An Olympic Solidarity Coach’s Experience - Kagiso Kelebeile
As we extensively scrutinized the Spanish tennis system, I got to understand and believe that clay courts are very energy extensive, hence demanded a lot of hard work and systemized training. It is so amazing how everyone, from the top to bottom, play their part sincerely. It’s a system that links up very well and effectively across Spain. That is why it is not surprising why most of the best players come from Spain. It is sorely due to the intensity of training and all round understanding of the game.
We visited the Juan Carlos Ferrero Academy, The Center of high Perfomance (C.A.R), Barcelona Total Tennis Academy, Bruguera Academy and Sanches/ Casal academy. These are mostly private academies but the Government also plays a major part in the development of tennis in Spain. In Valencia alone the Spanish Community Federation has 11,000 licensed coaches, about 140 affiliated clubs and every week they run about 4 to 5 tournaments across Valencia. The Talented are given support to further improve their tennis.
In Madrid we met David Sanz who gave us a warm welcome and explained at length the structure of Real Federacion Espanola De Tenis (RFET). An advantage tennis has in Spain is that it is one of the popular sports. There are 19 regional federations, 40 private academies, 11 tennis performance centers, about 1500 clubs/private sports associations, over 7000 tennis courts, a high number of national and international tournaments and over 1,000,000 tennis players. The Development of tennis coaches is taken very seriously. One of the keys to success is a high number of tournaments for all age categories.
The development program is based on the regional federations training centers and high performance training center. There is active and strict supervision of under 12-16 players on site and during competitions. Best players selected are given full scholarship grants and sent to the car. There they balance studies and training. The recommended ratio of coach to players is 1 coach to 2 players as maximum. They base their training on applied sciences of sport, systematic periodization and ongoing review of goals.
At the Juan Carlos Ferrero Academy we were welcomed by Eva who was more than willing to share and explain to us the importance of dealing with mental toughness issues as a module of its own and the frequency at which it is to be emphasized. Most of the time, mental toughness distinguishes between a player’s success and their failure. Players should be able to control their thoughts, activations and stay focused. Goals should be performance based than outcome based. Nutrition is also very important. The physical and the mental should stay together. Body language must always be positive, players need a lot of guidance and support. It is easy for them to believe in themselves when somebody else believes in them.
Jose blessed us with his presence when we got to the C.A.R in Barcelona. He is one of the tennis lords behind Spanish tennis success. He is currently in charge of up to 100 A.T.P and W.T.A tournaments per year. He explained how tirelessly they worked and how much effort it took all of them to push Spanish tennis to where it is now. He said first what it takes is someone to make it then everybody believes and follows. The pace is set so players and coaches are motivated, inspired and competition is very high. They are aware of what it takes to be at the top, so by combining hard work, discipline and intensity, they complete the equation for success.
At the Bruguera Academy, Luis Bruguera`s philosophy is, don’t show me, but tell me what you want me to do. He said a lot of times coaches make a mistake by trying to show players how they want them to do. In the mind of a coach they have a shot of somebody e.g Federer, but what a player sees is coach`s mistakes. Players are different and that must be respected. Every player should be allowed to play like their role models. Put a player under a situation and let them react. The brain doesn’t have to accept too many things he said. If you talk too much, ask too much and correct players a lot the result is never good. A player must work on where they want to hit the ball, control, footwork and positioning. The problem is coaches and players want good shots. First you work on hitting the ball to a specific area and everything comes later. He says tennis is easy and it should be taught that way. Normally coaches complicate it by talking too much. Research has shown that 85% of players are visuals, 10% are auditive and 5% are both. So when you talk too much it is for 10% of players. He took us on court and demonstrated with players of different levels how to put them under a situation and have them do what you want without talking too much. He believes very much in the basket feeding. It is working just fine for him, he has a lot of players in the top 10 and top 100.
Some academies like the Sanchez/casal Academy don’t only focus on producing professional players and top players. They are also looking at the majority that will not make a living through tennis, but to use tennis to make it to good universities through scholarships and to play college tennis. They balance school and tennis and they chose an American school system because in America players have more possibilities and ways after they graduate to do a lot with tennis.
By Kagiso Kelebeile
Kasigo took part in the Olympic Solidarity Tennis Coaches Programme this summer in Valencia.