Good morning Jamie Kirkman, its great to have you here today! First of all, please tell us a little about yourself and your distinguished tennis career to date?
G’day Mark, firstly thanks for inviting me to do this with you. So I grew up in a farming family in regional NSW Australia. My mum was a tennis enthusiast so I spent many evenings sitting watching tennis as a young guy.
Fast forward to when I was in grade 10 at school and I was given the option pursue a career tennis coaching or continue on and I already knew I wanted to coach tennis so that was the decision I was actually the youngest ever Tennis Coaches Australia Advanced Coach at 16 an a half. I began coaching under Jaime McDonagh a coach in regional NSW who I still consider to be one of the best player development coaches in Australia.
I then started my own coaching business and started coaching at little country town clubs with 3-4 courts and going into disadvantaged schools delivering tennis lessons to classes between the ages of 6-12 which was amazing as I learnt so much in this time on how to work with a variety of people. At one point I had 20 schools a year I was going in and working with over 1000 kids a year who normally wouldn’t ever get to play tennis.
I then got offered the coaching rights at 2 facilities in far north QLD which I jumped at and never really looked back my mum and I began running them as a team with about 10 hours of coaching a week to 100 in the space of 3 months. This doesn’t sound a lot but the population of the 2 towns is a total of around 7000 people and much of the population is transient.
Then I headed to America because I wanted to try my luck competing against the best coaches in the world and have now been here 7 years which has been a great journey.
Thanks Jamie… First of all I am interested in hearing your thoughts on ROGY (Red, Orange, Green & Yellow Balls)? Do you think this is an effective way for junior players to move up in age groups?
Look its an interesting question because I didn’t grow up with it as a kid myself and was very skeptical (probably still am), however it’s a great way for us to build fiscal programs in clubs around it.
ROGY also keep kids in the program for longer periods due to the success they have rallying the ball. I think the ROGY approach definitely has its place in junior tennis.
Having trained with many top WTA players in particular, would you say most of these players went through ROGY when they were younger? How has it helped or hindered them?
This is really a difficult one to answer in my opinion I don’t think the number is high as ROGY hasn’t been round that long in the scheme of things. I think its been around 10 years so. The only ones who would have possibly come through it are players like Animisova, Andreescu and Kenin all of which are the younger ones.
I’m sure many of the other players may have used some form of decompressed ball, but not necersarily the ROGY pathway.
Tell us about the methods that you use currently when transitioning players through the age groups?
This is a question that’s actually tough for me to answer as I now don’t really have much to do with the ROGY ages. 95% of the players I work with are already using regular balls. I will on occasion pull out the orange and green balls and have them work on rallying and racquet head speed, footwork and better preparation. However outside of that I have people within my facility that do that side of things.
What differences would you use if any when working with male as opposed to female players? Why do you feel these changes are necessary?
In my own experience, female players are willing to hear when something isn’t right and are prepared to talk about why and how they are going to fix the problem. Male players, on the other hand, may respond to verbal criticism in a defensive manner and focus more on defending themselves as opposed to seeking solutions on how to get better.
So the biggest difference is the way you communicate with them
Finally, with this outbreak of COVID-19, how has it effected you so far and when do you think we will be back watching and coaching professional tennis again?
So I haven’t been coaching for the last week and the week prior to this we decided to shut down all group classes so fiscally its effected me but otherwise its pretty much time spent working on other things. Id like to think we are back to normal by mid April but I think we need to prepare for more the start of June.
Thank you very much for taking the time to chat with me today Jamie. If you are interested in chatting further to Jamie about any of the information he shared today he can be reached on email on firstname.lastname@example.org
Mark Wylam (Owner Sportsprosconnect.com)