In the tennis world, we typically see stark differences between players from different countries across the globe.
Particularly we notice similar strengths and playing styles from players hailing from a specific country or part of the world.
For example, Aussies are known for big serves, great hands at the net, and playing styles suited for aggressive hard and grass courts. However, the strength in the weaknesses our players typically possess can be majorly attributed to the coaching styles we possess.
My goal is to differentiate the differing styles between our Aussie coaching and that of our fierce rivals, the US. The coaching styles provide a foundation for the playing styles that our players have, which is why it is integral to review the pros and cons and learn from others to better develop our coaches for our players.
In Australia, our coaches typically have an in-direct approach to coaching. By this I mean we see a heavy focus on repetition and execution.
Practice sessions involve coaches allowing players more freedom with their technique, seeing more hitting and repetitive work such as rallying and points rather than technique-specific drills. Development has a specific goal to entice enjoyment up until the player starts playing competitions and tournaments.
Due to the playing surfaces, Aussies are used to, the emphasis on quick points is exemplified with the serve and volley. Coaches, therefore, tend to direct training sessions with an overload of aggressive or goal-orientated play. For example, awarding multiple points for a clear winner, or forcing an approach after a first serve.
When it comes to communication, there is clear direct speaking in moderation. The typical culture of communication tends to not involve overtly strict or excessive yelling etc. When it comes to repercussions for things such as bad behavior, sportsmanship, or overall training there is also a sort of leniency prevalent.
Therefore, overall we tend to see what the stereotype for Aussies shows in the coaching styles. A relaxed approach to development with a heavy emphasis on goal-orientated aggressive play. The laid-back style of allowing the player to have the freedom to develop
themselves in an active setting is a very Aussie style of coaching.
There are benefits and downsides to this type of style. The advantage is a more positive development of enjoyment for the player, with less stress and negativity as they develop. The player has more control of their technique and individual quirks which allows them to feel freedom when playing.
However, the downsides include a variety of techniques that can often if not corrected lead to injuries or pain for the players physically. Also, by having a heavy focus on just the goal,
winning the point, and not the specifics in movement and technique the player isn’t honing those specific skills which can therefore break down in matches and stressful situations on
We also see an increase in inconsistency and more “holes” in a player's game as the dimension of the game that they enjoy is only being honed, instead of the whole player.
What I mean by this is there is a possibility of the player's strengths keep getting strengthened, whilst the weaknesses are disregarded. Having the player be in charge of essentially “pushing” themselves allows them the freedom to pursue their development.
The player needs to have the initiative instead of coaches “forcing” players to get better. The coach will very typically match the player's enthusiasm and effort. This however can also
mean that players don’t capitalize on their potential if they are not willing to push the coach to work harder.
The US in comparison has a slightly differing approach to coaching. The integration of former collegiate players and a very international crowd of coaches and players that come into the country through colleges and academies have meant an integration of a variety of
However, we see two styles interchangeably working with each other as the basis for most coaching in the states. I describe them as the command and the cooperative styles.
These differ from what we see back home as they put more authority in the hands of the coaches than the players. The command style essentially gives the power to the coach that dictates what, when, and how the lessons will be done.
This provides a very developmental approach as the coach often dictates the development of the player's technique and style early on. A lot of feeding and drilling is incorporated here as well.
The coach drives communication. It is important to note that bad behavior is not tolerated in most cases that I have witnessed. Of course, within reason, players need to know that they can not disrespect the game. That is why players have a generally better appreciation and behavior.
Players will either have a physical activity such as running or pushups or simply have to leave the court if caught abusing the game in any way.
Now once the player has reached a certain level in their game, the cooperative style comes in. Once the base or foundation of strokes, technique, and style is created, this style uses the coach and the player working together to develop drills, point-play, and scenarios that both agree with working best for the player.
The coach listens to what the player wants and then incorporates what they see that the player needs to set up training and competition schedules for the player. The advantages of this combination include better foundations in technique, fewer injuries, and a stronger mindset in players as to what they need to do.
They have direction which allows for more discipline in their play and training as well. However, there are also downsides. Players lack originality or their special quirks when much of the base of their game is rooted in their coach's style. Players also have less freedom in their game and styles, once again leading to a lot of similarities amongst their opponents.
There is also an added stress on the player when so much is dictated by their coach, or they feel that their game is out of their hands. This can create a disconnect in the player-coach
relationship and a loss of passion in the game.
In conclusion, we can see that there are obvious discrepancies between the styles in Australia and America. What can we do however to learn from our rivals? Coaches in Australia can use the positives of their in-direct style whilst incorporating elements of command and cooperative styles as well to provide more direction and drive to players whilst still allowing them their freedom in their game.
By creating a firmer foundation by laying the groundwork for players but also listening to them the relationships between players and coaches can also improve. The techniques and developments for players will also improve, as well as behavior and appreciation.
This will all result in better results, but more importantly better players and role models for Australian tennis.