During the last years, the methodology of coaching tennis has undergone a great evolution, so that along with the traditional methods of teaching new proposals have appeared. The approach that has attracted the most attention from researchers has been the so-called approach based on the understanding of the game.
One of the results of the use of traditional methodologies is that the student masters the technique during exercises and workouts (in closed situations, with little decision or variability), but in match situations (open situations, greater degree of decision and variability) do not understand or know when they have to use this technique.
Why does this happen? Probably because they have never been exposed during training to exercises in which they must analyze the game situations, study alternatives, make decisions and evaluate the tactical use of the technique learned. The teaching of the game in which the PORQUÉ of the game is taught before the HOW is played. The understanding and knowledge of the fundamentals of the game as well as the development of basic tactics must be placed before the mastery of motor skills (techniques) in all sports.
Coaching tennis based on understanding
The coaching tennis to teach based on the understanding of the game can be very varied:
Put examples of game situations (service, return, the game from the bottom, upload to the network and play in the network, and play against the player of the network). Simplify the game (mini tennis). Modify the conditions (height of the net, ball, track dimensions). Focusing on patterns of certain tactical complexity will allow players to get used to making more and better decisions during the game.
From the psychological point of view, the advantages of this approach are evident regarding players and coaches. About the players we can distinguish:
Advantages for players
Motivation: The understanding of the game develops a greater interest and fun in the student since the objective of the class is not to make a single stroke but to play a game or a game.
Intellectual development: On the other hand, to understand something is to be able to carry it out in different and varied situations. That is to say: explain, demonstrate, give examples and alternatives, generalize, apply concepts, demonstrate in different ways, predict what may happen, etc.
Socialization: Players must interact with each other when discovering solutions to the challenges posed by the game. The coach can also make him participate in the design and presentation of problems that later have to be solved. This procedure is a process of understanding the game itself.
Independence: The player can decide independently when he wants to participate again in the game and when he wants to train his skills more. The best organization to achieve this is the individual program or the assignment of tasks in pairs or trios.
Decision making and teamwork: One of the fundamental aspects of this approach concerning the student is that it is about making them get used to making decisions. The teacher gives them the power to learn independently and responsible for themselves. The players and the coach share the “ownership” of learning and the development of a vision of teamwork. In this way, the player’s performance is improved while creating a team support culture.
Cognitive aspects: By allowing students to make decisions based on the demands of tennis, which they have perceived, more meaningful learning is obtained from the cognitive point of view. This process also encourages the development of responsibility in the student because they have to be responsible for making appropriate decisions based on their own needs.
Advantages for coaches
Inventive: Coaches have to invent modified games related to the objectives that are worked. To do this, they have to establish a series of rules that define aspects such as the score, the dimensions of the track and the height of the network, the number of players, the ways to win and lose a point, infractions, etc.
Adaptation capacity: The rules have to be modified and adapted to the evolution of tactical and technical skills of the players to always provide a maximum challenge in all stages of their development. The coaches always have to prepare their sessions thinking about variants and alternatives so that they contribute to the learning of their students. You can always improve the classes and the exercises in a way that suits the characteristics and needs of the players.
Creativity: The possibilities of adapting tennis are multiple since the different combinations depending on the ability of the students and the difficulty of the task. The creativity and inventiveness of the teacher are put to the test in each moment of the class.
Capacity for reflection: It is fundamental that the coach proposes to his student’s situations in which they have to look for solutions, alternatives, different examples so that, with their help and the interaction of the group, they can understand what they are doing and play more efficient and effective way.
Communication skills: It is convenient for the coach to pose the initial problem with a question: Who knows … who can … how is it done … what would you do if …? After the answers of the students, through a series of effective questions, the coach can help them to discover strategic, tactical, technical, physical and psychological aspects of tennis.