The New England player has to endure the weather challenges to reach their potential every single year (with at least 7 training months of indoor court time). One of our priorities as a program is to train our athletes to develop offensive skills that will help them differentiate themselves from the players who grow up on environments that include more outdoor training (clay courts, wind, sun, and more). In our minds, even if every player is different and unique, the skills of transitioning to the net, taking a swing volley in the mid court, being able to serve and volley occasionally, having good serve plus one patterns, attacking the opponent’s second serve, using the slice and drop shot at the right time are not only beneficial, but they are almost requirements for our New England based kids in order to shrink the length of points on occasion to put their opponents under more pressure.
When we train, our goal is to continuously create situations in which players have to train these skills while still maintaining a high level of engagement, enjoyment and obviously competitiveness. Our coaching staff really know a lot about the game, and they are incredibly passionate about it, but we try to constantly avoid doing too much talking and allowing for the drills and activities to do most of the teaching. We know that when players are engaged, happy and competitive, they have an easier time reaching a growth mindset that secures daily progress. Coach Jose Higueras is not only one of the great minds of the game of tennis of the past many years, but his approach is one of the reasons why the US is having great success at the professional level. There are many different parts of his approach, but one of the ones that we choose to use most days is that our job is to create an environment that targets growth and progress over simply a lecture from a coach to a kid (in other words, create situations that will do most of the teaching).
Because of our commitment to growth, we have a constant initiative to praise “good mistakes”. During practices, we are not only looking at what a player might be doing wrong, but we are looking to make the player aware of his good choices even when they don’t bring the immediate result. As a coach and a parent, this is not easy because we know that results and victories are important, but experience tells us that investing on good habits and choices will make the ceiling higher and the enjoyment down the road greater.
Keep the feedback simple, focus on only a few things on each practice or talk, and make sure that the growth mindset is the main focus. We are all in this together.
See you on the courts!!