There are very good discussions in some facebook groups about non linear (implicit) and linear (explicit) coaching in tennis. While we have a lot of studies about implicit learning in sports like basketball, cricket and volleyball, there is still a lack of targeted research in tennis. At the same time accustomed truths beginn to waver. Methodical traditionalism with clear statement to „technique coaching first“ is no more the only way to coach, yes it is heavily critisized. Action approach and game based learning are essential elements in the Play and Stay concept of the ITF and of national tennis associations all over the world with changing constraints like balls, fields, rackets, rules and more. But there is coming up a confrontation between the representatives of a „both is possible“ and those who plead for the purity of implicit learning.
In any case there are some clues that indicate the need to overthink traditional explicit coaching that has a primarly focus on the players technique. With some other coaches (in tennis and other sports) and with the experience of 20 years of daily coaching with up to 100 players in one week, I share the idea, that we should prefer implicit coaching to develop individual technique to avoid the disadvantages of an explicit and linear approach.
The existing studies about motor learning with accent on implicit coaching with all its sidearms (see the illustration „evidence-based coaching“ ) suggest that we should change consequently to a non-linear pedagogy in sports and skill acquisation.
And things are in motion and coaches are interested in this new access. But there are other interesting reviews to be discussed.
Here an wonderful example for this disput in the exciting group „Tennis.Haus“, following on Matt Kuzdubs link to an article about Nonlinear Pedagogy. It throws a light on these different views and the need for more research and perseverance.
Mark Valladares: Great insights, thanks for posting.
Davor Dekaris: Matt Kuzdub as always great stuffRazvan Iliescu: I’ve known about this method for a couple of years now, as it has been presented at a national tennis congress in Germany. I have been working for 16 years mainly with kids and juniors. My opinion is that the results of this method can be positiv only on very short term. It can be helpful only if a player understands or has a sense himself of the bio-mechanical needs of a ground-stroke. My experience reveals: every young player needs a very clear picture of the standard ground stroke he is about to make.
A player must accept that his foot-work has to be on time, flexible and spot-on, improvisations being allowed only in emergency situations.Mark Valladares: I think it helps to understand the importance of not being dogmatic nor monolithic in our technical approach and to understand importance of neuroscience in learning, that in precise skill acquisition there has to be room for nonlinear processes to inform the overall development. What the study indicates is how other attributes of innovative problem solving might be compromised.Paul Beach: Obviously a longitudinal study is required to validate results through to adulthood and differing standards then – hopefully some are pros. However, the massive variance in serves on the WTA tour, with many hitches and idiosyncratic moves trying to ove…Jeremy Reynolds: I feel you can combine both approaches into the developmental plan. I don’t feel it’s an „either/or“ type of deal. Each component of the training is equally important and symbiotic with the other. Great information!Frercks Hartwig: I’m not sure?. If I work evidence based, I should do this consequently. If I have coached traditionally, I change methodes slowly. But in an NP or implicit coaching not everything is new. Most of the coaches use elements of it, perhaps without knowing.Ionut Beleleu: You have to teach beginners the technique fundamentals otherwise a 10 year old will have a hard time developing a solid technique that will allow him to play at a high level…most of them will develop funky shots and then it will be hard to change those habits later on…at 10 years of age you will not understand all the shots that need to be executed at a pro level therefore a 10 year old will have a limited understanding of shot selection and what is the most efficient way to execute certain shots (because they don’t have a lot of experience)…they might find ways to execute a shot when the ball is coming slow (at a 12 and under level)…however, that does not mean that the technique will stand (be consistent) when it needs to be executed at a faster pace (pro level)…coaches need to have a very solid understanding of technique and bio-mechanics and be able to teach great shot fundamentals in the simplest possible way (not to make it boring for a 10 year old)…after the key fundamentals are in place then they can have their own unique way of hitting shots and make slight adjustments from there…in my opinion, there needs to be a balance between liner and non-linear approaches…it’s a combination of the two…if you closely watch the top 100 ATP players hit forehands you will see that everyone has their own unique way of hitting the ball but most of them have certain things in common (things that are very important)Frercks Hartwig: No! Sorry Ionut Beleleu. I agree with you in many points, i.g. that coaches should have a very solid understanding of bio-mechanics to understand what is happening. But so many studies say that there is a better way than teaching tennis explicit and technical. Wolfgang Schoellhorn, a scientist who made wonderful research about implicit and differencial learning in sports always reminds at brazilian soccer players, learning the game in the streets. Remember Björn Borg or Andre Agassi, developing an nearly anarchistic approach. It would be a very long story to talk about all the studies and facts. If you want you can have a look on www.innercoaching-blog.de .Ionut Beleleu: Frercks, tennis should be taught technically, tactically, mentally and physically…nobody said that it should be taught only in a technical way…but the technique is part of it and it should be taught as well…I agree that there are more ways to achieve a tactic…some ways are more efficient than others…some ways work at 10 and under but probably don’t work so well at the ATP level…why not introduce kids to the the ways pros do it as well…then let them decide for themselves which way is better…how can you know how well a kid hits a ball when he is not compared with himself but with others (like in this study)?? Studies like this include a lot of assumptions…the kids are based in groups based on similar height and weight…what about their talent and athletic level? Nobody knows those things…it is assumed that they are at the same level and then we draw a conclusion…the study size is too small to draw a conclusion that the talent and athletic levels will cancel out after a certain number…moreover, any kid should be compared to himself to really see what is the most efficient way to hit the ball…yes, the kids need to try more options to hit a ball in a certain target and know that they have those options available anytime…but they also need to be taught some options…then the player can choose…like I said, tennis should be taught in both non-linear and linear ways…this study only presents either/or…plus, this study was made on 21 girls separated in 2 groups (11 and 10)…nobody knows what was the girls‘ athletic ability at the time of the study…some more naturally talented and athletic girls would probably execute better no matter in which group you would put them…that’s one aspect of it…another aspect is that the speed of the ball hit is not measured…one can just push a ball with a continental grip towards the target and get it closer to it than if another would hit a full topspin shot that will go faster (because that was the shot that she was taught)…what if the study included a combination of the two approaches, then what would we get? I think that a 3rd group should’ve been included as well…tennis is a complex sport and to say it is best to be taught only in one way (non-linear) I think it’s superficial…a combination of approaches has to be used in order to achieve the desired results and those decisions have to be made based on careful and knowledgable observation of a coach…we can debate all day about those things but at the end of the day the coach needs to have a variety of tools in his arsenal and use those depending on the needs of the player…some players can’t really figure out certain things on their own and they need more guidance than others…you can’t say non-linear is the only way…just like you can’t say that linear is the only way…coaches that developed high level players would tell you that they used both approaches…take Robert Lansdrop for example…he worked with a lot of high level players (including a few world # 1s)…he is teaching his players solid technique that will allow them to execute tactics that work on the pro tour…there are so many juniors that stop improving around 14-15 years old because their technique is very limited…they can put the ball in the court in many ways but not with the most power and control due to their lack of solid technique fundamentals…who cares if you can make the ball in at 10 years old and be accurate with a self-discovered technique if you can’t do anything with it after 15 years old? I’m not saying there should not be self discovery (I believe self-discovery is crucial to the development of a player) but that should start from a base (not from nothing)…last thing, soccer and tennis are different sports and the technical aspect is different too (I think we would agree that tennis is more technical than soccer) …let tennis players play on the streets or recreational parks and see what you get… I will bet with you that the soccer kids will look a lot better playing the sport than the tennis players because they need less technical skill to be able to play at a good level…this article is great and it should be used to add to the coaching and not to take over and be the only way that coaches teach.Isaac McBroom: Quality technique can absolutely be taught by careful manipulation of the environment to create a response by the athlete to the changing stimuli. Non linear does not mean non technical.Ionut Beleleu: Partly. But not without some repetitive model based manner as well. You have to see which way gives the player the best results (I personally think a combination of the two would be best). The art of a coach is to find out what works best for the player. I guess we have to disagree a bit on this one.Frercks Hartwig: Ionut Beleleu, Isaac McBroom. Thank you very much for your posts. Ionuts arguments are very important and still science about non-linear pedagogy needs to be expanded. But it seems that NLP, what includes implicit learning, has a lot of benefits. You become a good player with explicit learning, but it has some disadvantages.Matt Kuzdub: Isaac McBroom thank you!! Not only the environment, but the coach can create constraints to the task and the individual in order to elicit a technical change. NLP argues that repetition is still ok (i.e. basket feeding) as long as there is a certain amount of variability…this is termed „repetition without repetition“.Ionut Beleleu: Frercks Hartwig, remember that what I’m saying is that we should include both in our teachings…should not be only one or the other…both are needed…in your comment above you seem to promote that what I’m saying is that one should teach solely linear method (which includes explicit learning)Ionut Beleleu: Both methods have their own benefits and that’s why we should combine them to get what’s best from each of them…the art of a coach will come into play to make it fun/enjoyable for kids using both waysIonut Beleleu: Matt Kuzdub, you are basically saying what I’m saying just playing with the terms there…thanks for the post!
Matt Kuzdub: Yes I think it’s a matter of defining both terms appropriately. Thanks Ionut, enjoyed your inputs!