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'Direct the ball with your body weight'

Latest posts - Fri, 12/10/2018 - 07:38

Arrived early at the National Tennis Centre this morning for some coach education tutor training and managed to catch the beginning of a regional training session (in which Everyballer Amelie Brooks is involved in) led by Martin Weston.

Nice quote by Martin during the warm-up:

'Direct the ball with your body weight.  That's why you need to be neat with your feet and get behind the ball.  That's how you become a chamption.'

Great environment and energy!



25 wins 25 losses year to date gets you into ATP top 30

Latest posts - Sat, 06/10/2018 - 15:23
Nikoloz Basilashvili, Kyle Edmund’s opponent in semi finals of China Open (500 event) will break into top 30 in world next week with a 50% win/loss record this year.
Nice point made by commentary on Sky that it’s so important for junior players to recognise that there is a fair share of ‘losing’ even at the very top level.


Everyball's Beth Grey reaches 1/4 finals of 25K Obidos, Portugal with upset win today

Latest posts - Thu, 04/10/2018 - 14:52

Great job Beth in backing up your first round win yesteday over Natalija Kostic (SRB, WTA 383) with a straight sets win today over 3rd seed Isabella Shinkova (Bulgaria, WTA 270).

Into the quarters tomorrow - keep up the great work!


A nettle to grab a hold of....'hitting up' and 'I'm the strongest player in the squad and I should move up' syndromes

Latest posts - Tue, 02/10/2018 - 10:32

I always see October as the start of Autumn and when most junior performance coaching programmes across the country have now settled into a rhythm for the rest of the year.  Players have moved up, down and around, and coaches are beginning to breathe a little easier as the September market stall trading for the best possible squad training opportunities has quietened.

Which brings me to the point, 'what are the ingredients to best squad training opportunities?  Certainly a number of these would come into it:

  1. environment - inspirational, disciplined, fun, structured, challenging
  2. motivational coaching (causing you to 'take action')
  3. strong underpinning programme/organisational values
  4. well organised and planned sessions with strength and conditioning and mental skills integration
  5. like-minded and similar ability players to spar & train with, and relate to
  6. facilities/indoor court provision during winter
  7. travel distance, cost (or should we be taking 'value' over cost?), timing  (workable logistics)

Notice that number 5 doesn't say, 'stronger players to spar and train and relate to' but 'like-minded and similar ability players'.

Look, let's cut to the chase shall we? The opportunity to 'hit up' can be helpful. It shows us a new next best level and provides strong extrinsic and external motivation to work hard and keep up and I certainly advocate that this should be built in to a player programme at appropriate and opportune times, but not as a governing factor as to whether a player decides to train in a particular squad or programme.

Somebody has to be the strongest player, and generally that player has got to that position because other stronger players have been prepared to fulfil that role before them.  It's an ecosystem by which squad training works and which holds junior development programmes together.  If everyone only hit up, the whole house of cards collapses, so rather than see it as a negative, parents and players could embrace the fact that there is so much to be gained by being the stronger/strongest player in a squad environment.

  1. Leadership - now is the time to practice and show leadership through role modelling best effort and attitude.  Be the standard bearer for the group, especially if there are younger players involved who are looking up to you.  Embrace developing this 'life-skill', you'll need it later, no matter what you do!
  2. Develop your offence - this is a great opportunity to develop your attacking game, build your confidence in 'winning points' as opposed to your opponents 'losing points'
  3. Develop your unique game style - you can't practice being an aggressive baseliner for example if your sparring partner is more aggressive/hits a bigger ball than you.  You'll struggle to get your game onto the court and lay down your best patterns
  4. Develop your intrinsic motivation and sense of 'personal responsibility' for your own levels and effort, a key skill in moving your game forward at any level in the future
  5. Practice beating 'weaker players' - yes, you'll play players with a 'worse' rating or ranking in tournaments when the pressure is now on you.  Have you practiced this enough, are you prepared to embrace being the 'hunted' instead of the 'hunter'.  This was a unique feature of the top players at the recent junior Davis and Fed Cup finals.  Top players were consistently prepared to put themselves 'on the line'
  6. With a little more 'time' on the ball this is a great opportunity to develop finer technical points whether that's improved body coordination, racket rhythm, contact point, swing path, variance in grip change etc, and certainly more time on the ball means your footwork will be challenged in different ways as well as your ability to generate speed off a slower ball, one of the most challenging things to do on a tennis court!

The key word is balance and understanding that a commitment to a programme involves for various periods of times being the hunted as well as the hunter and that both are beneficial to a players long-term development.  In addition to this, the 'pizza topping' approach where players access a range of different clubs/centres to make-up their training programme has merits and sometimes is a logistical requirement, but is unlikely to include building trust, loyalty and the very important motivational concept of contributing to something greater than yourself.


Wrap up from Junior Fed and Davis Cup finals - top 2 picks boys and girls and top 10 observations

Latest posts - Mon, 01/10/2018 - 10:07

Overall a fantastic trip to Budapest over 4 days to see the finals of the Junior Fed and Davis Cup 2018.  Both finals came down to the doubles rubber yesterday, with the US beating Ukraine to win the Junior Fed Cup and Spain beating France to win the Junior Davis Cup (see pics below taken from the ITF Juniors website)

My 2 picks for the future boys:

Carlos Alcaraz Garfia (2003) - career high junior ranking 116 but already with senior ranking of 1456 at 14 years old.  Stunning forehand and relentless  competitor.  Was a set, 5-3 & match point down against French No. 1 boy Harold Mayot (2003 and ITF ranking 35) and produced some truly remarkable tennis at critical moments and ran away with the third set.  Some of the Spanish coaches saying he's further ahead than Nadal at same age....

Lorenzo Musetti (ITA, 2002 ranked 5 ITF) - audacious use of the drop shot, superb variation, injections of power and subtle as can be.  Super athlete already.  Poise under pressure immense.  US Open runner-up this year.

My 2 picks for the future girls:

Cori Gauff (USA, 2004 ranked 4 ITF) - huge power and physical presence but can come forward and finish at net.  Deeply competitive and uncompromising.

Romana Cisovska (SVK, 2002 ranked 50 ITF) - Slight build may be a limitation further down the line, but wonderful footwork when taking and giving ground, so quick onto the shorter ball.  No obvious weaknesses, unconditionally competitive.

My 10 key observations from the trip 

  1. Physicality at this 14-16 year age bracket critical in terms of really pushing on with their development.  Generally great strength in the corners, but also ability to generate massive racket speed when attacking with power with superb body co-ordination and racket rhythm
  2. Use of the drop shot - bearing in mind this was outdoor clay of course, but especially in the boys use of drop-shot at key moments in matches 
  3. Linked to (2) but confidence to be really bold and 'win' points at key moments as opposed to waiting for opponent to 'lose' points
  4. Unconditionally competitive - yes there was high emotion (positively and negatively) but overall the best players here no matter what the score or circumstances were ready to go again right away with very best effort - super high levels of resilience
  5. Confidence is earned - a phrase used a lot by my co-tutor Luke Milligan.  The only way to build confidence is to 'earn it' through goal attainment on the practice and match court, and yes, by working stinkingly hard. 
  6. The very top kids in the world from 13/14 years are home-schooled/distance learning through private or Federation programmes. Amount of travel required is simply not compatible with traditional schooling.  Is our exam system (GCSE's) a major barrier for us in terms of developing top top players as they come in such a key developmental period??
  7. Linked to (6) but these kids are already seasoned 'tourers' and 'world travellers' - the horse has already bolted, playing 'catch up' later on is going to be very, very difficult
  8. Top players are not hiding from experiences where on the surface they have 'nothing to gain and much to lose' - seeking the 'pressure situations' that come from being the 'hunted'
  9. Match management - using the match to learn all they can about their opponent (with of course on-court captain's help) to come up with their best tennis at the critical moments at the end
  10. Ability to make mid-swing adaptions based on in-coming ball whether slightly out of position/bad bounce etc and play the neutral rallying ball.  This twinned with the ability to change gear and pull the trigger with massive FH's (boys and girls)

Could come up with so many more so rich was the experience!!!

Pics taken from the ITF Juniors website.


Ukraine take early lead v USA - Jr Fed Cup Finals

Latest posts - Sun, 30/09/2018 - 10:56
First set to Ukraine number 2 over USA number 2 in junior Fed Cup finals whist France take similar early lead over Spain in junior Davis Cup finals here in Budapest.
Such an amazing ‘awareness of standards’ experience put on here by the LTA for our performance coaches and without a doubt we’ll be seeing some of these players in WTA/ATP top hundred in a couple of years time, a couple already with senior points.
By this age these 14-16 year olds are already seasoned ‘touring’ players, very few in ‘normal’ school set-ups. As an example, French number 2 left home at 12 to go to the Federation programme in Poitiers and has subsequently moved on to Roland Garros.
‘No let rule’ in play here - time to get used to this one!

Mike James LTA Master Performance Coach and Coach Education Tutor Director of Tennis, HaltonUK & Everyball Tennis +44 (0)7958 008312

Between matches

Latest posts - Sat, 29/09/2018 - 13:24
Clay courts get a watering before doubles go on here in Budapest.

Mike James LTA Master Performance Coach and Coach Education Tutor Director of Tennis, HaltonUK & Everyball Tennis +44 (0)7958 008312 Download IMG_0899.MOV

Day 2 at Junior Fed and Davis Cup Finals 2018, Budapest

Latest posts - Sat, 29/09/2018 - 08:15

An lovely sunny day yesterday in Budapest for the quarter-finals of the junior Fed and Davis Cup in which GB Boys narrowly lost to Spain in the doubles championship tie-break.  Superb effort by them and great to see Great Britain competing with some of the best in the world at this age-group.

Superb also to get a look at Lorenzon Musetti (ITA), this year's US Open boys runner-up and ITF junior world number 5 (born 2002), as well as Cori Gauff (USA) and ITF junior world number 4 (born 2004!). 

Coaches profiled players under the '2028: What it takes to win' framework that in being adopted through LTA Performance Coach Education at the moment.

Head - Good decision maker & problem solver who stays focused and find ways to win

Heart - Resilient performer who competes unconditionally

Legs - Movement & athleticism positively influences the outcome of a match

Weapons - Excellent technique & shot making consistent with game styles (Attacking baseliner, All court player, Counter puncher, Big server, Net rusher)

Semi-finals this morning with some great match-ups and another busy day of going further in depth with the profiling process with opportunities to speak to National captains, players, parents and coaches of some of these top players.

Did you you know?  In 2011 Great Britain defeated Italy 2-0 in San Louis Potosi, Mexcio to win the junior Davis Cup with Evan Hoyt and Kyle Edmund winning both their singles rubbers over Stefano Napolitano and Gianluigi Quinzi respectively.


Greetings this morning from Budapest - Junior Fed and Davis Cup Finals 2018

Latest posts - Fri, 28/09/2018 - 07:03

For the next few days I'll be blogging from Budapest, Hungary, where alongside colleague Luke Milligan, I'm leading an LTA Awareness of Standards trip (part of the LTA portfolio of LTA Performance Coach Education programmes) for 10 Performance Coaches to the 2018 Junior Davis and Fed Cup Finals.

The ITF's International Team Competition for players aged 16 and Under was launched in 1985 as the World Youth Cup. This event was re-branded in 2002 as the Junior Davis Cup by BNP Paribas and the Junior Fed Cup, and then again in 2005 as the Junior Davis Cup and Junior Fed Cup by BNP Paribas. 

This age bracket was chosen as a critical period in a player’s development and provided an opportunity for young players to enjoy a taste of the special demands of team membership in a competitive environment. 

A number of past participants have gone on to make their mark on the WTA Tour / ATP Tour:

Jim Courier (USA 1986) Jennifer Capriati (USA 1989)

Michael Chang (USA 1986) Lindsay Davenport (USA 1991)

Goran Ivanisevic (Yugoslavia 1986) Amelie Mauresmo (France 1995)

Marat Safin (Russia 1995) Daniela Hantuchova (1998)

Roger Federer (Switzerland 1996) Agnieszka Radwanska (2005)

Andy Roddick (USA 1998) Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova (2006)

Rafael Nadal (2002) Sloane Stephens (2008)

Bernard Tomic (2007) Eugenie Bouchard (2009)

The competition is open to all member nations of the ITF and sixteen teams of both boys and girls, who have emerged from regional qualifying events in all parts of the world, contest the finals in one venue during one week.

The exciting news from yesterday is that GB Boys Team have qualified for the quarter-finals, so looking forward to getting behind them today and getting a feel for how some of the top 16 year olds in the world are playing.

More to follow later.


Team bonding over our (tennis) balls....

Latest posts - Wed, 26/09/2018 - 19:10

A great team bonding session for our Everyball coaches today sorting through all our balls.

Barnsey was particularly ruthless and many (balls) hoping for one last tour of duty didn't make the cut and were confined to the 'dog ball bin'.  Ed enjoyed the spray paint - our 'black dot balls' being the lowest grade, Seb and Sam not yet trusted with the can.  Christian quietly indulged in some 'new can' fumes, and Neale and Elliott made stellar contributions in the domes - we think....

Tim showed up like a blister (after all the hard work had been done) but made a little comeback towards the end once he understood the complexity of the process that Mike was attempting to coordinate.  James, not to be seen through the whole process (wink, wink), was however clearly delighted on the job Hutch and Roy did in the shed (see below).  Camilla had some 'admin' to do, Danny needed his car fixing (good timing Dan), Dom was keeping warm in the gym (it was 11am and still a little chill in the air), and Jemima, still on maternity leave, was no doubt putting Noah through his own paces at home!

Anyway, customers, you'll be delighted with the quality of balls to play with this week and please do compliment the coaching team on their superb work!


A few interesting thoughts on early years development - before hard work comes play!

Latest posts - Mon, 24/09/2018 - 08:09

'Before hard work comes play.  Before those who've yet to fix on a passion are ready to spend hours a day diligently honing skills, they must goof around, triggering and re-triggering interest.  Of course, developing an interest requires time and energy, and yes, some discipline and sacrifice.  But at this earliest stage, novices aren't obsessed with getting better.  They're not thinking years and years into the future.  They don't know what their top-level, life-orientating goal will be.  More than anything, they're having fun.

Encouragement during the early years is crucial because beginners are still figuring out whether they want to commit or cut bait.  Accordingly (psychologist Benjamin Bloom) and his research team found that the best mentors at this stage were especially warm and supportive: "Perhaps the major quality of these teachers was that they made the initial learning very pleasant and rewarding.  Much of the introduction to the field was as playful activity, and the learning at the beginning of this stage was much like a game."

A degree of autonomy during the early years is important.  Longitudinal studies tracking learners confirm that overbearing parents and teachers erode intrinsic motivation.  Kids whose parents let them make their own choices about what they like are more likely to develop interests later identified as a passion.  

Sport psychologist Jean Cote finds that shortcutting this stage of relaxed, playful interest, discovery, and development has dire consequences.  In his research, professional athletes who, as children, sampled a variety of different sports before committing to one, generally fare much better in the long run.  The early breadth of experience helps the young athlete figure out which sport fits better than others.  Sampling also provides an opportunity to 'cross-train' muscles and skills that will eventually complement more focused training.  While athletes who skip this stage often enjoy an early advantage in competition against less specialised peers, Cote finds that they're more likely to become injured physically and to burn out.

(All passages above taken from 'Grit'- Angela Duckworth)


Quote of the day

Latest posts - Wed, 19/09/2018 - 15:32

'Never make perfect the enemy of good' -  Environment Secretary Michael Gove was recently heard using this expression.

A lot of things we do are 'good'.  Striving to be perfect in the things we do should not be at the cost of already being 'good' in those areas.

A little akin to throwing the baby out with the bathwater.  Yes, let's strive for CANI (constant and never-ending improvement) but searching for or comparing everything to a utopia can can carry a cost.

P.S - This is a non-political post.   A friend advised me of the quote (thank you for this!) and it was one I appreciated beyond the realms of Brexit!


Technique? It depends....

Latest posts - Tue, 18/09/2018 - 12:41

As we know, the technique we employ on any given shot depends


 on a range of factors such as:

- Opponent's court positon

- Our court position

- Ball we are receiving (level of difficulty - easy, medium, tough)

- Our shot intention (defend, rally, attack), and how to choose to do so.

Score, environment and court surface may even come into it.

See here a great example of Everyballer Amelie Brooks transitioning onto an 'easy' slower ball from a mid-court court position to play an attacking forehand volley into space.  Great example of good footwork, loading on right foot then then transferring through onto left foot through contact (note left foot lands after contact) to ensure weight has been transferred and Amelie is now in a great net position should ball come back.  This volley would be in contrast to her receiving pace, when already at net and defending.

Nice skills in this situation Amelie.


Does your environment speak to girls and boys equally?

Latest posts - Sat, 15/09/2018 - 11:22

So asked Jo Ward, former British number 1 in a presentation at Loughborough University to LTA Senior Performance Coach candidates (our own Ed Taylor being one!) earlier this week.

A great question which I've been reflecting on back at base as I walk around the club, browse our websites/social media etc.  This morning was delighted to answer this with an emphatic 'yes' within our Saturday morning mini tennis programme where we have a fantastic crew of 5-6 teenage girls faithfully helping with our coaching each week.  Great role models for our mini tennis girls showing how being feminine and being athletic go hand in hand as much as being masculine and athletic.

Thanks to all our coaches and helpers for a great start to term this week!  Club was buzzing this morning!


Levels of 'predictability' - how are your patterns of play?

Latest posts - Fri, 14/09/2018 - 07:26

1.  Your patterns of play, especially in setting up, executing and following up strengths, are predictable but you execute so well that you maintain control over your opponent (and/or your opponent is weaker so it doesn't matter)

2.  Your patterns are predictable and you execute poorly giving up control to your opponent

3.  Your patterns are so unpredictable you make a high count of un-forced errors, lack basic discipline but revel in 'shot making' even if it doesn't win you the match!

4.  You vary your patterns (up to 30% of the time), maintaining discipline in your shot selection but doing enough to ensure opponent has a degree of uncertainty making your 'go to's' even more effective.


Quote of the day

Latest posts - Thu, 13/09/2018 - 08:56

'On any long journey, detours can be expected' - unknown.

Especially when the destination is not a physical place but a dream of a moment in time, an idea/concept or vision of what could be.

Once you're 'there' it's so easy to look back to see how you got there, but the journey itself is full or stops, detours, and re-routes in which the learning takes place to inform us of our next steps.  (This, by the way, is called 'generative learning' meaning that the learner is generating the answer rather than recalling it.  Generation is another name for old-fashioned trial and error - 'Make it Stick' - Brown, Roediger, McDaniel).


Leap before you look because if you look first your probably won't like what you see

Latest posts - Wed, 12/09/2018 - 07:27

Does the risk of knowing what you're getting into sometimes become an overwhelming obstacle to getting started?

"Ah, no, I can't do that because......' and list all your reasons, some real and some made up.

Sometimes, you just gotta leap.



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