Tennis Blog

Josh’s Fresh Take: April 2018 Edition

Respect the Game

Coach and Communications Lead, Josh Martin, weighs in on topics in the world of tennis and shares his two cents.

Tennis can be one of the most frustrating sports to play. It is incredibly technical. We often do not see someone walk on to a tennis court without ever having played the sport, pick up a racket, and hit a 10-ball rally from the service line. It just does not happen. Even if you are one of the most talented athletes in the world, it is still incredibly difficult to get immediate success.

In other sports, if you are generally athletic you can get away with stepping on to the pitch and having a varying level of success pretty quickly. Soccer, football and softball, for example, all arguably fall in this category. I recently joined a soccer team with Urban Rec that is made up of generally-athletic individuals that have both played and never played before. Personally, I have not played a soccer game in over 12 years. As a team, we have a long way to go. Sure, we have lost all three of our matches and have only scored twice, but we don’t look completely hopeless out there. From my wealth of soccer knowledge, which is incredibly insignificant, the lack of success has more to do with our tactics rather than individual skill level. We have to learn not to scramble, to stick to our positions and to move up the field as a unit. My point is, in soccer if you are generally athletic, you should be a decent or semi-decent player relatively quickly. Some of you may disagree, but personally from my experiences in team sports this is how I feel.

Now back to tennis. Sure, having hand-eye coordination and being athletic is a BIG advantage, but that does not make the sport any easier to grasp. I have seen junior and adult beginner players come in and expect to start playing from the baseline, immediately thinking that they will be able to have cross-court, down-the-line, drop-shots and volley rallies, when in reality they can barely have a 5-ball rally from the service line. This is where the frustration begins.

To gain success at the fastest rate, it is often recommended for athletes to leave their rackets on the bench and to play “throw tennis”; using two hands to send the ball over the net, getting sideways before the ball bounces, following the toss through over the shoulder, and to be constantly moving by bouncing on the toes. These fundamentals that are instilled from “throw tennis” then carry over incredibly well to tennis. You give the athlete their racket back and all of a sudden they know they should be getting sideways, following through, getting set before the bounce, and so on.

Not many people realize how technical tennis is and within each fundamental there is a lot of work to be done, for example set-up, grip, impact point, recovery, and hitting-zone. Having realistic goals will get you where you want to be. If you are a beginner, start with a 5-ball rally from the service line, then advance to a 10-ball rally, and slowly progress to the baseline. Work on setting up from each shot before the ball bounces, recovering to your position, and making sure impact on your ground-strokes is at waist-level for every shot. By slowly working and practicing each fundamental, you will be at your goal in no time. And then you will want to improve something else by continuing to develop your skills and techniques to the best they can be.

But, by jumping these steps and not paying attention to close details within your game, you will further hinder your development. So my advice to you is to respect the game, focus on those fundamentals, and stick to realistic goals to avoid frustration.

Josh’s Fresh Take, signing off.

Josh’s Fresh Take: March 2018 Edition

The Art of Doubles

Coach and Communications Lead, Josh Martin, weighs in on topics in the world of tennis and shares his two cents.

Doubles is almost a completely different game – that is from singles tennis. There are so many complex layers that make it fun, intricate and did I mention fun? Often when I first introduce the format to beginner players, both adults and youth alike, they play in stationary positions; one up and one back for the entire point, game or set. Although this positioning might be effective in starting a point, to many people’s surprise, it is actually the weakest doubles position in the game. Do I have your attention yet? Yes, you read that right. All these years of playing one up and one back and you were doing it wrong. Well not wrong, but not exactly right. The main theme in doubles is to work as a team and move as a unit. You are a wall. Nothing can or will get past you, ideally. Whether you are serving or receiving, the number one thing that you want to do as a doubles unit is to approach the net. Obviously this has to be done at strategic times. Approaching the net is not always the answer, especially if you hit a weak shot to your opponents, the last thing you want to do would be to approach the net because they will pounce. If you are playing smart opponents, that is.

So now you are asking yourself, when do I approach the net? Well, it is simple. If you expect your opponents to make a weak shot or your opponents have already made a weak shot, this is the ideal time to approach and have two net players rather than one. This is where you can pounce on your opponents instead. So why is this the strongest position? As a net player you take away something from your opponents, and that is TIME. This may be one of the most important aspects in tennis as you need time to set up and prepare for each shot. By taking away time and volleying a shot rather than waiting for it to bounce and hitting it at the baseline, you put pressure on your opponents to quickly set up and prepare for the next shot. Even if you do not have the strongest volley, after a number of volleys your opponents are going to get tired as they do not have enough TIME to set up for the next shot. The next question that I get 99.99% of the time is “wouldn’t they just lob over us?” Yes, yes they will try. However, a perfect lob is one of the hardest shots to make in tennis. Most of the time they will try and lob and either hit it out of the court or not put enough power or height on to the it and that is exactly what you want while at the net as you can simply overhead smash it home. The perfect lob is a tough shot and if it does happen when you and your partner are at the net, make sure to give your opponents props as that probably will not happen again in your match. Do not let a lob deter you from staying at the net! Approach, approach, approach!

The second strongest position in doubles is the Spanish position, with both doubles players back at the baseline. This is where you would want to be if you are defending at any point or if you and your partner are particularly weak net players. At the baseline, you have the time and space to react to attacking balls and to defend more effectively than if you were both at the net. Remember when I mentioned you do not want to approach if you hit a weak short shot? This is exactly where you would want to go in that situation. Although this is the second strongest position, I still recommend coming to the net as you will have a higher chance of winning the point at the net rather than grinding it out at the baseline.

The weakest position, as mentioned earlier, is one up and one back. This formation, if you have not noticed, is not a wall. There are many pockets and gaps, particularly in the middle, that leave you and your partner vulnerable that are otherwise closed off if you are either both at the net or both at the baseline.

My final tip of the month is to not get stuck in your positions. Whether it is any of the formations that I have mentioned or different variations, for example Australian (look this one up), be mobile and communicate with your partner. If a ball goes over your partner’s head and you have to run to their side in order to retrieve it, be sure to yell “switch”. This way your net player, if they know what to do, will cut across to the other side to cover the side you left vacant. This is so simple yet rarely gets done with beginners. Use this tool to make life easier for you. And finally, to all the net players out there – poach! Cut across to intercept a cross-court ball, have your racket up and be ready to volley. I can’t stress enough that you can move out there. You are not stuck in mud. Jump around, run, side shuffle, cross-over, dive, battle! Leave it all out there. It is a great game and one that has many different layers. Get after it.

Josh’s Fresh Take, signing off.

Josh’s Fresh Take: February 2018 Edition

Sasha Boskovic, the Grizzly

Coach and Communications Lead, Josh Martin, weighs in on topics in the world of tennis and shares his two cents.

A few of the coaches and I often joke about how the inner spirit animal of our High Performance Director, Sasha Boskovic, is a grizzly bear; Intense, big, loud, and scary. Recently, I was given the opportunity to work alongside the grizzly bear himself. And let me tell you, he definitely is what is spirit animal suggests… and more. From day one of stepping on to Sasha’s court, I was immediately blown away by the sheer intensity of the class. There is absolutely no coasting or laziness as that would surely lead to push-ups, burpees, or suicides as a form of encouragement. No, these athletes are there to work hard from the get-go and right until the end. Every single class begins with a warm-up and stretching and then they get right in to their routine by finishing specific sets of high-intensity rallies, such as 100 on-the-rise shots from the baseline, 50 swinging volleys, or 50 slices with a partner. Every single set has a purpose. Once they finish their warm-up, they head right in to the next set of drills and they are usually more intense than the last.

After assisting Sasha in a few classes, I could see how effective his coaching style is with his students and how well they respond to the intensity. I became very curious of his coaching philosophy and decided to sit down with him and asked him a few questions. Below is our interview.

Q: What is the main message that you want to drive home to your athletes?

Sasha Boskovic: A lot of it is work hard and play smart. The wins come from your heart, your legs, and your mind, not from the actual technique you play with.

Q: Why is it so important for you to have a high-intensity program?

SB: Most of the time for kids playing in tournaments, there are different pressure environments. If they are not experiencing that pressure in practice, then it is hard to suddenly step up in a match and turn on your intensity when you have never been trained to do so beforehand.

Q: What is something that you’ve brought to the table here after your year at UBC?

SB: I think overall just the intensity from the kids and the different programs within the high performance levels. That and pushing different coaches, younger coaches in particular, to strive to better themselves on different levels than they were beforehand.

Q: What are your goals for this upcoming year?

SB: [To produce] as many national and international players as possible. Right now I believe we are at 5-8 national-level players. My goal by the summer is to have at least 10-15 and some of those starting to get ranked in the ITF’s (International Tennis Federation) and the Worlds, as well. I’m looking forward to this coming year.

 

And there it is! The grizzly bear himself. Be sure to take a peek at Sasha’s programs the next time you are at the Tennis Centre. His athletes are working extremely hard and the results are showing!

Josh’s Fresh Take, signing off.

Josh’s Fresh Take: January 2018 Edition

Intro to Doubles, Coach Steve Interview

Coach and Communications Lead, Josh Martin, weighs in on topics in the world of tennis and shares his two cents.

The man, the myth, the legend: Steve Moore. This month I had the opportunity to sit down with the man of the hour, who is the mastermind behind our new program, “Intro to Doubles Play (1.5-2.5)”. The program is now in full effect on Saturdays from 2:00pm-4:00pm. Moore explains the importance of the program, why beginner tennis players should join, as well as his own passion for the game and why he decided to become a tennis coach. Below is our interview.

Q: What led you to becoming a tennis coach?

Steve Moore: I got really in to the game as a teenager. I played a lot of sports at an early age but found tennis at about 13 years old. Once I improved my skills, I really enjoyed playing the game. When I was 16, I knew someone who was my age that was coaching at the time, and they encouraged me to do my first coaching course.

Q: What do you love most about being a coach?

SM: I love working with people and the satisfaction of seeing them improve at their game. I’ve been able to meet so many great people that I would never have met if I did not became a coach.

Q: How has your experience been coaching here at the UBC Tennis Centre?

SM: I’ve had an extremely positive experience coaching at the UBC Tennis Centre. The Centre always has such a great culture and positive people working there.

Q: Explain the Intro to Doubles program that you’ve introduced on Saturday afternoons.

SM: The Intro to Doubles program is designed for newer tennis players to test out their newly acquired skills from group lessons. Beginner and intermediary players get the opportunity to play doubles in a structured environment where they can learn positioning and doubles strategy. The group lessons are great for learning technical fundamentals for your game and this introductory program helps you put them all together in a game situation.

Q: Why is this important for beginner level players? How will this make them better tennis players?

SM: I think incorporating more play components in to your long-term development helps you improve at a more rapid pace. People that take lessons without playing outside of those lessons will have their tennis growth stagnant with a slow increase in their level.

To give you an example, in my first year of playing tennis I had about 4 group lessons in the summer and supplemented it by playing a lot outside of those lessons. The club I started at had supervised play twice a week for 2 hours and I went every week. In addition, I would call people and play matches with them. I recommend players coming out of the Adult 1.0 and Adult 2.0 Clinics to consider signing up for the Intro to Doubles program before signing up for their next set of lessons.

Q: What’s next for Steve Moore?

SM: I’m still trying to figure this one out for myself. I recently finished my business degree and I’m excited for new opportunities in the business world.

 

And there you have it. Steve Moore, everybody! If this program peaks your curiosity, I recommend speaking to our coaches (especially Coach Steve), checking out our Adult Programs webpage, or approaching the front desk for further details.

Josh’s Fresh Take, signing off.

Josh’s Fresh Take: December Edition

Tournaments are the best form of practice!

Coach and Communications Lead, Josh Martin, weighs in on topics in the world of tennis and shares his two cents.

With the recent addition of class-act, Steven Moore, to round out our coaching staff, it is quite apparent that our team is stronger than ever. We have coaches up and down the lineup that are incredibly passionate and dedicated in seeing our athletes improve their skill-sets. From our High Performance Director, Sasha Boskovic, who has recently revamped our High Performance programs – to Dana Radivojevic, who is managing our youth competitive programs – to Adult leads Jason Hilliard and Bob Exell – all the way to our Fundamental leaders Aneesa Heatherington, Greg Macken and Josh Martin, our athletes are in great hands!

Each week our leaders go on to the court and coach drills and exercises that help our athletes improve their skill-sets, while getting them familiar with competitive match play. We want our athletes to feel comfortable and have the confidence to enter tournaments outside of the UBC Tennis Centre. This is a message that has been instilled by our Tennis Director, JJ Mahony. Every lesson can be looked at as a practice for a match. Like any other sport, you practice during the week for your games on the weekend – tennis is no different. Building those skills during a lesson gives our athletes the necessary tools to put them to the test in a match against another opponent. By competing against other athletes in tournaments, individuals will only learn more about the game of tennis. They will learn different strategies of where to place the ball, what their opponents’ weaknesses are, and how to play a point under pressure, to name a few. These are all the intangibles that make up the sport that you can only really grasp when you play in a tournament. This is what we live for.

Those of you striving to become better tennis players, we recommend joining tournaments and getting that match-play experience. Talk to your coaches. Ask them how to get involved. This is where the passion for the sport really comes alive and shines. Go get it! You are in the driver’s seat.

Josh’s Fresh Take, signing off.

Josh’s Fresh Take: November Edition

Cue The Music

Coach and Communications Lead, Josh Martin, weighs in on topics in the world of tennis and shares his two cents.

I remember the first time I met Rebecca Marino. She was introduced to me from a friend of mine as someone who played Venus Williams at the US Open. For the first 10 minutes I thought they were pulling my leg, until a YouTube video was brought up. I was shocked that this individual sitting across from me took one of the best players in women’s tennis to a tie-break. Williams was quoted after the match saying, “It seemed like every time I had an opening she came up with a big serve, so I guess I know what it is like now playing myself”. This was all mind blowing, to say the least.

Shortly after having met Rebecca, I started my first year of coaching at the UBC Tennis Centre. As a rookie coach you often assist the leaders and get familiar with how the systems work and then after a term or two get given the opportunity to lead a class for yourself. It is the best approach to develop coaches so everyone can feel comfortable in front of people of all ages. In my first term of my first year, one of the coaches that I was paired with was Rebecca. I remember how intimidated I was stepping on court with her. There I was, a recreational tennis player coaching beside a former professional athlete that played a Williams sister at the US Open. What? How?

After the first couple of shifts coaching alongside Rebecca, the intimidation factor disappeared. I realized how down-to-earth she was and how passionate she is for giving back to the community.

Fast forward to summer of 2017, one of the last few days at our summer camps here at the UBC Tennis Centre there was rumblings going around that Rebecca was returning to the game. It was a rumor through the grapevine in the staff room that no one was sure about. This went on for a few days until finally I saw it for my own eyes. I was walking into the lobby from our staff room when I saw our Tennis Director, JJ Mahony, pushing a basket of balls beside Rebecca as they walked on to court in tennis attire. I stopped in my tracks and looked around to see if anyone else noticed. It was one of those scenes in an underdog movie with epic music in the background as the protagonist makes a comeback. Like Rocky Balboa in his famous training montage to Bill Conti’s song “Gonna Fly Now”. I was witnessing a movie in the making. Where is the popcorn?

After a four-year hiatus from the sport, it is no longer a rumor through the grapevine, it is official; Rebecca Marino is making a comeback. Cue the music.

Josh’s Fresh Take, signing off.

Josh’s Fresh Take: October Edition

Finding That Passion

Coach and Communications Lead, Josh Martin, weighs in on topics in the world of tennis and shares his two cents.

If there is one thing I’ve learned coaching tennis for the past three years, it is that coaching kids and coaching adults are completely different animals. For one, adults are less likely to misbehave during a lesson. Rather than hounding students to listen or stay on task, you can simply coach the actual skill and technique that you are trying to get across. Most of the time, in my experience, adults with some level of hand-eye coordination can apply that skill and leap frog ahead in their development in a single hour. It is amazing how fast I’ve seen adults start as a beginner and one or two months later are hitting 10-ball rallies from the baseline. Perhaps this is possible for the few outlier kids that grow up playing tennis, however it is not nearly as common. After all, kids are still growing mentally and physically and perhaps still figuring out if tennis is for them – which can be a major factor in development.

When coaching kids, one of the key learnings is building hand-eye coordination and reception skills, but most importantly the love and desire for the game. Without the latter, kids will not stay interested long enough to care about how to get better. They have to like the sport and have a passion for the game and then, and only then, can they buy into developing at a successful rate. They will not work hard or take it seriously if they do not care about the sport. As much as this sounds like a burdening task, it is where the coaches at the Centre come alive; where they inspire a culture that becomes a part of an individual’s life.

Greg Macken and Aneesa Heatherington are two coaches at the Centre that I’ve personally had the privilege to coach beside and learn from. I cannot think of a better example of coaches that grab your attention from the beginning of a lesson and hold it right to the end. Time and time again I’ve seen students that have never played tennis before walk into their class and completely buy in on day one; they are hooked. It is an are to help kids and adults alike find a love and passion for the game of tennis. This is something that I’ve taken in stride and tried to adopt in my coaching as well. It is a great feeling to see an individual find the passion and make a breakthrough on their development. Finally making that perfect set-up, snapping a serve 100 miles an hour, or getting the hang of the famous “loop”, which fellow coach Bob Exell has taught so many individuals. Oh yes, it is a wonderful sport. One that is on the rise in Canada, thanks to some great coaches across the nation and especially here at the UBC Tennis Centre.

Josh’s Fresh Take, signing off.

Josh’s Fresh Take: September Edition

How’s It Going, How’s It Going?

Coach and Communications Lead, Josh Martin, weighs in on topics in the world of tennis and shares his two cents.

Summer camps wrapped up last week here at the UBC Tennis Centre. We experienced a jam-packed July and August that went by incredibly fast. As a tennis coach, it is our duty to keep energy levels high so that campers can get the best possible experience. Exerting high levels of energy full-time for nine consecutive weeks can prove to be a difficult task. However, what makes this so much easier is working beside some of the most supportive individuals I have had the privilege of meeting. One of those individuals goes by the name of Coach Kenny. He was always there to answer questions, give you a supportive nudge on and off the court, and rock a Hawaiian shirt on “Hawaiian Fridays”. Kenny was the kind of coach that led by example, which in my mind is the best way to lead.

After a few years here at the UBC Tennis Centre, Kenny has moved on to pursue other endeavors. We wish Kenny all the best and his time here will not be forgotten. “Hawaiian Fridays” during summer camps will continue to live on for years to come.

On behalf of everyone at the UBC Tennis Centre, I would like to thank Kenny for not only being a great coach on court, but also a great coach off the court for individuals like myself that want to continue to learn how to be a strong leader.

Until next time, my friend.

Josh’s Fresh Take, signing off.

Josh’s Fresh Take: August Edition

The Relationships We Build

Coach and Communications Lead, Josh Martin, weighs in on topics in the world of tennis and shares his two cents.

Being a tennis coach is incredibly rewarding! Seeing the progress your students make through the course of a camp, series of lessons, or program is incredible. Watching them improve on a skill you are teaching, i.e. making perfect impact with the ball at waist level out in front getting properly set up to make a great groundstroke, or finally hitting a rocket serve, definitely brings it back full-circle. These progressions are re-assuring as a tennis coach in that we are helping our students improve as a player. However, what I think often goes unnoticed is the impact we have on athletes off the courts. From kids to adults alike, it’s the relationships we build that may be the most rewarding of all.

This past year many coaches, including myself, connected with a family that was here in Canada for a year. The parents and the children were involved in programs, private lessons, and were at the Tennis Centre nearly every day. We often joked that they lived here and couldn’t go a day without tennis. Naturally, over the course of the year many of us grew close with this friendly family, seeing them day-in and day-out, until eventually this lovely family moved back to Korea indefinitely. I didn’t realize how much of an impact I had on them until I received a card with some nice messages from the children. It was a nice moment to stop and think about the effect that you can have on another individual as a coach aside from the obvious of trying to help their technique on the court.

It is the thought of a bigger picture: the role and privilege that we have as an authority figure. By giving adults and children the recognition, confidence and support they need, they not only grow as a tennis player but also as a person. It is the relationships we build on and off the courts that makes this job so enjoyable.

Josh’s Fresh Take, signing off.

Josh’s Fresh Take: July Edition

Superstitious Habits? Do They Really Work?

Coach and Communications Lead, Josh Martin, weighs in on topics in the world of tennis and shares his two cents.

It’s funny how superstitions formulate for an individual. A form of eccentric routine that helps an athlete perform or rather gives them the confidence to perform at their best. Rafael Nadal is a walking example of superstitious habits. His famous tucking his hair behind his ears right before a big serve or that he needs two water bottles, one warm and one cold, during a match. In addition he also jumps non-stop during every pre-game coin toss and, my personal favourite, how he will not stand up from his chair until his opponent stands.

This past week, I had the chance to talk with fellow UBC Tennis Centre Coach, Dana Radivojevic, about some of her superstitious habits on and off the court. Some of which, like Nada, help Dana focus against her opponent and calm her nerves.

“What I used to do during my matches, specifically when it was time to pick up a ball for serving, was I would pick it up with my left foot and my racket. Once I did that, I would bounce the ball all the way back to the baseline about 5 to 10 times depending on how nervous I was. Once at the baseline, I would bounce the ball three times with my left hand and then I would serve. This was just a way that would help me focus and relax.”

This is the most interesting part of superstitious habits. They become part of a routine where individuals carry them out to focus and relax, just like Dana said. But are there other reasons as to why people carry out these habits? Can it be a form of OCD? Another habit of Nadal’s is the fact that he needs his water bottles diagonally placed facing the court with the labels pointed towards his side of the court. Is that really going to help his performance against the likes of Roger Federer? The angle of his water bottle label? In short, most likely. If this is part of Nadal’s routine and the labels were not facing the appropriate direction, it could serve as a distraction. Nadal’s focus would be taken away from the game until this was corrected.

It is fascinating really that there is so much going on inside an athlete’s head that one small superstitious habit not carried out could throw them off completely. In Dana’s case, she makes sure not to eat a lot of sugar when preparing for a match because of a previous experience.

“One time I had Nutella before a match and it completely threw me off. I played terribly. From that one experience, I created a routine to eat healthier instead, like eating eggs, or whole foods and nothing processed.

Did the Nutella that Dana had before that match really effect her performance that greatly? Perhaps, or perhaps not. At the end of the day, it doesn’t really matter. What matters is that Dana gets reassurance from cutting out sugar before a big match. Reassurance that a poor performance is unlikely to repeat. And that, my friends, gives confidence which is a huge aspect of any sport, especially in tennis.

Josh’s Fresh Take, signing off.