Tennis Blog

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.

Josh’s Fresh Take: June Edition

High Performance Director, Sasha Boskovic, Weighs In

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

Our new High Performance Director, Sasha Boskovic, has infused a surge of energy and life in to our High Performance programs with his high-demand and energetic coaching style. His voice can often be heard from 3-4 courts away and he always gets the most out of his athletes. On behalf of the Tennis Centre, it is a pleasure to have Sasha join our team as we look forward to the future. With that said, I had an opportunity to sit down with the man of the hour and discuss his passion for the sport as well as some nutritional advice that he wanted to share from his own past experiences.

Interestingly enough, Sasha brought to light his superstitious habits on match day as well as his ritual for the night before a match.

“I would have one full cup of Gatorade before every match. Once I was on court I would alternate between a full cup of water and a full cup of Gatorade to stay hydrated. I was very superstitious when I played. I would always have bananas throughout a match to keep my energy up. The night before, I would make sure to carb load with a lot of pasta and meat sauce to have energy for the next day. And before my matches I would eat a bit lighter with granola bars to try to get any kind of vitamins up.”

After speaking with Sasha, it was intriguing to hear about his superstitious habits as I am sure other coaches or athletes have some interesting habits of their own. It is known that Olympic runner, Usain Bolt, insists on eating chicken nuggets before every race. This is something that many dieticians would raise their eyebrows at, but hey, if it works then who is to say it is wrong? On that note, I’ll make sure to ask some other coaches here at the UBC Tennis Centre about their superstitious routines and include it in next month’s Fresh Take.

Here are some departing words from our new High Performance Director on why he loves coaching the game of tennis:

“When a kid I am coaching wins, it brings me more joy than when I used to win. Just seeing them succeed after the hard work that they put in and seeing the joy on their faces makes it all worthwhile for me.”

Josh’s Fresh Take, signing off.

Josh’s Fresh Take: May Edition

Perfect Practice Makes Perfect

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

It is amazing how the fundamentals of tennis stick with us throughout our tennis career, but they are not skills that you actively think about during a match. As one of the tennis coaches at UBC, we stress the fundamentals to our students to help develop their game. Some of these fundamentals include the ever-important impact point, set-up, hitting zone, recovery, and the different grips for each stroke. To think about all the fundamentals at once is overwhelming when you are playing, but when your game is off and you are skanking balls off the court, it is beneficial to focus on a specific one.

I hit for the first time in weeks the other day and noticed I wasn’t quite getting what I wanted with my shots. Either they were just going out, or coming up short and hitting the net. Instead of just playing out the points with my opponent, I tried to focus on my set-up; getting my feet set and body sideways before the ball bounced on my side of the court. This meant that I could not be lazy, but instead had to be quicker in order to get set properly. By focusing on this, I could control more of my shots and place my opponent from side-to-side with less difficulty. It ultimately kept me in the game and I was able to win some points.

I am not necessarily saying that everyone needs to work on their set-up in a match. I just believe that it is beneficial to have a specific focus or goal during a match. The old quote “perfect practice makes perfect” comes to mind. Having something in particular to strive for will go a long way. Try it out, and if you are already doing this, try focusing on other fundamentals or skills next time you hit the courts.

Josh’s Fresh Take, signing off.

Josh’s Fresh Take: April Edition

Tennis: The Mental Battle

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

It is no secret that tennis is a mental game. Perhaps one of the most out of any other sport. In a singles match, there is no one else to rely on but yourself; no teammates to support you, no one to take the blame for your mistakes… just you. This might be one of the most difficult aspects of the sport to overcome. As a tennis coach, I often see how this affects the young athletes that come up through our programs here at the UBC Tennis Centre. I notice how the pressure in a match to win a point or an audience watching from the sidelines can completely change the way someone performs. A serve that has, until now, been of second nature is suddenly being watched by other people. It is amazing how that serve can change so drastically once an athlete pays attention to every single detail: the toss, the impact, the constant thoughts running through their mind, or perhaps trying to impress someone in the audience. Of course, this is the case for any sport, but I believe it is much more heightened with tennis as you are the lone soldier facing off against another lone soldier. A mental battle.

Recently, I was coaching teen fundamentals during our Spring Break Camps along with fellow co-worker Bob Exell, who is not only an incredible tennis coach but an incredible player as well. As we were heading off court, one of the students approached Bob with frustration. She was concerned with how to control her emotions while playing in a match, as she would get frustrated and angry when she made a mistake. Bob calmly mentioned that it is important to stay positive and that it is incredibly easy to let mistakes and negativity spiral your game out of control. He then said something that I will never forget. He said, with a chuckle I might add, “one more thing, as you’re walking away tell yourself, ‘I am in control’, and take a deep breath.”

Like I mentioned earlier, tennis is a mental game and it is important to learn from your mistakes. But I think it’s almost more important to not let those mistakes get to you; learn from them and move on. Re-assure yourself with positive thoughts, especially in the middle of a match. And like Bob, use a simple phrase to remind yourself that you are in control. It will go a long way.

Josh’s Fresh Take, signing off.

Our Sport Facilities are hiring!

Looking for something to do this summer? Look no further than the south side of campus!

We’re still looking for a couple of quality students to join our Facility Operations student staff teams at the following facilities:

  • UBC Baseball Indoor Training Centre
  • Doug Mitchell Thunderbird Sports Centre
  • UBC Tennis Centre

To apply, log in on Careers Online and search for jobs under ‘Athletics and Recreation.’

Applications are open throughout April! 

Josh’s Fresh Take: March Edition

Can Other Sports Make You a Better Overall Tennis Player ?

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

From coaching athletes for the past two years ranging in age from 3 to 70, one of the biggest realizations I’ve had is how playing other sports, besides tennis, dramatically improve your game. Time and time again there have been beginner tennis players that sign up for tennis, pick up a racket, and by the end of the first lesson are rallying consistently over the net. This is regardless of the program or their age. Red, orange, green, youth, teen, and our adult clinics; I’ve seen it in all of these levels. These players often have an “athletic look” or generally seem like athletes. Recently I started asking questions, “how can this be? This player has barely touched a racket, how are they so quick to pick up this technically-difficult sport?”.

I asked nearly everyone that surprised me in terms of expectations for a beginner. I found that these specific players have played, or are currently playing, other sports such as hockey, soccer, basketball, volleyball, badminton, etc. These sports all develop athletes in their individual ways and generally help with coordination as well as an active body. They also prepare players to constantly be ready to react to a quick movement whether it’s taking a wrist shot in hockey, hitting a home run in baseball, or fast footwork in soccer. These aspects directly translate to the tennis courts as these players are coming in with a high level of hand-eye coordination and sense of their surroundings and body. This makes learning the game of tennis incredibly easier than it would if they never played another sport.

Personally, as a hockey and tennis player I’ve seen some direct translations between the two sports in a fascinating way. I play with a left-handed hockey stick and in tennis I hit a backhand with both of my hands on the left side (as I would for hockey). I’ve always found that my backhand in tennis had a lot more control and power than my forehand and never really thought about the reasoning. This was until I started noticing the same in some of the students I coach, whom after asking all had the same background: hockey. Because of the countless hours of handling a puck, passing, and shooting using both hands in another sport, you ultimately develop more control and strength on that side which translates over to the backhand in tennis.

So for all you beginners out there that are interested in playing tennis, remember that you can improve your tennis game by not only playing tennis! There are many other skills that translate over to the game that will only make you better. Juggle a soccer ball in your spare time, run sprints at the track, shoot pucks at a net, get out there… and make sure you always stay fresh.

Josh’s Fresh Take, signing off.


Ps. If you have any personal experience of playing other sports that translate over to the game of tennis, email us your stories! We would love to hear from you.