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Today is my birthday so I am not sure what I am more excited about, the 5000 presents that will no doubt arrive from my facebook friends (feeling sorry for the mailman) or my giant birthday cake?


It’s weird how my brain works! Everything becomes a metaphor for child learning, programs or some form of development.


So let’s talk cake!


I have always said that learning is a process no different from making the amazing birthday cake I am still expecting (Hint). At the start let’s be honest it looks like a mess. The ingredients don’t seem connected and even when you start to mix things together it still has little resemblance to the end product. Of course, you must have a plan, a picture of what it will look like but even when you mix it up, stick it in the tin, slide it into the oven and turn the oven up to 220 it looks like nothing is happening. Starring through the glass it still looks like nothing is happening for some time. To me this mirrors the way kids learn. At the start it is supposed to look messy as kids organize the movements and impulses into pathways. The key is to trust the process. Just like our cake, on the outside it looks like nothing is happening but on the inside things are firing. Suddenly it all comes together, rises and looks like the cake (or forehand) you were expecting.


The rise followed by the browning, as the learning becomes consolidated into a form that is identifiable and refined is just around the corner!


It’s amazing how we trust the baking process but we want to micro manage the learning process in tennis from the start often limiting the challenges a child faces, tossing the ball from a few feet away to make refine the shape to perfection even though the player lacks the most basic receptions skills. The most common response from coaches seems to be “We have to do it this way because the kid can’t do it!” Don’t forget, the kid fails at lots of things and just keeps going, it’s supposed to look messy at the start, it’s called learning!


Back to my huge birthday cake which is now out of the oven and cooling on the wire. Ready for the elaborate icing! This brings up another analogy as we prepare for the next tough job. Icing requires a level of refinement, it’s a tough job that must be done with care. It will only qualify as a culinary masterpiece if this is done to perfection and yet much of the hard work to create the taste, texture and substance was done at the start.


Great coaches are required at all stages of the player development process. The coach that refines the product at end has a tough job but so does the one that started everything, so trust the child’s first coach. You can’t get the results everyone wants unless you use the right ingredients, in the right proportions and in the right order. Turning up the oven runs the risk of burn out. The player needs the time to learn, so trust the process, trust the coach and even though it may look a mess at the start the masterpiece will emerge.


Presents haven’t arrived from my 5000 facebook friends yet and as my daughter (nominated baker) is a university student there is little chance of seeing my cake until well after she emerges from her pit after lunch! But gotta love the process!


Join the Conversation at the It’s My Game Conference May 20th – 23rd 2021. Register now at www.itsmygame.net.

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