When less is more…
Penny has got a shaky serve. More specifically her ball toss is too high and when she is under pressure it becomes erratic. After the first double fault it tends to go wandering and she goes chasing, I’m sure you have similar players at your club.
But on Friday she was on fire, it hitting unreturnable 1st serves and solid deep 2nd serves. She even caught herself and didn’t go chasing a bad ball toss, letting it fall without swinging at it. I was so impressed I had to pass comment, “great work Pen, that’s just what we’ve been working at.” Honestly I probably wanted to draw attention to the great coaching I had been doing and give my ego a boost.
What a mistake, by calling attention to Penny’s great serving I had interfered with her service rhythm, her effortless performance of an accurate ball toss. Now she was thinking about the process of lifting the left arm, co-ordinating her leg drive etc… All the technical information had interrupted her flow, she was probably in the zone before, now she had served two double faults from 30-30.
The research is there, too much internal instruction degrades performance, internal instruction refers to correcting a body movement [Regan ITF 2011]). So despite the best of intentions I had disrupted Penny’s great service form.
Later in the day while coaching a green squad the tennis again started to hit exciting levels. We were playing evolve9 “Court Warrior” games and the players were enjoying the mental challenge in front of them. With a great activity and players of matched skill an exciting environment was created, and with Penny in mind the coaching instruction (interference) was limited to some thumbs up and broad smiles.
Reflecting later it was an extremely satisfying coaching experience, not in a traditional way where I felt that my coaching intervention had directly led to immediate improvement. Rather the environment I had created over many years meant that these kids could achieve a high level of training performance and intensity that belied their young age.
Can you create a time in your coaching where you just sit back and enjoy what you have created? Don’t say a thing that could disrupt the “flow” of your players. It is an advanced coaching skill- for parents and onlookers it may look a bit strange (we are paid by the word aren’t we J) but make it your coaching challenge for the next week and see if you get any positive results.