Mark Tenant – Director Inspire2Coach writes for the sportsprosconnect.com blog for the first time. I am sure you will find this piece interesting and informative and we look forward to hearing from him again in the not so distant future.
Developing the Serve: Changing the Culture
Let’s start with two questions:
1. Which do you consider the most important shot in tennis?
2. We refer to groundstrokes as a “swing” and a volley as a “punch”, so is the serve a “throw”?
On my travels around the UK and the rest of the world, I frequently see two common serve-related scenarios:
1. Players on the red court struggling with simple rhythm and serving with a forehand grip, and all the technical problems associated with it
2. Players on the orange court with the same problems.
These observations lead me to conclude that we need to change the culture in coaching to ensure that our young players are properly equipped for the progression from red to orange and orange to green. Each transition to the next level throws up different challenges because of the bigger court and the faster ball. A reminder! Serving ought to be an advantage; it’s the only closed skill in the game and the only time where in theory the opponent can affect the outcome but not the execution of the serve. So, I think it’s time to promote a change in culture by getting you to think about 4 simple questions:
1. Did you say that the serve was the most important shot in the game as your answer to my question in the introduction?
Many coaches would agree. I do. But if that’s the case, why do we so often leave the serve to the end of the lesson? We know that skill learning is best done when the body is physically and neurologically fresh. That’s the start rather than the end of the lesson, the morning rather than the afternoon, and Monday rather than Friday! If it really is as important as we say it is, why is the serve so often left as a 5 minute slot at the end of the lesson?
2. If the serve is really so important, why do we frequently deny players the opportunity to serve more by basket feeding?
Every time you feed from your basket, your player becomes the returner. Opportunity missed! By all means feed from the basket but let the player serve first, or give the player the basket so they can serve the ball in and for you to feed the return back.
3. If the serve is as important as we say it is, then why do we break the serve down so much and so often until the very rhythm that so many players struggles with is broken?
By all means break the serve down occasionally but know why you are doing it, where and when to break it down. The best way to develop rhythm is by practising it; not by breaking it into parts.
4. If the serve is so important, why do so little?
Why do so many rallies start with an underarm feed when they could start with an overarm feed, and why do we so often leave it until the end of the lesson?
Change of culture starts at the top, with the coach. If you want your players to serve better, change the culture of your coaching.
If you’re as passionate about the importance of the serve as we are, you might be interested in the resources on our tennis(24/7) site (tennis247.co.uk). In addition to the Developing the Serve series, which covers the serve from red, right the way up to adult and performance, we are constantly uploading serve quick fixes and drills.
Thank you Mark for this insightful piece!
You can see more information from Mark in his website Inspire2Coach. https://www.inspire2coach.co.uk Inspire2Coach is one of the largest Coach Education providers in the UK and offers a large programme of Level 1, Level 2, Level 3 and Level 4 courses all around the UK.
Mark Tenant – Director Inspire2Coach.