The Tactical / Technical Connection A

The Tactical / Technical Connection A

You may not have noticed, but technique is the favorite topic of most people involved in tennis. Players talk about it (just listen to any post match conversation), coaches talk about it, parents, TV commentators, the list goes on.

The majority of lessons people take emphasize technique. Just look at tennis videos, magazines and websites, and see what’s talked about most. Technique seems to be the big fixation.The reason is that tennis is a complex motor sport. The coordination, agility and balance required is challenging even for the best athlete. You could take an athletic phenom who has exceptional mental toughness (like Michael Jordan, for example) and, if he had no previous tennis training, most 4.0+ club players would take him apart on the court. Their technical superiority would win the day. Learning technique is a critical aspect of tennis. Any way to improve and speed up the process of learning technique would be invaluable for every player and coach. That process is now here A New World Order.

It is obvious that the game has changed in the last 30 years. Has coaching kept up and continued to evolve as well? Although the ‘stuff’ that is coached has, for the most part, modernized (see all the emphasis on the modern game technique in the last few years), the process used to coach has remained basically the same. One of the key initiatives addressing this issue to emerge in the last several years is the Games Based Approach (GBA). It has gained popularity in coaching circles and the term is used frequently without coaches really understanding its powerful premise. The premise for the GBA is simple: Tennis is a Game.

Every game needs to be played, and playing is a tactical endeavor. Success in any game requires clear intentions, decision making and problem solving. In regard to technique, tennis is not figure skating. No judges are at the side saying, “Your follow through was much better than your opponent’s, 15-0 for you!” Technique is second (behind tactics), but not secondary. Don’t misread this! I am not saying technique is not important. It is critical for tennis success. However, if you really want to set the stage for meaningful technical stroke development, the key is tactics (no, this is not a typo). This tactical priority can be a stumbling block for coaches. Especially since the majority of their coaching diet consists of technical material. Before a coach can integrate tactics and move from mere technical coaching to Tactical-Technical coaching, there are some fundamental questions that need to be asked.

  • What is the relationship between tactics and technique when coaching?
  • How can coaching flow from tactical to technical? • How does a coach deal with both tactics and technique in a systematic way?

Most players and coaches are unaware of the debate going on in coaching circles surrounding the GBA. Detractors mistakenly think that technique is mishandled or ignored in a GBA. That is only true if a GBA is applied incorrectly. If we understand what the current motor learning and brain function research is telling us, the Games Based Approach is the best and most effective way to learn technique. One of the most effective ways to utilize a GBA is to use what I call "Situation Training" (ST). The goal in ST is to identify the situations players encounter in match play and improve their performance in those situations. Sounds simple enough, however, the typical technical coaching employed by coaches doesn't give them the necessary tools.

The Two Become One For the majority of coaches, technique and tactics are two distinct and separate categories. Nothing could be further from the truth. In today’s world of biomechanical analysis and high speed digital imaging, the tactical/technical link gets lost all too often. This false separation causes players to spend thousands of dollars on technical lessons that improve the appearance of their strokes, but don’t improve their play much at all. Ask any group of park or club players, “How many of you lose to opponents who are technically worse than you?”, and almost everyone will raise their hand. Everybody can tell you about the latest techniques, but few know how to play well. This shouldn’t be the case. The tactical/technical connection is simple. Technique is only a means to perform a tactic. Technical skill by itself is useless in a game if it is not used in the right way, at the right time and in the right location. T

he fact is, without tactics, good technical strokes are simply an exercise in looking stylish. Imagine a soccer player who kicks the ball with impeccable skill. His shot on net beat the goalie easily. Although he kicked with great technique, his team was furious. Why? Under pressure he put the ball in his own net. Good technique, wrong tactic. This may be an extreme example, yet in tennis, players execute really bad ideas with nice strokes all the time. Learning a stroke without a tactical intention is deficient. How many players have had a coach feed them baskets of balls to ‘groove’ a stroke that they were unable to use in a match?

If the coach doesn’t spend a lot of time integrating the skill into tactical play, the likelihood of the player using it in real match play is little to none. The reason? The stroke was learned isolated from reality. In real match play, every stroke requires decision making. Tactics are about decision making. It is the choice a player makes of what technique to use, when, where and against whom. No one can play well without tactics, and no tactic can be executed without some form of decision making. WARNING: If a coach can grasp the critical point that there is a smooth connection between tactics and techniques, their coaching upgrades dramatically.

produced by Wayne Elderton.

Coaching, Technical Support

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