Good players are able to extract the maximum out of their lessons. While the coach is here to set up the format, themes and expectation, the outcome is very much a player-driven. The player will be the one who decide how much he/she will get out of the session through focus, motivation and attitude towards learning.
As per the book "Peak" by Anders Ericsson and Robert Pool which looks at how the best performers in their fields reach mastery, the type of practice as a major impact of your progress.
It should be quality of training before quantity. Here are some of my top tips to make the most of your session whether it is practice session, private or group training.
1- Prepared yourself for a great session
Take a few minutes to prepare for your session and think about how much you want to get out of it. Think about your Motivation, your goals so you fill up with motivation.
2- Practice Gratitude before you step on the court.
Take 2 minutes to think about 3 things you are grateful for so you don't take your session for granted but you truly value your time on the court. This is very powerful and a great way to be good in the right positive mindset before you get on court.
3- Warm up and Get into your high performance zone before the session.
For coaches, it is very easy to see the difference between players who arrived on the court focused and ready to perform. Make sure you do a good physical warm so you don't need to take much time of your session to warm up and reach full intensity. Most importantly, while doing your physical warm-up, get into your focus mode. Getting into your high performance zone requires conscious practice. You can't expect to just jump on the court and play great tennis. You need to switch to your high performance mode and start focusing on your session before you step in. Think about what you learned in your last session, what you're working on at the moment so you step on the court hungry to learn and ready to perform. Good players do that automatically without being asked and whether they have a private lesson or just a practice with someone.
On the other hand, we see players who are late or just wait for their session sitting on the bench like they're waiting at the dentist. This is a very passive mindset which usually does not translate into a great performance.
4- Get your basics right at the start.
Now that you have warmed up and got yourself into your athlete zone, you can get strong straight away on your fundamentals straight away so you can build up for a great session. instead of going full on straight away, focus specifically on Foot work, intensity and consistency or whatever is your particular focus at the moment. Be specific, don't just get on court and hit balls without clear focus or goals, that's not quality practice and it will not bring you any close to where you want to be.
5- Get yourself in the driver's seat.
Don't see yourself in the passive position, waiting for the coach instruction, instead see the coach-player as a teamwork towards reaching excellence. Be a good listener and give direct feedback to your coach about your performance, your learning, your challenges. What we see is the better the players are, the more they take control of their own development, the coach is here to assist along the way, brings his knowledge and support the player in his development. Discuss your development with your coach so it makes sense to you and you can buy into the process.
6- Focus on the "process" and get ready to be challenged.
This is a very common things coaches say but it has a clear meaning. Focus on your development instead of focus on just winning or losing. The main goal of a practice session or lesson should be to develop your competencies, particularly at a younger age. As a consequence, players should get in the session with a focus on their development: I want to learn, I want to try things, I am ok with making errors and fix problems, i am ok with being challenged and I am ready to give my best no matter what. Remember the idea of session with a coach is to stretch your abilities to the next level. As such, your coach will often train you out of your comfort zone where you can either learn new skills or reinforce your existing skills. Be ready to push the boundaries of what you are capable of. A good training session is rarely an easy session. It requires challenging you constantly close to your max in order to get the most of yourself and that's hard. Be ready for it. In a private session set up, you better keep your session shorter but keep the quality high.
7- Value every second on the court. Teach yourself to be consistent in your efforts.
Want to build consistency in your performance, Well you need first to build consistency in your training and that happens being prepared ( see steps above) and being valuing every minutes, every seconds, every shots on the courts. "every shot counts" from the first ball in the warm up to the last. How can you expect to deliver consistency of performance in a competitive situation if you can't deliver it in a training session? Make good use of your resting time, between points and activities so you can refresh and re-focus. Avoid time wasters such as spending too much time picking up balls. Most of your session time should be on practicing a particular skill, with your coach, listening to your coach, provide your feedback and active recovery between points.
8- Recap the session and take your learning with you.
You have just spent a very valuable time on the court with your coach ( or with another player) where you have been able to learn (with a coach), develop/practice a skill and/or challenge yourself. Take that valuable learning with you. Your coach will often leave you with a few key learning points ( for example, some specific focus points on your serve/forehand/volley) or if you have worked for example on Patterns of play. I personally used to have a Tennis notebook where i would write all my key points, my non-negotiable on my serve, my key focus points if my Forehand/backhand break down. They're often the same focus points and it will make a huge difference if you are able to remember them and practice it in a match when you're by yourself. So i recommend you create your own tennis cheat-sheet so you can look at before and during a practice/match so you feel your learning is always with you even if your coach is not around.
So to recap, here is what a player who wants to get the most of a session looks like:
1- He/she 's focused on the session before the start by remembering why the recent training. He/she 's prepared to perform before the start (reminder about Motivation (why am I here training) practice gratitude, remember the current learning focus points (
via a notebook)
2- He/she's physically warmed up and mentally ready by getting into the zone. ( "I am now an athlete getting ready for a high performance session").
3- He/she's ready to be challenged and focus on the process (growth mindset). ready to push the boundaries of what he/she's capable of.
4- He/she's focused on getting a strong start by focusing on getting the fundamentals right: technique, intensity, attitude, growth mindset, consistency sounds like a recipe for success.
5- He/she takes control of the training along with the coach, being actively involved in the development process, discussing and understanding the type of training with the coach.
6- He/she value every second on the court, "Every shot counts". He/she keep track that the expectations are met consistently (consistency of performance). No complacency.
7 - He/she absorb the learning through feedback from the coach as well as its own feedback loop, take ownership of that learning and take it home. Take 5 minutes at the end to assess the session, write the key learnings in the book and practice them in his/her own time.
Please practice that in your next few sessions, and see how it will make a difference in your progress.