Tennis and a great coaching moment

Tennis and a great coaching moment

We’re doing an experimental home schooling year.  The goal is to allow our children to follow their passions in a focused, deliberate manner and use that passion to build tangential skills.  They are still in a normal school curriculum, but homeschooling allows us to tackle the requirements in about half the time.  My daughter, Kemper, has decided that this year her first focus/passion is going to be tennis.

Today she asked if I’d take her to the courts so she could work on stoke technique.  I thought we’d be hitting balls, but when we got there, she grabbed the ball cart and told me I’d be standing a few feet in front of her and dropping balls for her to hit.  Her tennis coach, Gabby, was there and she came over and coached me on how to correctly set up the shot, and then watched Kemper’s stoke.

It’s a perfect deliberate practice loop.  A controlled environment, immediate feedback on how the shot turns out, and outside feedback from a coach.  Kemper hit a couple hundred shots.

In watching Kemper’s backhand, I was surprised at the grip she was using.  I asked Gabby, her coach, and she explained it’s the best practice for numerous reasons.  I didn’t believe it,  the hands were rolled back on the handle and were separated by about an inch.  When I swing a backhand they’re basically overlapping.  I played baseball and use the same grip.

I wanted to understand  the logic behind that grip and Gabby handed me a racket and asked me to hit a few backhands my way.  The same drill Kemper was doing, ball, drop, hit.

I hit in two of five balls with three sailing high.  She had me change the grip.  The next four  backhands were the best I’ve ever hit in my life.

It was one small change, it was immediate.

I was on the other side of my favorite moment in coaching.

It was so simple and beautiful, I thought I should deconstruct the moment.

  1. Gabby is one of the best tennis players in Costa Rica.  She’s put in the time to have a deep understanding of the game.
  2. She’s studied best practices.  And her level allows her to differentiate between good and better.
  3. Instead of engaging in a discussion about the grip, she just handed me the racket.  Those few hits changed my mental model of a backhand.  The most powerful models are ones that we’ve experienced.  We first model others, but once we’ve accomplished the action, we can replace the outside model with personal experience.  A much deeper model.

Tomorrow I’m going to start jamming on deconstructing paddle surfing.  Specifically I’m deep in the understanding of stability in negative float boards.  I’m learning it’s all in the transitions…  stay tuned.



Choosing the right mental models

Choosing the right mental models

Make sure that you’re basing your training on the correct mental models.  If you’re riding a big fat fish you won’t be able to successfully model Mo on his normal board.  Mo doesn’t surf the fish the same way he surfs his shortsups.   Modeling Keahi’s video from Indo won’t correlate to surfing a 2ft. beach break.  The featured photo in this post isn’t a good model if you’re surfing a 8 x 32 board.

Requirements for a good model in paddle surfing:

  • Board needs to be similar in size and shape
  • Waves needs to be similar size and form
  • Surfer should have a similar style to your surfing.
Examining Mental Models and the Beliefs they Create

Examining Mental Models and the Beliefs they Create

Knowingly or unknowingly we model people, behavior, and skills.  We accept some of the models and reject others.  Either decision can result in a pattern and repeated enough will become a habit.  Habits over time can become beliefs.  Beliefs are hard to change.

3 years ago this video became my aspiration in paddle surfing.

I bought the JP 7.4, downloaded the song and modeled the surfing.

I’ve made this statement multiple times over the last 2 years –

“JP’s don’t really do rail turn.”

Today, while coaching, I decided to ride the JP.  I like the float and it’s easy to demonstrate paddle technique.  I always pick off a few waves during a session.  I gave zero thought to my surfing or what board I was riding – normally I have an intention.

I’ve been spending a lot of time on the Infinity lately, and defaulted to “Infinity lines.”  After a couple waves I realized I was drawing tight rail turns.

I journaled a few weeks ago about mustering rail turns on the JP, but that was with a ton of thought.  Consciously changing the way I was surfing.  Today was different.  It just flowed.  I was surfing the board with lines meant for a different board, and they worked.

What the f#$%?

I held a belief that JP’s don’t do rail turns.  Where did that belief come from?

I modeled Keahi, specifically the above video, to learn to surf the JP.  In the video Keahi does exactly one frontside slingshot rail turn (and not a great one at that).  Much stronger are his lip smashes and tail slides.  I spent hours modeling them.  Breaking down technique and recreating the turns.  But never once modeled a rail turn for the board.

The model of surfing like Keahi in that video turned into the pattern of top-to-bottom and slidey surfing.

The habit of surfing the board in that manner created the belief that JP’s don’t do rail turns.

All it took was surfing it like it was an Infinity,  and the board behaved differently. (When I modeled surfing Infinities and Hobies I’ve modeled rail surfing – Colin and Boehne)

This has me a bit mental at the moment.  I was certain and have argued that JP’s don’t do rail turns.  But, in fact, it was my model for surfing the JP didn’t do rail turns.

There are a few lines of thought I’m going to pursue – I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.  I’m exploring this in real time…

  1.  How does this apply to coaching.  Normally we start with the behavior.  X isn’t correct, you need to do Y. This is telling someone a belief is flawed.  Would a better approach be to go back to the beginning and ask where did the model for X come from?  Then switch that model for a better model, which should then eventually change the behavior.
  2. What are other beliefs that I currently hold that are based on flawed or incomplete models?
  3. Examining the beliefs held by surfers of paddle surfing.  What models created those beliefs and what new models do we need to create to replace the old models?

That’s just the beginning.  Think about personal, non-surfing beliefs.  Parenting… The rabbit hole is deep.