscar's method received a lot of exposure.
These are some good questions which I think have pertinence to many students and teachers of the game. Here are my answers:
Originally Posted by Coach
1. I teach what is called an "Advanced Foundation" to all players. (As many have read about this in my two books, TENNIS MASTERY and COACHING MASTERY.)
This philosophy is basically the idea that all beginners are taught an "advanced foundation" which is to teach methods that specifically DON'T have to change as players advance. Methods that specifically MUST change (for a player to reach higher levels of skilled play and reach what I would term their "true potential" is call 'transitory' learning...a methodology that is common among many teaching pros and books alike. They are saying that more advanced methods are too difficult to master so lets learn a remedial method first then change later. This is not only false (when the teaching pro has the right "tools" to help the student master advanced methods early on), it is a terribly flawed philosophy which results in millions of players stagnating at levels far below their potential.
2. I teach all levels. In fact, in many of my clinics I combine advanced with beginners (with multiple pros), because my beginners are taught the same techniques as my advanced players are working on. Only the drills are changed based on abilities...not the technique.
I enjoy both beginners and advanced players. (I've taught 3500 players including thousands of beginners and hundreds of top state, nationally and world-ranked individuals.)
3. Personally, I love large classes. I've taught as many as 75 players on one court and loved it. It is the challenge of giving every student the means in which to advance their game even when in a large group. (What a value for an hour and a half for $10 to still learn most of the aspects of the game that they could in a private. I'm not saying that privates are not incredibly valuable to students, but I know my students are learning even in a group lesson.)
4. Every class is different but I try to teach what players will need based on their level of desire to reach skilled levels. Players who are sincere about learning to play at the highest level they can, they are going to be evaluated and then taught those methods that will give them the best chance of reaching these levels. Many times, they must be 'educated' as to why they need to learn certain patterns. Too many pros only teach "what" to do...not "why" to do it. Players must understand why they are learning what they are learning.
5. We teach all shots because they are often interrelated. Advanced volley skilles are taught to all beginners. The same grip for the volley is the same grip for advanced serves; topspin strokes are related by swing path and intent; slice strokes are related to drop shots; angle volleys are related to deep volley. etc.
6. In a typical lesson, each student will hit on average of 500 shots per hour depending on the group size. However, larger groups will do different drills to help each master particular strokes. We do a lot of "toss and block" drills because they emphasize technique not power; also such drills allow for each player to hit hundreds of balls in a very short period of time. Pros need to learn that a lesson does NOT have to be a line of players and balls fed to them one at a time.
7. I am a P-1 USPTA teaching pro with more than 35 years experience. I've also coached the most successful high school team in the U.S. (768 team wins, 9 losses in a 22 year period), and have taught in three states. (CA, AZ and UT.) I am a 5.5 player, (at 51 years old; I used to be a little better when I was younger playing tennis in college in CA.) I have just retired as I have written a top-selling novel in addition to my two tennis books. (Hidden Mickey, a Walt Disney Action-adventure novel available at most book stores...www.hiddenmickeybook.com)
I have enjoyed all aspects of teaching and coaching as well as speaking at conventions, workshops and clubs. I've also enjoyed writing, especially serving as the Senior Editor for TennisOne.com for the last five years.
Last edited by 10s1; 12-27-2009 at 06:35 PM.
This thread is very interesting and informative. Great group of posters! I wanted to add two things to my previous (long) post:
#1 - I am a newcomer to tennis teaching. Actually, I am new to tennis altogether. I started playing at the age of 49. I will be 58 on my next birthday. I began by taking conventional group lessons, then progressed to playing in a club league (before I even knew how to score), met a great bunch of ladies and was encouraged by my coach to start a USTA league team. We went to 2.5 Nationals our first Spring and Sectionals that Fall. The next year I formed a second team of of 2.5's while playing on a 3.0 team, both going to Sectionals and the latter advancing to Nationals. For the next 5 years my team went to Sectionals every year for a total of 10 championship entries in 7 years. It was an amazing experience and I learned a tremendous amount by captaining.
I was benchmark rated 3.0 very early on and worked hard to advance for the next few years, but I struggled to up my game, taking lessons from several coaches. I couldn't figure out what was "wrong" or what set the 3.5 and 4.0 players apart other than more experience, more patience and more confidence. Technique never came up. Then I discovered Oscar Wegner's method and I suddenly knew what I needed to do differently. Through Oscar's book and DVDs alone I was able to build my strokes and my confidence to end 9-0 in singles my final season of captaining. Shortly thereafter I met Oscar and his top coaches in person at a local clinic and was inspired to study and train to become a "modern" player and aspiring coach. My experience in captaining had given me a taste of how to encourage and motivate players to do their best and enjoy tennis. Now I had tools to actually guide them in improving the technical aspects of their game.
I enthusiastically continue to work on my coaching skills as well as improve my own playing ability, and am happy to have an occupation and avocation that offers a lifetime of learning, improvement and fun. Unfortunately, I have met many coaches who seem to go through the motions of teaching without joy. That is such a pity as there are tools available to assist all coaches in bringing a positive and enjoyable, if not downright inspiring experience to their students. Perhaps all coaches secretlly aspire to develop a champion and find that ambition beyond their reach, but that should not be cause for surrender. There can be plenty of glory and personal satisfaction in teaching at any level, whether grassroots beginners or top ATP and WTA players (or even just captaining a club team!). As Teachestennis so eloquently remarked above "It's a great vehicle to ride in our journey through life."
When coaches fail to inspire their students to work hard, improve, achieve increasing levels of competence and love of the sport, it is encouraging to know that there are tools available to reach these heights and achieve great personal reward.
#2 - I recently taught my first semi-private and group lessons in the presence of my mentor, which was a great experience. I am happy to report that student (and mentor) feedback was very positive. Beyond this I have witnessed many highly qualified, extremely competent coaches interact with Oscar, and I observe that it is a wonderful learning experience for everyone involved, including Oscar himself. With the opportunity to share and compare technical, tactical and philosophical aspects of tennis, coaches really learn from one another and discover new and better ways to apply their knowledge and unique abilities with their students/players. Much debate off the court revolves around technique, theoretical arguements and personal experience and perception; but being on court together in a relaxed and respectful atmosphere for a few hours yeilds much better results than hundreds of hours of debate on paper (or on line). I would love to see top coaches such as the group involved in this thread assemble on court, not to "prove" but to "discover" within themselves those tools that bring out the best in their students and their joy of teaching. Perhaps this could become a reality somehow. Any suggestions?
Last edited by Tennis Angel; 12-23-2009 at 03:42 AM.
How good can your game get?
You too can
play like the Pros with The Wegner Method
Discuss The Wegner Method
here at TW in the MTM forum
or visit www.tennisteacher.com
for more info.
I like your last idea tennis angel. That would be educatinal and informative.
A couple points to add to this discussion:
I am amazed at the small number of teaching pros who actually attend workshops, conventions, etc., to learn more or, at least gain a different persepective.
Even among the number of USPTA and PTR pros, only about 10% of them attend conventions.
When I attend such events or discuss tennis with pros, I look for two distinct things: 1. I look for ways to do what I do better. Better drills, better tools, better ways to say things. 2. I look for pros who can show me that they have a better progression or methodology than that which I've nurtured through three decades of teaching, coaching, directing and owning tennis programs. I look for someone who can basically "prove me wrong"...not in a confrontational concept, but that can show me that my methodology is not the best. I open my eyes but I also know that most pros tend to teach with their own blinders on, so to speak. They DON'T look for better ways.
There are pros who continue to teach methods that are well proven to NOT be that which skilled players do.
One reason, I believe, that my book Tennis Mastery has become such a world-wide phenomenon is that I recognize the falliability of teaching kids and adults alike, a transitory method of learning; teaching methods that MUST change later. This is like teaching a would-be basketball player to shoot 'granny' style to learn to play basketball...or a piano player to only use their index fingers to learn to play the piano for the first year.
Also, there are elements to tennis that are automatic in their development. A case in point is the concept of pronation on the serve. This concept is never needed to be addressed as it is a natural element of the serve when players learn to create the right kind of spin. However, I've seen clubs where the pros direct players to pronate on the serve...only to have them hit the wrong side of the ball AND never learn to create the right kind or amount of spin on the serve. The loop backswing is another element...it happens autormatically for 95% of all players as they gain comfort in the topspin components of the stroke.
Things that DO need to be taught are things like the continental grip on the volley and the serve. This is NOT a natural grip for most beginners. Avoiding it only makes the time when they recognize the need for the grip a very frustrating and difficult process.
This is where books, pros and self-taught tennis players often fail. They believe that the game should be natural...well, if the right grip, footwork, and swing patterns are NOT natural, they need to be learned, mastered, and made to feel not just comfortable, but confident.
You don't see piano teachers avoiding the teaching of ALL the fingers just because it is not comfortable for the beginner piano student! Nor, do golf pros let players swing the club anyway that feels comfortable; typing students only hunting and pecking in a typing class? Karate classes teaching to step with any foot or flail away with the arms with no purpose?
No, this is why so many millions of players fail to reach their potential. Why so many able bodied players never make it past the 3.5 levels. They are taught methods that create perpetual stagnation at levels far below their ability. And, when such players finally realize that they are doing things wrong, the concept of changing such ingrained patterns makes this process nearly impossible.
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