WHAT BRIDGES THE GAP BETWEEN THE BODY AND SKILL?
An interesting relationship exists between TWO forces on the tennis court.
1.) The Skill of Performance: how well you play tactically and technically.
2.) Physical Capacities: How well your body can perform and for how long.
In my time as a tennis and physical performance coach, I have seen players dominant in either direction. One player is extremely skillful, but has not invested enough time into their body (Always injured – but oh so talented!), another the physical machine – fast, fit, and athletic- but need more time on court focussing on skills or reading the game and cleaning up their tennis footwork. The surprising thing is that in some cases when analysed, both would score similarly on footwork and movement assessment.
HOW IS THAT POSSIBLE?
The Answer: One can’t move well due to physical limitations, whilst the other doesn’t know how to move well or read the game of tennis.
Although there are many variables to making a good tennis player (such as understanding of tactics, game-style, and mentality) it is this balancing act between the physical and skill that led me to understand why teaching movement is so important. What’s a skill if you can’t move well enough to reach the ball? What’s physical fitness if you can’t use your body effectively or efficiently through your tennis footwork and movement? Both generally lead to injury or limited performance. I am not into producing either of those results.
When I was less experienced, I found it frustrating that my player couldn’t get to some balls, or they didn’t have time to set up, or they simply moved the wrong way. There were two contributing reasons – the player wasn’t strong, fit, or fast enough (physical weaknesses), or they didn’t know where to put feet or use the body effectively in line with tactical play.
As I developed my knowledge, I came to realise that every player can learn to move and use better footwork, no matter their area of weakness. This can be done through technical understanding of body positions, the cycle of movement, and understanding the tactics which relate to the given movements. Through repeated training players can reach their movement potential. The physically limited player will reach their movement limits sooner. Why? Because movement and footwork are directly limited by your body’s ability to produce force.
“Every coach, parent and player agree you need to develop tennis skills. Every coach, parent and player knows you need to be fit, strong and powerful. But even if both these qualities are at their best there is still ONE MAJOR LIMITING FACTOR to performance and that is MOVEMENT.” ~ Alex Hynes
Whilst the skillful need to develop a more robust body and the robust need to develop skills – what they both need is clean, efficient, and powerful tennis footwork and movement.
To ensure a tennis player meets their peak performance, the movement needs to be the bridge to enable physical and skill to unite.
If we look back through the last 20 years, there have been huge advancements in equipment technology, biomechanics, sport science, and physical preparation/ body management. This has resulted in players playing and moving faster around the court than ever before. Every player is fit, fast, strong, and…….they all move very well. The court coverage of players like Djokovic, Federer, Rafa, Halep, and Wozniacki is extraordinary. Any player you look at in the top 250 ATP or WTA can all move well.
If you or someone you work with wants to be a player:
Yes, invest in skill development.
Yes invest in physical development
BUT DO NOT FORGET – Tennis Footwork and Movement are coachable and it is the missing element to bridging the gap towards OPTIMAL TENNIS PERFORMANCE.
But I want to know your thoughts, please share them below!