Coach Qualification Manual

Coach Qualification Manual
Coach Qualification Manual
Responsibilities of Coaching
Coach Accreditation
Communication Skills
Coaching Styles
How Players Learn
Organising Skills
Coaching Children and Adults
Coaching Groups of Players with Different Abilities
Mini Tennis
Coaching Process
The Teaching of Skill
Stages of Learning
Principles of Practice
Coaching Tools
Many of us are familiar with teaching. Some people find it difficult to distinguish between
teaching and coaching. Sometimes coaches are teachers and vice versa. However, if you
want to be a good coach you should at least know what distinguishes you!
In general terms, coaches work with people who have chosen to learn a specific set of skills
in an environment which they have chosen and want to be in. Sometimes teachers have
people to work with who do not want to be there! Coaching is about helping people improve
their performance in a particular area – in our case, tennis. But it should also be about
working with the ‘whole’ person, not just the performance skills. With children in particular,
some coaches forget about the child as a person. Coaching is about helping players realise
their potential – the talent that is stored in them, and which the coach can help to develop.
Good coaches learn all they can about their players and create a true learning environment to
which players want to return.
Perhaps the essence of coaching is to remember that coaching is about people and not
tennis, so ‘coaching tennis’ is not the best of phrases – ‘coaching people to play tennis’ is a
far better one! The best coaches never lose sight of the person in the player.
What is needed to be a good tennis coach?
First and foremost a coach needs three things:
• an interest in people – and the ability to show it
• an enthusiasm for the game itself
• a desire to help people learn to play and realise their potential
The reasons why you are coaching will not be the same as other people – they will be
dependent on your own circumstances and experiences – and your personal philosophy.
But you do need to know:
• why you are coaching ( to earn money?, to give something back to the game?, to
change your career?)
• what the most important issues are for you when you coach (to develop a world class
player, to help children learn the game, to help business people have an activity?)
• what your strengths and weaknesses are as a coach
• whether you can be honest with yourself – if you can’t, you will find it hard to learn
and improve as a coach and help your players. One thing is for certain, good coaches
NEVER stop learning or wanting to learn
• what your ambitions are as a coach
• whether you are prepared to accept all the responsibility that goes with influencing
other people’s lives – coaches do that, often without realising it.
You need to be able to:
• understand what motivate people to play tennis (adults will differ in their reasons and
children may (initially at least) only be playing because a parent wants them to)
• recognise and develop other people’s abilities
• understand any difficulties people may have in learning to play and know how to
• create a learning environment to which players will want to return. It is easy to attract
players to their first coaching lesson – the hardest part and the measure of your skills
as a coach and a person – is to keep them coming back. Never forget that you will
very often be the main reason why player’s keep playing – however much they like
the game, very few people come back to a coach they do not like or whose lessons
are not interesting, fun and which challenge them appropriately.
To coach tennis you will need:
Knowledge of
Skills to
the rules
the organisation of the sport
ethics and coaching
feed the ball
understand different
ages and abilities
You may already be coaching or perhaps you are starting your career. Remember, good
coaches may be born, but everyone can be a better coach when they recognise what
coaching is and are prepared to keep learning and improve.
Many people become coaches because they want to pass on their enthusiasm for the game
to others. To show enthusiasm is a responsibility for all coaches, but it by no means the only
There are a number of issues about the role of a coach, which coaches should be concerned
about both for the benefit of the players and themselves. These issues can be subdivided into
responsibilities regarding others, especially players and those that are concerned with the role
of coaching
Responsibilities towards children
For many coaches the majority of their coaching will be with children – those under the age of
18. This fact alone brings important responsibilities which centre on the ‘duty of care’. This
effectively means that coaches must be mindful of the physical, emotional and social needs of
children and protect them from any abuse of those needs.
The LTA has adopted, because of problems which arise on a frequent basis in tennis, a
strong stance in relation to good practice, child protection and child abuse. As an organisation
it has policies, procedures and training programmes for all those people (not just coaches)
who work with children in tennis.
Responsibilities towards parents
Parents are the most important factor in the lives of young children. They will invariably be the
person who brings the child to their first tennis lesson and they are certainly the providers of
support, transport and finance for the child to continue playing.
Increasingly as the ‘player base’ increases, there will be children coming into tennis whose
parents have never played the game themselves and whose own sporting background is in a
team sport or not in any sport. Research shows that parents find it very difficult to think long
term in terms of their children’s activities and so realise that it takes a long time to learn the
game. They find it difficult to relate growth and development issues with their child’s sporting
Increasingly too as more players develop and become better players, spending time playing
tournaments, the demands of the game on families and finances means that some parents
become very (and sometimes too) involved in their children’s tennis. Again research shows
that some parents, usually from a non sporting background, want a ‘return’ from their financial
investment in coaching and tournaments.
One of the responsibilities of the coach is to work with parents – however hard that can be
sometimes! It is important to ensure that tennis is a game which their children enjoy playing.
As a coach you really can help parents understand how they can help their children develop
and improve as players and as people. Encourage parents to see that tennis is a tremendous
tool for learning physical and social skills, for meeting different people, for learning life skills
such as fairness and consideration to others, and for learning how to win and lose well and
how to have fun whilst doing this.
As a coach it is obvious that you need to communicate with parents frequently and that both
they and you should be able to discuss any issues about their children’s tennis. In addition
parents often need advice on other issues, for example:
The training programme which their children should follow
• Nutrition and fluid intake
• which tournaments their children should enter
• how often children should play and practise
• how tennis will fit in with other sports and activities for their children
Responsibilities towards the club or school where you coach
Most coaches work in a tennis club or school, either on a full or part time basis. It is important
to understand that there are responsibilities as a coach in that relationship.
These include:
• being professional – being on time, dressing and behaving appropriately
• being fair – charging reasonable fees, giving full time for each lesson, not using
mobiles when coaching
• socialising with club members and taking time and interest in them
• working with club committees to promote the interests of the club
Responsibilities towards the game
As in every other sport, tennis is a game which is ‘bigger’ than any single individual. All of us
as coaches have a responsibility for the future of the game in terms of attracting players,
building good clubs and working with others – coaches, players, officials and the LTA. In the
past many coaches have criticised each other, but they should do their utmost to understand
the importance of co-operating and supporting each other so that their players, the game and
themselves benefit and move forward.
Responsibility for fair play
Tennis is an excellent way for all players, but especially children, to learn the importance of
fair play and of respect for others. You should ensure that everyone whom you coach knows
your attitude towards cheating, gamesmanship and respect for the rules – and that you are
not prepared to tolerate players whom you coach not being fair and honest. It should be very
clear where you stand in relation to player’s behaviour.
Responsibility to ensure equality
Recent legislation has been necessary to ensure that everyone in this country, regardless of
their gender, specific ability or ethnicity, is given the same opportunities. Tennis is no different
from any other part of society and as a coach you must be very aware of the issues involved.
Both boys and girls must be given the same opportunities, those with disabilities should be
able to play (this may mean access, for example, for wheelchairs, or extra help for children
with learning difficulties) and those from different ethnic backgrounds should have access to
the sport.
Coaches may need to learn additional information and different skills in order to ensure
equality – for example, working with girls sometimes needs different approaches when
working with fitness training, coaching children from a different ethnic background may
require an awareness of different cultural issues.
The LTA has a stated policy of equality throughout the sport and has specific procedures in
place and ongoing action to ensure every group has access to tennis
As with almost every other profession, the LTA has a Code of Ethics for coaches and it is
reproduced below. As a coach you should be very aware both of the details of the Code and
the implications which the different principles have for your role. In essence, as a coach if you
adhere to the Code you will be following the standards necessary to be a responsible coach
Coaches, who assent to this code, accept their responsibility to tennis players and their
parents/families, to coaching and other colleagues, to the LTA as their National Governing
Body, to their coaching employer and to society.
• Identify and meet the needs of individuals
• Improve performance through a progressive programme of safe, guided practice,
measured performance and/or competition
• Create an environment in which individuals are motivated to maintain participation
and improve performance
The Tennis Coach will identify and meet the needs of individuals:
• Determine, in consultation with players and relevant others (e.g. parents, teachers,
etc), what information is confidential and respect that confidentiality.
• Encourage players and other coaches to develop and maintain integrity in their
interactions with others both in victory and defeat. (A key role for a coach is to
prepare players to respond to success and failure in a dignified manner.)
The Tennis Coach will improve performance through a progressive programme of safe,
guided practice, measured performance and/or competition:
• Carry out all work in keeping with the regular and approved practice within tennis as
determined by the LTA.
• Clarify in advance with players/employers the number of sessions, fees, method of
payment; explain expected outcome and progression from the coaching.
• Provide constructive/positive feedback to players and other participants in a caring
manner sensitive to their needs. Avoid overly negative feedback.
• Encourage and facilitate players’ independence and responsibility for their own
behaviour, performance, decisions and actions.
• Involve the players in decisions that will affect them.
• At all times use appropriate training methods which in the long term will benefit the
players, and avoid unsafe exercises and techniques which could be harmful.
• Ensure that the tasks/training set are suitable for the age, experience, ability and
physical and psychological conditions of the players.
• Respect the fact that their goal as a coach may not always be the same as that of the
player. Aim for excellence based upon realistic goals and due consideration for the
player’s growth and development.
• Recognise individual differences in players and always think of the player’s long-term
best interests.
• Set challenges for each player which are both achievable and motivating.
• Expect a similar level of reciprocal commitment from their players. In particular the
player or parent/guardian should inform the coach of any change in circumstances
that might affect the coach/player relationship.
Responsibility to follow the Code of Conduct in terms of children
You will be aware of the Child Protection issues which have already been outlined. In addition
to the Code of Ethics given above, you should also be aware of the LTA Code of
Conduct for coaches. This is because there is always a possibility that you could have
allegations made against you concerning your behaviour with children. Sadly this is a fact of
life, but as a coach you should be very sure to follow the Code of Conduct, since to do so is
primarily a major part of reducing the likelihood of allegations being made and secondly
should allegations be made about you, of defending yourself against them.
LTA Accreditation provides a simple check on safety and professional standards.
There are two types of LTA Accreditation available to coaches and to coaching assistants,
Registration and Licensing.
Both forms of accreditation mean that a coach or coaching assistant has met the following
A minimum level of qualification
A satisfactory criminal record check (repeated every three years)
Valid first aid training, and a requirement to keep this up-to-date
Signed up to the LTA’s professional standards (see below)
Licensed coaches have a higher level of qualification and also complete regular training to
keep their skills and knowledge up to date.
All LTA accredited coaches and coaching assistants are insured for their personal coaching
This is a basic level of accreditation for coaches and coaching assistants.
Coaching assistants must have completed a minimum of a one-day qualification course, but
some Registered coaches may have completed more advanced qualifications. Ask
Registered coaches and assistants for specific information about their qualification.
What are the benefits?
Public liability insurance
Personal Accident Cover
Access to great deals on racquets, balls and equipment
British Tennis Membership
Access to free legal and tax advice through BASELINE (the LTA'
s business advice
support line)
Regular and relevant communication from the LTA Coaches'Team
This is a higher level of accreditation. Only fully qualified coaches can obtain an LTA Coach
Licence, by completing a course that equips them with the skills to provide individual
coaching. Some Licensed Coaches may hold very advanced qualifications, remember to ask
Licensed Coaches for specific information about their qualification.
Licensed Coaches must complete a minimum of 15 hours of additional training each year.
This large time commitment helps to ensure that Licensed Coaches have up-to-date
knowledge and skills and are more likely to be aware of important changes and modern
Coach Licences last for one year.
What are the benefits?
Public liability insurance - £10m worldwide
s liability insurance
Income protection
Physiotherapy cover
British Tennis Membership
Wimbledon ticket ballot
Access to free legal and tax advice through BASELINE (the LTA'
s business advice
support line) - An on-line coaching resource video library
s Club (Discounted rates on various suppliers)
Tennis coaches are people working with players. For the coach to coach and the player to
learn they must communicate. The first meeting could ‘set the scene’ for the future. People
make decisions about each other in as little as 15 seconds.
Good communication is a skill and good coaches are highly effective communicators.
• They are effective because they use their skills of communication to excite, interest
and motivate players.
• They show clearly by their behaviour and what they say that they think tennis is a
wonderful game to play and that it is fun to learn.
• They demonstrate that they are interested in the player as an individual.
When you start to coach you must think carefully about how you communicate.
Your behaviour is important. It may also help to know that how you speak is as important
as what you say, – but neither is as important as how you behave as you coach.
• Your behaviour - your body language, can be more important than anything you say
when you coach. It indicates whether you are interested and enthusiastic or even
bored with the situation. Your behaviour will have an effect on the motivation of your
players – and that effect can be positive or negative. Remember too, that you are a
role model and your behaviour will ‘rub off’ onto your players.
• How you speak - the pitch, tone and volume of your voice must be appropriate to the
situation and the player. With a group you will need to project your voice, whereas
with an individual you can be quieter. The tone of your voice will indicate your feelings
interested, enthusiastic, angry or tired for example.
• What you say is also important, but players, especially children, do not listen to long
explanations. Keep what you say simple, understandable (no jargon!) and to the point
• do not give too much information at one time.
Communication methods vary because coaches are individuals. Some are quiet and calm,
while others seem noisy and excitable, but all of them have things in common which allow
them to communicate successfully.
When you begin to coach you must work hard to develop your communication skills. It is
actually very important that you do so. Don’t try to copy another coach, but develop your own
• Listen to players and ask questions to be sure they understand.
• Find your way of gaining player’s attention when you need to.
• Try to maintain eye contact, because communication is then much more effective.
• Always be positive and encouraging in your comments and feedback.
There are some additional considerations when you communicate with specific groups of
people and some examples are given here.
When coaching players with a hearing disability, you will need to:
• give instructions before the activity, and try not to give more as they play
• face the player
• face the light if you are coaching indoors
speak slowly – lip readers need to see the speaker’s mouth
give time for an interpreter if there is one, but speak to the player, not the interpreter
keep to essential information
use gesture to indicate success or to attract attention don’t shout or cover your mouth
explain jokes and questions, otherwise the player will be ‘left out’.
When coaching players in a wheelchair, you will need to:
• speak at their eye level
• avoid touching the wheelchair which is their personal space.
When coaching players with a speech impairment, you will need to:
listen carefully and be patient
show that you understand
if necessary, ask the person to repeat or to write down what they have said.
When coaching players with a visual impairment, you will need to:
• explain the court layout
• use their names to attract attention
• tell players where you are
• identify any hazards to them.
When coaching players with learning difficulties, you will need to:
• find out what the disability is
• use gesture
• keep to essential information
• repeat the same information
• give time for players to understand.
When coaching very young children, you will need to:
• use short sentences with clear, basic information
• speak at their eye level
• face them
• use their language
• get the majority attending – you will never get all of the group!
When coaching less confident players, you will need to:
• encourage, encourage and encourage
• mean what you say.
In addition to your communication skills, you will also need to think about your coaching style
the way in which you will coach players. For example, will you always tell players what to do
or will you set them off with an idea and ask them to find a way of solving the problem? Either
of these approaches indicate your coaching style and would also indicate that you understand
how people learn.
The way in which you coach will be heavily influenced by:
• your personality
• the way in which you were coached yourself
• how you have seen other coaches work
• how successful you think your coaching is.
If you want to be effective as a coach you must think about the coaching style you use and
when a particular style is appropriate.
Some coaches use a dictatorial approach where there is very little input from the player.
Others have such a relaxed style that they give very little instruction to the players. Neither of
these is wrong and in specific instances could actually be the right approach. For example,
with a large group you will probably need to give instructions - be rather dictatorial.
However, if the player is involved in the learning - asking questions and developing an
understanding of what to do - then a more co-operative style of coaching would be more
An essential part of the co-operative style is that the coach uses questioning to develop
understanding. Using questioning well is a skill in itself and depends on:
• the coach knowing when questions would be appropriate, rather than an instruction
• the questions being ‘open ended’ and ensuring that the player has to think about the
• the questions being specifically related to the task thus enabling the player to ‘see the
point’ of them
• the questioning leading to a confirmation and then extension of the player’s
• the player being comfortable with being questioned – the ‘atmosphere’ must be
supportive, not critical
• the player feeling able to ask questions of the coach!
There are some additional considerations when you coach specific groups of people.
When you are coaching groups, you will need to:
• be more dictatorial, especially when safety issues are a concern be aware that to
move on you may need to ask more closed questions
• avoid long discussions
• be alert to the person who always wants to make a point!
When you are coaching very young children, you will need to:
• ask simple, and probably, closed questions
• be more dictatorial
• be very supportive and encouraging.
When you are coaching players with learning difficulties, you will need to:
• possibly avoid questions be relaxed, but firm and very aware.
When you are coaching girls, you will need to:
• ask questions which they can answer with confidence
• be very supportive in your coaching style
• work with them ‘as a team’
• be relaxed, but firm.
The purpose of coaching is to improve the performance of the players, more quickly and more
successfully than if they simply played by themselves. The fact that players can improve just
playing by themselves should tell you that players learn in at least two ways:
• by copying what they see, i.e. they learn visually
• by continually trying something and slowly improving their technique, i.e. they learn
by doing, trial and error and ‘feeling’ that the technique is right. but players also learn
• listening, talking and perhaps reading i.e. verbally
• processing information and working out what and how to do something – i.e. digitally/
This is important information to you as a coach. If players learn in a variety of ways, you
MUST present information in a variety of ways.
This means that your coaching must include:
• verbal information: an explanation of what to do. Be sure to identify and repeat the
important points and use language which the player will understand
visual information: a demonstration to show what to do. Be sure that the player can
see the action and knows what to look for. (More information on demonstrations is in
section 3.4)
time for players to think – so they work out what they need to do practical experience:
time to practise the technique and refine it
The way in which a player learns will be individual to them, but all learning will be enhanced if:
players are motivated. They should be excited, interested and want to learn. They should be
praised for their efforts and be confident enough to understand that mistakes are a necessary
part of learning
• players understand what they are trying to do
• the relationship with the coach is good
• the atmosphere of the session, created by the coach, is fun, exciting and non
• the session is varied and players are not tired and bored.
As a coach all of this is your responsibility! Remember too that you are more likely to coach in
the way in which you learn – and that may not suit a player. Try to coach in different ways and
find out how they learn best.
Finally, remember
• Every player comes to a coaching session with different knowledge and abilities.
• Every player learns at a different rate and in a different way.
• Every player leaves the session with different knowledge, abilities and experiences.
So coach them all in the way in which they learn best!
Good coaches are good organisers - of time, players and resources. The benefits of a coach
who can organise well are enormous.
Coaching sessions are well prepared if:
• facilities are booked and available
• players know where they should be and when to be there
• equipment is available.
Coaching sessions are well run if:
• the coach arrives early to prepare and greet players
• the coach knows how many players are coming
• the players are always sure what they should be doing
• sessions are well structured, varied and progressive and are relevant to the age and
stage of the players (LTPD)
the session finishes on time
• evaluation of the session is the norm
• future sessions are planned from lessons learned.
Good organisation also depends on:
• good planning
• the ability of the coach to think ahead
• the ability of the coach to take control
• the ability of the coach to re-organise quickly when necessary.
Throughout the Coach Qualification, you will be expected to demonstrate your understanding
of all the above principles and put them into practice.
Coaches will work with a variety of different ages and abilities and will need to bear in mind
that each group will have specific needs. The Winning Pathway clearly details the specific
content for each age and stage.
Children are not simply young adults - they are different physically, physiologically, mentally
and socially. Consequently, as a coach you must be sure that your sessions are suitable for
their age, ability and maturity. The Winning Pathway sets out clearly what are suitable
• Physically they are still growing. Growth spurts can be very sudden and can affect
co-ordination, as well as making the child tire quickly. Children mature at different
times. You could have children in a group with the same chronological age, but
whose developmental ages can be up to four years apart. Their bone structure and
muscle development is immature and susceptible to injury.
As a coach you should recognise the effects of growth and lack of maturity on
performance. Make sure that the equipment and court size is appropriate for the age and
ability of the child. (see Mini Tennis section)
Physiologically children cannot work for the same length of time or at the same rate
as adults. They have to work harder to obtain the same amount of energy from
systems that are under- developed until post puberty. They also get hot and cold
more quickly than adults.
As a coach you must ensure that your sessions have frequent breaks for a rest and a drink.
Mentally children and adults must go through the same stages when they learn skills,
but children do not have the same range of experiences on which to base any
learning. They also learn more through imitation than adults. They can find it difficult
to make decisions if they are given too many choices. Concentration can be difficult
over a long period of time, especially if they lose confidence or interest They need
reassurance that they are doing the right thing!
As a coach remember that the best time for children to learn new (motor) skills is between the
ages of 8 and 12, so structure your lessons to develop the skills they need.
Make sure you show them what to do, rather than giving long explanations.
Try to present information so that they have a limited range of things from which to decide,
e.g. in tactical situations tell them to do either x or y, rather than offering them a whole range
of options.
Make sure your sessions have plenty of variety and activity so that the children do not
become bored. Use praise frequently and be sure to reward effort as well as ability.
Physiologically children cannot work for the same length of time or at the same rate
as adults. They have to work harder to obtain the same amount of energy from
systems that are under- developed until post puberty. They also get hot and cold
more quickly than adults.
As a coach you must ensure that your sessions have frequent breaks for a rest
and a drink.
Mentally children and adults must go through the same stages when they learn skills,
but children do not have the same range of experiences on which to base any
learning. They also learn more through imitation than adults. They can find it difficult
to make decisions if they are given too many choices. Concentration can be difficult
over a long period of time, especially if they lose confidence or interest They need
reassurance that they are doing the right thing!
As a coach remember that the best time for children to learn new (motor) skills is between the
ages of 8 and 12, so structure your lessons to develop the skills they need.
Make sure you show them what to do, rather than giving long explanations.
Try to present information so that they have a limited range of things from which to decide,
e.g. in tactical situations tell them to do either x or y, rather than offering them a whole range
of options.
Make sure your sessions have plenty of variety and activity so that the children do not
become bored. Use praise frequently and be sure to reward effort as well as ability.
• Socially children enjoy being with their friends and can be become anxious and
nervous if they are split up from them. They become excited quickly. Many young
children are put off by competitive situations. Young girls, in particular, enjoy being in
teams, rather than playing as individuals
As a coach you should try to keep friends together at least until the children are familiar with
you and the group. Try not to let them get over excited.
Be sure to arrange a variety of activities that do not always depend on competition.
Sometimes working as a member of a small team will help children who do not yet enjoy
competing as an individual.
It is very important when coaching adults to know WHY they have come to tennis coaching.
Unlike children whose parents have brought them, adults have decided to come themselves
their motives for doing so will vary.
Adults have a number of previous experiences which will influence - not always positively the rate at which they learn. For example, if an adult has played another racket or bat and ball
game, the co-ordination skills required will help their tennis, but if they have learnt “bad”
techniques or not enjoyed sport much at school, then you could find it more difficult to coach
As a coach you will need to take previous experience and confidence into account, because it
will affect the rate of learning or even make you decide to leave a technique as it is.
Adults learn more from explanation than children do. They also understand the principles of a
particular tactic or technique more easily than children. Some adults prefer to ‘process’
information before they try a technique or tactic. Give them time!
As a coach you must therefore explain and demonstrate in order to ‘reach’ as many in a
group as possible. Be careful, though, to avoid long discussions with individual players when
you have others in a group.
Remember the different reasons why adults come to coaching, when you structure your
sessions – it could be exercise, to learn a new skill, to compete, or to make new friends.
Remember too, adults have had to organise their time to come to coaching – time from their
work and family. So they want to be there!
As a coach, if the motive for coming is exercise, then you must ensure that the session is very
active, but if the intention is to improve and practise strokes, then ensure that the majority of
the session is spent doing this. You must show that you understand and are accounting for
the players’ interests. Your coaching programme should reflect all of this.
Whenever you have a group of beginners or improvers, there will inevitably be a range of
different abilities in the group. It is important to remember:
• every player is an individual
• every player learns and improves at a different rate
As a coach you MUST be able to construct practices where every player in the group is being
challenged. The best way to do this is by differentiation.
Differentiation is the organisation of the same activity in such a way that every player can
progress. In order to do this it will help to re-organise:
• the rules for the task
• the court area being used
• the equipment being used
The rules can be changed in a variety of ways
If the object of the practice is to improve consistency, then some players could be scoring
only when the ball has crossed the net 3 times, others could be trying to achieve a rally which
scores every time the ball goes beyond the service line, and others could be scoring
whenever the ball crosses the net. All the players are therefore achieving, but at their own
Changing the court area
If the object of the practice is to develop the swing on the groundstrokes, then the length of
the court area can be changed, depending on the player’s ability. The better players would
play in the full length of the court, while others would play between the service
lines. Other players could even have one player using a line between the service and base
line and the partner playing to the baseline.
Changing the equipment
The availability of different sorts of tennis balls has greatly helped coaches working with
different abilities in the same group. By using foam, Mini Tennis red, orange or green ball for
some players and a real tennis ball for others, players have been able to rally at their own
level. All coaches should be familiar with the different lengths of rackets available and these
again help players of different abilities to work in the same group. Differentiation is therefore
very different from mixed ability coaching, because every player in the group can work at their
own level on the same activity.
With mixed ability coaching, it is usual to see a variety of different small groups each doing
different things and the coach trying to coach all of them. Often the better players are left to
play, the least able are given something ‘to get on with’ and the coach concentrates on the
middle group. The result is that often only a few players in the group really enjoy the lesson
and others make little or no progress.
The coach who can make good use of the principles of differentiation should be able to
overcome the problems of different abilities in the same group while giving individual players
the chance to be extended.
Red ball mini tennis is for players aged 8 and under. It is played on smaller courts with shorter
rackets and softer balls. It’s just like the real thing and will give you the chance to have long
rallies and play different types of shots, which should be lots of fun.
What age is red ball mini tennis aimed at?
Red ball mini tennis is for players aged 8 and under .
What ball is used?
A red sponge ball is used indoors and a red felt ball is used outdoors.
What size court is red ball played on?
A smaller court of 11m x 5.5m is used so it’s ok to use badminton court lines. Scroll through
the pictures to the right to see what red ball mini tennis looks like on court.
What height is the net?
The net is lower than yellow ball tennis at a height of 80cm.
What racket is best to use?
A shorter racket of 43cm – 58 cm (17” – 23”) is recommended
Orange ball mini tennis is for players aged 8 and 9. It is played on slightly larger courts than
red ball, with bigger rackets and balls that are not as soft as red balls. It’s the next stage to go
through before you start playing on a full sized court and it will help players develop all the
different shots, providing fun competition.
What age is orange ball mini tennis aimed at?
Orange ball mini tennis is for players aged 8 and 9. Or players who are 7 and have reached
Red level 1.
What ball is used?
An orange ball is used. It has a low compression that makes it bounce lower, giving the
player better control at an important stage of their development.
What size court is orange ball played on?
Orange ball is played on a singles court of 18m x 6.5m and a doubles court of 18m x 8.23m
(so the full width of the singles court) Scroll through the pictures to the right to see the court
looks like.
What height is the net?
80cm at the middle of the net.
What racket is best to use?
A racket of 58cm – 63 cm (23” – 25”) is recommended.
Green ball is the next step after orange ball mini tennis. It is played on a full tennis court, with
bigger rackets and balls that are a little softer than yellow balls. It’s the next stage to go
through before you start playing with a full compression yellow ball on a full sized court and it
will help players work on and improve all aspects of their game.
What age is green ball mini tennis aimed at?
Green ball mini tennis is for players aged 10 and under who were born in 00 only.
What ball is used?
A green ball is used, which is ideal for players moving from orange ball to actual tennis balls.
What size court is green ball played on?
Green ball is played on a full tennis court for singles and doubles. Scroll through the pictures
to the right to see what the court looks like.
What height is the net?
The net is at full height.
What racket is best to use?
A bigger racket of 63cm – 66cm (25” – 26”) is recommended.
It is possible for two coaches to have the same level of information and knowledge about
tennis, but for one to be more successful with players.
Obviously, communication skills, knowledge of how people learn and organisational ability are
important, but successful coaching is also based on the ability to use a number of other skills.
Coaching is a process. The successful coach will move from one stage of that process
to the next to give the session structure and a logical progression. Very importantly,
the process will be related to the age and ability of the player.
The successful development of the player also depends on the coach’s skills of giving
demonstrations, feeding and setting practices.
From the beginning, the process depends on the coach being able to:
• Know the players understand them as individuals with different ways of learning,
being motivated and interested in tennis
• Observe watch the player in action and decide the most appropriate course of action
in general terms to help them – e.g. tactical and technical development or physical
• Analyse decide the specific requirement of the player in the general area chosen
• Improve performance set specific tasks and teaching points that improve the ability
of the player
• Develop the performance set different progressive practices and drills that help the
player incorporate what has been learned, into the decision making process - the
• Evaluate decide whether the player’s game is at a higher level, what is needed next
and what has been successful in the session
It is very easy to watch, but not so easy to gain meaningful information unless that
observation is systematic. The coach must know what to observe.
The following must form the basis of the observation and initial assessment of the player:
• the player’s physical size and development in relation to others of the same age
• the level of co-ordination and movement which the player has
• the level of tennis ‘knowledge’ – is the player a complete beginner or an improver
• the attitude of the player in terms of wanting to learn and improve
• the ability of the player in the game and tactical situation .
From the observation the coach should be able to decide the general area of work for the
Observation gives the coach general information. Analysis is more specific than observationit helps the coach decide the specific area of work for the session.
It should also be ongoing during the session because improvement rates will vary and the
coach may need to change the session plan. Analysis also needs a logical ‘checklist’, which
relates to the development of the player. As the player improves, certain skills become
incorporated and learning new ones becomes important. For example, a complete beginner
needs to place the ball for the serve, whereas high level player will do this automatically, but
may have a specific problem in generating power on the serve.
By the end of your Observation and Analysis you should know which game situation and
tactical intention you are going to work on with the player.
• When Serving – first or second serve
• When Returning serve – first or second serve
• When both players are at the back of the court
When you are approaching or at the net
When your opponent is approaching or at the net
Staying in the point
Turning the point around
Players have coaching in order to improve. To do this they need tactical information, physical
ability and technical expertise. Analysis gives the coach the information needed for the area
of work chosen.
For improvement to take place the following points are important.
• The coach must combine coaching skills such as feeding and demonstration with
coaching knowledge which includes the ability to plan both sessions and courses
• Personal communication skills are critical for effective learning and improvement.
• An understanding of how players learn is vital
• Knowledge of the player is essential. The principles of LTPD stages must be
understood and applied.
• The understanding of how skills are learned is essential.
• The use of a variety of practices is necessary
• Improvement may take place quickly or over a long period of time.
As improvement takes place, the coach will become concerned with continuing that progress.
Development in tennis terms should mean within the context of the game. The improved tactic
should be tested and developed within the open game situation, the technique should be
practised and developed to a skill used in the context of the game and the physical skill
developed and applied in the full context of tennis.
The following points should be considered:
• How can a variety of games and practices be used to develop the area of work in the
game itself?
• As different practices and drills move towards the game itself, decision making must
be involved – the teaching situation becomes more open
• What sort of communication and motivation skills are required if the initial
improvement becomes difficult to maintain in the game?
It is very important that coaches are able to evaluate both the performance of the player and
their own coaching performance. Evaluation involves making a judgement both on an ongoing
basis and at the end of the session in order to modify the coaching. It is a major part of the
coaching process.
The following points are important: _ evaluation is valuable because it ensures that the coach
is constantly monitoring the success of the material, the session and their own performance
• evaluation involves monitoring the session as it takes place because progress may
be more rapid or not as fast as was hoped
• evaluation involves making judgements at the end of the session to decide what was
successful about the session and what could be improved. (The coaching methods
and the players behaviour as well as the content are all important parts of the
• evaluation should include information from players about how they thought the
session went.
The purpose of coaching is to bring a permanent improvement in a player’s performance.
That will only happen if the player has learned techniques and developed them into skills by
practising them in the context of the game.
It is therefore very important that coaches understand how people learn tennis (motor)
skills so that their coaching skills and knowledge can be used in the most effective way to
help players progress. Many coaches have, in the past, used coaching methods that have not
distinguished between short term (‘quick fix’) or long term learning.
For example, they have taught the forehand in the first lesson, the backhand in the second
and so on, but have not used coaching skills which are most appropriate to this short term
learning approach. They have used ‘lines’ or ‘queues’ where players have hit one ball and
then moved out of the line. The difficulty with this is that players do not learn movement
patterns of themselves or flight paths of the incoming ball. Consequently the learning is not
relevant to what then happens in the game. This is quite apart from how boring such an
approach is the learner
The short term learning approach has been the most widely used in tennis coaching because
coaches have been unaware of the principles and stages by which people learn motor skills.
Long term learning means that the techniques and skills learned are more effective and useful
to the player because they are more adaptable for the open skill tennis environment.
In this approach the coach teaches a variety of skills in a single coaching session and relates
them to the game itself. They also coach in a game related way.
Learning motor skills involves the player moving through three distinct stages, known as the
Stages of Learning. At each stage the coaching skills used by the coach will be
different. Consequently, not only should coaches be very aware of the different stages, but
they must also know which coaching skills they should use at different stages.
In addition:
• players differ in terms of their previous learning and so they all come to tennis at
different stages
• players learn at different rates and so move through the Stages of Learning at
different speeds
• the motivation of players to learn is different at different times and this affects their
rate of learning.
Every good coach must take these points into consideration
Stage 1 Understanding and thinking about what to do (cognitive stage)
The player needs to understand what to do, what needs improving and how to do this.
This Stage of Learning has the following characteristics:
• the player will frequently make mistakes – often ‘big’ ones - this is a necessary part of
learning a skill and coaches should not be concerned when it happens
• the action will look awkward, but this is part of the player learning the actual pattern
of the movement
• repeated demonstrations will be useful for the player to see the pattern of the
• the player will need to ask questions to understand what to do – so the coach must
create the opportunity the coach will need to give positive feedback because the
player will not yet know what is the correct movement pattern
• quite short ‘blocks’ of identical practice will be useful for the player to get the general
shape of the movement BUT there must be a short time to think between each
attempt, and then variable practice (the ball in different place/pace) will be beneficial
(because tennis is an open skill game)
• feeding should give the player time to think between each attempt
Practising the action (associative stage)
The player is improving and beginning to be able to repeat the action.
This Stage of Learning has the following characteristics:
• the player will make fewer mistakes and they will be of less magnitude
the action will look less awkward as the player begins to repeat the action more
demonstrations will only be useful if the action is the same as the player’s, because
the player is now developing a ‘personal’ movement pattern, rather than trying to
follow a ‘general shape’
the coach will need to give positive feedback, because the practicing stage can take a
long time and the earlier rapid success is no longer evident
questioning by the coach will be beneficial in obtaining feedback from the player
variable, random and distributed practice will be beneficial (see section 3.3). This is
because the player has to recall the movement from the long term memory each time,
thus re-enforcing the movement pattern
feeding should begin to move the player about and be more related to the game and
the different ball characteristics in order to develop a sound experience base
the player will be able to say what is happening to the movement
the coach must ensure that small errors do not develop which change the movement
Stage 3 Maintaining the movement and producing it automatically
(Autonomous Stage)
This Stage of Learning has the following characteristics:
• the player will make few mistakes and will be able to think about something else e.g.
the opponent, while they hit the ball
• the actions will look fluent and the player’s movement will be co-ordinated
• demonstrations will not be necessary because the movement pattern is fixed
• the coach will need to give positive feedback
• feedback from the player will indicate when there is a problem
• all types of practice will be beneficial
• feeding should be related to the game
• the player will be able to detect and rectify errors
• the coach must ensure that small errors do not creep in which change the movement
Coaches will always use practices and exercises to develop players. Some practices will be
more successful and useful than others.
This is because practices must always be appropriate to:
• the skill level of the player
• the needs of the game
• the Stage of Learning of the player.
The intention of any practice should be to develop the potential of the player and help
them learn a skill for their game
There are different types of practice and coaches should not only know what these are, but
also know when they are most suitable for the player’s learning. This will be related strongly
to the player’s Stage of Learning in that technique or skill.
Variable practice
The practice involves 1 particular technique (e.g. the forehand), which is practised in a
variety of situations (e.g. wide, short, deep, low or high forehands) rather than exactly the
same forehand from the same place on the court. This is important in an open skill game
like tennis.
Varied practice
The technique e.g. the volley, is practised intermittently with others (e.g. forehand, volley,
backhand, forehand, volley, backhand, volley etc). This is obviously related to the game, but
its importance in practice is that it forces the player to ‘retrieve’ a technique from the
memory several times over. Since, in the sequence outlined, the volley is the principal shot
being practised, the player would have to hit volleys after hitting other shots and the coach
could begin to judge how well the volley technique had been learned.
Random practice
This is when there is no pattern to the strokes (the game of tennis is random practice!). The
player is then ‘forced’ to retrieve the movement pattern from the long term memory each
Distributed practice
The same technique is practised in short blocks with a different activity taking place in
between each block. For example, practising the first serve with the volley, a slice serve or
even a short talk, as the different activity.
All of these types of practice are suitable for long term learning and are those most
suitable for beginners and improvers.
Although the player will appear to make slower progress when coaching is given for long term
development, the learning will be of a higher quality with an improvement in the ability to
transfer the technique to the open skill environment of tennis.
Blocked practice
In this type of practice, several techniques are practised, but in blocks of all the repetitions
of technique 1, then of technique 2, then technique 3. So the practice session would be 1-11-1 etc, 2-2-2-2 etc, 3-3-3-3 etc.
Massed practice
A single technique is practised in one long unit, perhaps a basket full of balls on one
Blocked and massed practice are best used when rapid short term results are needed or with
experienced players whose technique is well refined.
They may also be suitable for young players if less mentally demanding approaches are
needed. They may increase motivation because early rapid gains may help the player. This
is one reason why short blocks are useful at the first Stage of Learning, and also why
they may be useful if a player needs confidence in a skill.
In terms of long term learning these types of practice are not so useful because they do not
make mental demands of the player. They do not demand understanding by the player, nor
do they force ‘recall’ of the movement pattern, nor do they transfer readily in the open skill
situation of tennis.
This is continued practice of a skill that has already been learned. Overlearning up to 100%
of the learning time (repeating the length of time which the player took to learn the skill) is
beneficial. It ‘grooves’ technique and may help develop a stress resistant skill as well as
helping a player’s confidence. It is an important part of practice for skilled players.
However, it is a form of practice frequently overused by tennis coaches with beginners and
improvers for whom it is not suitable because they have not yet learned the technique fully.
Whole/part/ part/whole practice
This is when parts of a technique are practised in isolation from the whole technique.
It is essential that the parts are realistic to the whole and that the whole can actually readily
be split into parts. It is essential the parts are learned in the correct sequence and that they
are integrated as soon as possible. Tennis coaches tend to break techniques down too
early before players have had a chance to develop a ‘rough’ technique.
You will see from the information on Stages of Learning that the player must go through a
stage of making mistakes - they are a very important part of the learning. They need to
learn the co-ordination and the racket movement – that takes time.
So it is essential that the player is always given a number of opportunities to practise the
whole technique BEFORE it is broken down.
There are particular skills which tennis coaches need if they are to coach well.
These are:
• demonstration
• feeding
• player learning through observation
• goal setting
• feedback.
Demonstrations are intended to show and emphasise a movement or behaviour. All tennis
coaches will be familiar with them as a major means of giving information to players,
because so many players, especially children learn visually.
The following points are important:
• the players should all be able to see the demonstration
• the demonstration should be repeated several times
• the relevant details should be explained when working with a group, space should be
given to those players who need to shadow/feel the action as they watch - these are
kinaesthetic learners
• demonstrations are not appropriate at all stages of learning (see section on Stages of
There are several types of demonstration and it is important to consider which is
appropriate when coaching different levels of players.
• The ‘expert’ demonstration (generally given by the coach) gives a skilful and
complete demonstration of the technique. It focuses attention on what the player
should try to do.
However, it may not be the best demonstration for long term learning, especially with
a beginner, because the player may not feel confident, nor does it require
understanding - only the ability to try and imitate.
The ‘coping’ demonstration gives an adequate, broadly correct demonstration of
the technique. It could be given by another player.
It may be more useful than the expert model, because the player could feel more
confident in attempting to copy it and to try what another player can do. It also
means that the player has to think and understand what is involved (problem solve).
This will mean a longer term development of the skill which will be easier to transfer
to different situations.
• The ‘negative’ demonstration is often used to show an error or a weakness.
It is useful if it is used as a problem solving exercise for the player because it will
show if the player understands what to do. It is not very useful if the coach simply
tells the player what is wrong and does not get the player involved. It is important to
show the player the correct action following a negative demonstration.
Tennis is a game in which a player has to respond to an incoming ball and hit it back into
the opponent’s court. The coach must be able to feed the ball to the player at an
appropriate level.
The coach must be able to: feed single balls from a hopper – from the right place and with the
right pace, flight path, time intervals and placement so that real learning related to the game
takes place
• rally feed a sequence of balls – again the position on the court and the fact that
subsequent feeds come from the relevant place is important
feed the ball in the game itself – at the right pace and flight path for the level of the
feed in all these ways by racket or by hand.
The quality of the feeding must be related to:
• the player’s Stage of Learning on that particular technique
• the appropriate technical, tactical, mental, or physical factor which the coach is trying
to develop
• the demands of the game on the player at that age and stage
• the players age and ability.
Feeding skills are an essential part of tennis coaching and should be practised
Many people set themselves targets as they learn - e.g. ‘by this time next week I will do x,
in this session I will do y’. Very often as a coach you will be unaware that players have set
themselves these targets.
Goal setting is a process where both coach and player are aware what the ‘targets’
are because they have discussed and agreed them.
Goal setting can be a very useful motivational tool, but to be effective it must follow certain
S.M.A.R.T.E.R. principles.
This means that goal setting should be.
• Specific
• Measurable
• Agreed
• Realistic
• Timed
• Exciting
• Related to the player
Goals can be:
• short term - something which can be achieved in a session or few sessions
• medium term - something which can be achieved as part of a long term goal
• long term - something to be achieved after a period of time, between four months
and four years.
Goals can be:
• performance based - the emphasis is on improving or performing a skill
• outcome based - the emphasis is on success or winning.
It is very important to know the player in agreeing goals, because players will prefer
performance or outcome goals depending whether they learn best from the performance or
outcome. In general terms performance based goals would be more suitable for beginners
and improvers.
Feedback is the way in which players obtain information about:
• the performance
• the result - outcome of their performance.
Feedback can come from a variety of sources: the coach, the player, other players or
Some players learn best by being given information about the performance (e.g. how the
service technique is progressing and what they have to do to continue the improvement).
This is known as Knowledge of Performance – KP.
Others learn best by seeing the result of their performance (e.g. the ball landed in the
service box, so the action was good!) This is Knowledge of Results – KR.
When the coach knows the player well, then the feedback will be structured to meet the
learning preference of the player. Good coaches will also structure the practices so that they
help meet the learning preference of the players.
Often, tennis coaches give all the feedback, usually about what the player is doing incorrectly.
Such feedback is essentially instruction and has a negative bias. However, feedback must
also be used to re-enforce a good or correct performance. Very importantly, feedback should
be two way - the player must contribute in some way. When teaching skills, you should know
when and what sort of feedback is relevant at different Stages of Learning.
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