In the modern era of tennis, the importance of “fitness” is synonymous with elite performance. You only need to watch the marathon duals between Nadal, Murray, Federer and Djokovic (amongst others) to see it for your own eyes. The feats of physical prowess are something to behold.
So what does this mean for a High-Performance Tennis Academy? Is there a magic formula? Who are the Guru’s to listen to? Well, the first question is a simple one to answer, whilst questions two and three are the topic of debates that can rage long into the evening.
Let’s start with what a good academy should do, and in particular how we approach it at STA. Very simply, we have a dedicated team of well-qualified professionals who support the development of our tennis players. Players have individual programmes, based on a tennis specific needs analysis. Their physical maturity is tracked, and the emphasis on specific aspects of training is altered accordingly. Their fitness goals are integrated as part of their tennis programme to ensure that at whatever age their physical development is enhancing their performance on the court. It is all quite simple really, and in truth, it should be. We are of the belief that much of the skill is in the delivery.
So what about all the blogs and articles that talk about “this way to train, or that way…” Well, we are also of the belief that all types of training, delivery formats, theories, and philosophies have some merit. If there were only one-way of doing things, life would be boring! As a team, we are continually reflecting on our own practice, researching new practice and asking others about their practice. An open mind is an important trait, but only if you have the ability to rationalise it into something that you understand then decide whether to accept, reject or trial it as part of your own practice. Good practitioners will ensure the objectivity of their practice in the form of evidence, but will also challenge themselves to find new and innovative ways to do things.
That is our view at STA. We believe that Sports Science and “Fitness” should be simple. Good people, delivering evidence-based programmes tailored to the individual and reflective of the environment in which they train. We are transparent in our assessment of the players, and communicate what they need to do, and how to go about doing it. Every time we work with athletes, we are educating them about the importance of training, and how they can become better at it, both under our supervision and when they are reliant only on themselves. An autonomous athlete is a professional athlete.
If there is one area we do discuss a lot, it how hard can we push a player, and to what degree does physical fitness play in “toughening” up players mentally. This doesn’t distract us from the nuts and bolts of being good scientists and practitioners, but these are the debates had between coaches and practitioners in the real world of tennis. And we’d be happy to have them with anyone else out there too if you have an opinion!
So what is the moral of the story? Well simply, we believe in the importance of physical fitness to overall tennis performance, and tennis development (and so should you!). We do the basics and then try to build on those basics with all our players. We place emphasis on delivery, the education in delivery, objective results, and priorities that will enhance tennis performance. But above all, we don’t look for any magic formula’s just good science, excellence in delivery, and some bloody hard work!
Head of Sport Science, SotoTennis Academy
Inspiring Excellence | Tennis Academy Spain