One of the frustrations over the years in our development programs at Ace, has always been our ability to develop - in our players - the proper footwork required for national and international level competition. This has often been discussed with high performance coaches across the country. One of the explanations has been the lack of training on clay courts for Canadian players. This is true as we often see clay courters with better footwork acquired through experience in their development.
I personally also felt that our coaching system, which I feel is one of the best in the world, made such great gains in the teaching of strokes, that footwork was overshadowed. The area has been addressed in coaching development and the footwork video developed by Ari Novick at Tennis Canada has been leading edge in addressing the issue. Unfortunately, most of our Canadian coaches have prioritized the different actions required to hit the ball rather than the movement to get there.
We could not do much about clay court training, although that is why we have red clay at Toronto Tennis City. As a result this year, we created a new test program under the direction of Derek Bennett, Ace's Fitness Director in Burlington: "To address the movement issue, Pierre has asked me to design a movement specific program and incorporate this into the International Program that runs every morning".
Now that we have had two months of this new program, we would like to give an update on our experience.
What we've done:
- We took the annual plan developed for our international program by Mike Hall, the head coach of the program, and identified with him the movements to be emphasized during a certain training cycle based on the training content of that cycle
- We reviewed Tennis Canada's footwork video and identified the matching footwork
- We then used the simple approach of breaking down the movement, such as occurs when teaching dance steps
- We used the methodology used when teaching technical skills, simple to complex:
- a. Closed skill, simple movement breaking it down
- b. Repetition going from slow to full speed
- c. Integrating another movement
- The next progression will be using feeding balls
- All teaching is reinforced with the tactical intention to be achieved
- We created a special 90 minute training session Monday through Friday for 15 players [groups of three]
Where we are going:
- Our coaches have evaluated the results and are very happy
- The players are happy with the training
- I finally feel we are addressing an area that has always been an issue for us
- We are collecting video of the training through our Ace Replay system
- We plan on producing an initial document and video to be shared with anyone interested in our province and country
"Cooperating makes us all better and helps develop better players"