Monday, September 10, 2007


I have been trying to integrate the "Inner Game of Tennis" into my approach with the girls this year. Gallwey talks about talking less when working on mechanics, for example. He views "visual modeling"(my words) as a better way to approach getting the mind out of the way of the body. I am thinking about bringing in a camcorder so that the girls can see what they are doing. For now, I am just trying to demo (or have someone who is capable demo) something close to "proper form". I have one girl that has a few quirks with her throws and is also very critical of herself. When we discussed Gallwey's ideas about self 1 vs self 2, she replied "My self 1 hates my self 2". I figure there is hope if the sense of humor is still intact. Anyway, I decided to throw with her the other day and I said that we were going to throw together and we were just going to enjoy the experience and not think too much. I tried to chat a bit while we were throwing just to keep our minds, which weren't going to quiet down that much, at least distracted enough so that she wasn't overly critical of herself. It seemed moderately successful. The other thing I am trying to do is give her only one thing at a time to focus on with her mechanics. Gallwey talk about wanting the serve to be as mindless as turning on a light switch. So that's sort of what I am shooting for.

We have been doing "go to" a lot. I am starting to think "go to" is pretty much all you need as far as drills go. At our first practice, we did go to for a while and then I said that we would shoot for 25 completions in a row (turnover=start at 1 again). The girls had a reasonable amount of focus during the drill. Sometimes they were encouraging and counting out the completions, other times talking amongst themselves and I was the only one counting. So we ranged from 3 to 19 for completions. At the second practice, I asked why "25 completions". One of our 2nd year players said quietly "To psych us out?" That was pretty good answer. We talked about that when the team gets to 18, 19, 20 completions that we launch into our future brains ("what if I drop pass number 25?) and that this is exactly the same situation as when the game is 14-14. So, we want to play loose and quiet our judgmental minds (It is "bad" if we don't get to 25).

One error I have made in the past is assuming that the girls know certain aspects of the game. Like person defense. Last spring, due to this assumption, we really hadn't worked on person d much and it showed. We had to relearn the fundamentals at Sectionals and we did a pretty good job by Regionals. My captains this year are doing a good job of keeping my honest in this regard. At the third practice, the captains stopped the scrimmage early and we worked on inside/out and outside/in throws. Meaning defining what they are, going over the mechanics, and then working on them as a team. I was a bit surprised because I assumed that we all knew that stuff. So, it was a very positive exercise and I think the team will benefit from it.

Today we welcome all the new players. We will focus on bringing them in to the team and probably spend a lot of time on throwing. Our long term challenge will be to teach the new players the stack, throwing, defensive positioning, etc, etc, etc, while still moving the vets forward. We have some new structures in place to try to accomplish this, so it will be interesting to see how it works out.


Whitey said...

I'm currently in the process of reading "The Inner Game of Tennis", and have been running through the same though processes in my head. I'm captaining a club team with a lot players who are relatively new to the game, and trying to figure out how to work with them in a more visual way.

My father coaches high school diving, and has found a lot use from hooking up a video camera to a Tivo/DVR system so his divers can do their dive and then go watch their dive immediately. Instead of him having to give a lot of feedback they can look at what they did and see what they are doing (not really in line with the whole concept in the book, but it does give them a lot more visual feedback on what they are doing).

gcooke said...

Hi Whitey,

Thanks for your comments.

I think that is an interesting idea that your father has and sort of what I am thinking about (minus the TiVo). Take a shot of a backhand and then have them watch it.

I am not sure that I agree that this is not in line with the book. Gallwey has a specific example toward the beginning of the book in which a guy has a "hitch" in his stroke where tight before he hits the ball he lifts the racket up (resulting in a downward hit on the ball). Gallwey takes the guy over to a glass door and says "Do your swing". The guys does, sees the hitch, comments on how he "knew" not to do that, but his body did it anyway. They worked a bit in front of the glass and then went on the court. The guys swing was improved. He turned to Gallwey and thanks him, at which point Gallwey says "I really didn't do anything..."

So, I am interested in seeing how visual feedback will work.

Thanks for writing about what your dad does and good luck with the new team.


nell said...

hey george,

back in my illustrious career as a figure skater (ha), videotaping and watching was par for the course; my coach would do it at least once a month with me, as she would with all her students. that was probably when i learned the most. i think what makes it work so well is that it provides a way to be genuinely productively self-critical--everyone has that inner critic that goes "you aren't good enough" or "that cut sucked" or whatever, and that's very, very rarely productive criticism. but then you watch yourself as a third party, and the voice that says "man, you can't throw worth crap" turns into "you aren't faking at all and release the disc in the same place every time" (my own real-life example, which i got from end-of-season DVDs) or what have you. i also think it's especially helpful for people who have been playing for a while, who've had a chance to try teaching newer players, and who have had experience playing other teams/players and seeing things they want to emulate--that is to say, once one has developed an inner sense of how one wants to look, or feels like one should look while playing.

Anyway, as always, interesting thoughts you present.
hope to see you this weekend!

The Pulse said...

I would probably shy away from "perfect form" comments on forehands especially ... from what I've noticed, almost everyone throws backhands the exact same way, but forehand form is so different between players and every person learns their own effective method.

Personally, I didn't get a good forehand down until I stopped trying to mimic other people's throws and started working from my own (imperfect) base and tweaking until I got a serviceable and then strong forehand.

gapoole said...

I see a lot of variance in backhands, too--from grip, to swing, to wrist snap, etc. People just learn to throw differently. I think it is still valuable to show people what they are doing and give them tips on how to make it more efficient, consistent, etc.

Personally, I always find the best way to get my throws back in order is to teach somebody new how to throw. Consciously thinking about what good form should look like is what takes me back to it.

gcooke said...


Thanks for those comments. Again, helpful in getting a feel for the usefullness of video.


Interesting comments. First, perhaps I was making an assumption, but I think there is a distinction between "proper" and "perfect". I specifically picked the word proper and put into quotes to give a sense of its subjectivity. I do agree, though, that I would not make comments about perfect form. In fact, I think part of it is making very few comments at all. Letting the inner critic, as Nell calls it, do the viewing and trusting "Self 2" to put it into action.


Thnaks for those comments.