Cognitive load refers to the effort being used in the working memory. The working is the part of the brain that consciously processes information and dictates everything we do in terms of learning.
The working memory can only hold 4-5 bits of information at one time and information in the working memory lasts only around 10 seconds.”
The cognitive tennis drills used at Soto Tennis Academy are aimed to challenge the player’s brain to function at levels greater than what is actually needed to play at an elite level. The Academy aim is to provide an environment where players have opportunities to “out train the game” and these cognitive drills are one way that helps to place players under a form of mental pressure.
The way we use this concept at the Academy…
Warm Up exercises: As you will see in the video, we use chaos drills with the aim to get the mind engaged and the body functioning at the start of sessions.
Drill: Each cone is numbered. Players start in the centre of the cones and a number is called out. Player has to get to the relevant number cone and back to the center quicker than their opponent.
Progression 1: Coach calls a number which equates to –1 or +1 of what was called. I.e 2=1 (or3), to cause cognitive overload in the player’s mind.
Progression 2: Coach calls out a mathematical sum I.e 1+2 and player must go to the cone in this instance 3.
Progression: As above, but –1 or +1 off the answer.
Rally Tempo Cognitive Loading exercises:
Player A and B find a nice rally tempo first. Coach challenges player A with a simple skill (Catch and Throw) in between each shot of the rally for 5-10 balls before going back into the rally tempo drill.
Skill Progressions: To include skills such as drive volley, drop shot, slice, kicking ball, volley back to coach.
Skill Progression 2: Randomise the skills named above in between shots.
Question Progressions: Tell player to name a different colour, country, premier league football teams etc. Be creative!
Question Progressions: Randomise the questions I.e mathematical, prime minister, winner of Australian Open.
Next progression: Add a skill and a question at the same time.
Next… Randomise the skill or the questions followed by randomising both skill and question.
Important Point: Drills work better in a rally situation over a feeding situation, as the tempo is more realistic.
As seen by the players in the videos, when returning to normal rallying situations the player feels rewarded by having more time to make conscious tactically/ technical decisions. This the aim of our cognitive drills.
Keep an eye out for more series’ like this one in the coming days!