By Jamie Kirkman Insta/FB – @jjktennis
All too often at tournaments I hear the following statement from parents and coaches “When you go out there today I want you to be more aggressive” then at the end of the match I hear this line “you made to many mistakes today why did you go for so much” this leaves the player confused as to what the message is you are giving them because in one breathe you told them to be aggressive the next breathe they played too aggressive meaning they failed.
It is so important to make sure that your message is clear and the player understands what you are asking. Because the player is confused and feels like they have failed when it is you as the coach in my opinion who is failing.
I’m a firm believer in a player playing aggressively but with aggressive INTENT. What does this mean? When we are training I set up big targets and I set up 2 shot combos which allow the player to understand how to structure a point once they get a ball they can step in on and control the court. I make it absolutely clear that the objective is to hit the first shot with the intent of opening the court and then the next shot is to hit to a big target with aggressive racquet head speed and spin if the ball comes back we reset the rally and start all over again. This then takes the pressure of my player to have to finish the point with a winner.
I start the drill in a closed environment with a drop feed followed by racquet feed then finishing with a live ball situation.
Progression 1– Coach sets up the court like below. Player hits 2 balls crosscourt into the rear of the court the third ball is a short angle still cross court looking to have the ball cross the singles sideline before the baseline and the fourth ball is in the middle of the court that the player runs around and hits aggressively to the big target down the line. I also like to mix it up with a tougher ball that they then have to hit the ball as a backhand crosscourt however still to the large target deep in the court
Progression 2– The ball is now fed from the other end of the court using the same pattern. It’s important to emphasize to the player they aren’t looking to hit a winner and in this part of the drill you can also incorporate a volley as an extra ball
Progression 3– have the player rallying crosscourt in a live ball situation on a ball they feel they can create the short angle cross court have them hit it and then on the next ball they hit down the line and the drill is over on that ball.
Progression 4– now have the player playing out the point if they finish the point with a 2 shot combo they get bonus points.
From this set of progressions, the player will now have a solid 2 shot combo they can use in a point which is aggressive with intent as opposed to just aggressively trying to hit winners. This takes all the pressure off of your player allowing them to play freely and aggressively.