Our Teaching Method

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If I had to describe our method in just a few words it would be:  Master the Basics!

Mastering the basics is critical to success.

  • Thoroughly mastering the basics will take time, but it’s time that’s well spent. 
  • There are no shortcuts to real success. 
  • Adding a new skill to your repertoire is much easier if you first get a good handle on the foundational skills. 
  • Time devoted to the basics is the key to long-lasting progress and success.

The more you read about the top athletes in any sport you find that they always focus on the fundamentals and they are obsessive about practicing them.  

Wayne Gretzky, Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, Leonel Messi, and Cal Ripken Jr, all practiced the fundamentals obsessively and when you watch them in a game they never stray from proper form which is what makes them so consistent and the greats of all time.  

Whether it be passing, throwing, dribbling or shooting each of these athletes practice these obsessively behind closed doors. We often think that they are born with innate talents. But it is what they do behind closed doors on their own that helps them elevate to the next level; their drive to succeed.  

John Wooden once said “It’s the little details that are vital. Little things make big things happen.” If you don’t master the fundamentals you cant expect to achieve the results in any aspect of life that you are looking for. Whether you’re talking about learning an instrument,  playing soccer, or becoming a tennis player, a good foundation is crucial to accomplishment. I am not talking about getting lost in details, but those who stick to the basics more often than not win big and develop the greatest talent.

We all know that elite tennis players can do some incredible things that the average player cannot. But the real difference between a world-class player and an average player is simply that the expert is much better and more effective and more efficient at the basics.

"Everybody has the same basic body and needs, and we have to have the courage to train the fundamentals, the basics, at least 80% of the time. Sure, add some spice in there now and again, but focus on the basics."

-Dan John

“If you don’t have time to do it right, when will you have time to do it over?” 

-John Wooden 

Take time every day, even if it is only for an extra couple of minutes, to master the fundamentals.  This will help you to develop the proper foundation to build from as you grow, progress and get stronger.

Don’t Fear the Fundamentals

Most people avoid the fundamentals because they don’t have the determination to become great at them. Try this instead: eliminate everything that is unnecessary and guess what, you’re left with just the basics and whether or not you have mastered them.

It’s easier to tell people that you’re “working on something new” or you’re “doing the latest and greatest training ideas you read on a blog somewhere.” It’s hard to say, “I’m focusing on the basics, but I haven’t made much progress yet.”

Ask yourself, do you have the courage to simplify and become the best at the basics? Stop wasting time on the stuff that makes the last 10% of difference.

Consider these three concepts on how to master the basics in tennis. If you do this real success will be sure to follow:

1. Expect mastery. You will rarely exceed your own objectives, so expect a lot from yourself. If you’re going to take the time and expense to learn tennis, tell yourself that someday you will be one of the best tennis players in your city, or in your state or school or county or world! While this may or may not be true, by adopting this approach, you will be more motivated to train like world class athlete and remove any ceiling on the greatest level of play that you might actually achieve.

It is also important to learn as if you will have to teach this skill to someone else. This will help you learn what you’re doing much more thoroughly so that you can explain it to someone else.

2. Think about the long-term. Don't rush through the basics thinking that something else is much more interesting. Don’t ever be fooled to believe that the more advanced work is where the real secrets lie. The truth is that even with just a mastery of the basics, you can have huge success. And to have any hope in excelling at anything ‘advanced', you must first know the foundational elements.

If you don’t understand the basics of the geometry of a tennis court, you’re never going to have the foundation to support a highly competitive game. If you don’t master different spins, how will you ever be able to master competitive tennis?

Professional athletes of many sports spend the majority of their off-seasons perfecting the basics. They have a coach who works with them on all their basic strokes. Think about this, if that is largely all they do isn’t it is amazing when you consider how many times have they already swung their tennis racquet?

Also, remember that the guy instructing the professional athlete can’t play as well as the professional he’s teaching! He just knows how all the basics work, which is the foundation of all the advanced skills.

3. Avoid getting fancy. Typically the solution to any current challenge in your tennis game is not complicated. It is usually the result of a shortcoming in one or more basic skills. Rarely is some fancy technique going to be the answer.

If you can’t serve well, the latest and greatest tennis racquet isn’t going to do much to improve your game.

Why do some players seem to never improve or improve at such a slow rate?

Bad technique is the number one reason why players do not improve yet desire to do so.  Or said in a positive manner, learning good technique is the fastest way to improve your tennis.  Technique is defined as ball striking and movement.

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One must always evaluate one's technique. You can only improve your strokes if you consciously focus on them.

  • Does a player know he or she has flaws in their technique?
  • Does a player compare their technique to an appropriate model of good technique?
  • Has the player made a decision to start working on their technique? 

Unfortunately way too many players do not asses their techniques and so do not make the decision to improve with action steps and intention.  Some because of low desire, some because of bad information, coaching or advice or a lack of structured practice. 

However, after a player has worked on his or her technique with good coaching and they hit a great shot they tend to get very motivated! And this overflows to continue working on the shot and other shots.

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It is a great feeling when you get to the stage where you can hit a great shot without even thinking about it!  But what most people forget is that the players that have this feeling usually worked really hard for it for a long period of time with proper coaching!

Have you made the decision to start working on technique?

As Vic Braden clearly states, "you want the learner to be an independent thinker. Learning is only taking place when a child misses a shot and he or she knows why the shot was missed."

© GreatBase Tennis School of Wake Forest  2011