Getting the Top off the Bottle
I have been in the tennis world for over 30 years and been to over 80 countries. Like most of us my office is full of books, magazine and dvds. I have seen thousands of drills and progressions. Magic tricks to and fixes were part of my special toolbox. How could I the all powerful, all seeing, all knowing professional make this happen… Back then I really didn’t know how little I really knew!
Working with young kids and being a father changed all that. Especially being the father of a daughter who has little or no interest in tennis despite my best efforts. A few years ago I finally realized that the key to facilitating learning what not how much I knew or how I broke a skill into tricks or progressions. The key was understanding that I was not the learner and the learner had to want to learn.
The child is like a bottle, part filled with water, a metaphor for the skills that the have already accumulated or were born with and the most important thing I could learn was how to unscrew the cap. Only if the bottle is filled are we able to claim that we are competent coaches. The child has to see the context so that they get excited about the goal at the end. Why build a weapon unless you will use it to fight. Why work on technique unless you need it to achieve a tactical mission.
While I may still invest in a few more books for the shelf I have to say that I believe that “WHY” is way more important than “WHAT” and our task in teaching young players is more than ever to understand what motivates them, find this, create this and watch with joy as they unscrew the bottle top and let us pour the water in!