My observation suggests that adults teach infants to behave on occasions in a dramatic & exaggerated manner. Behaviour is rather loud & extravagant as young children are encouraged to develop an ever increasing range of physical skills.
Initially, walking is a major conquest – but there is no shortage of assistance – numerous people willing to hold each hand in order to support weight that the infant is struggling with.
Every gain (or every attempt) is greeted with raucous applause – every child (maybe more so in really caring families) is led to believe that they are performing feats of enormous magnitude – running faster, jumping higher or throwing further than any other human being on the planet.
Tennis provides a whole new stage for performing – a whole new range of skills to dramatise. Result: young children generally playing on a full size court, logically having enormous difficulty covering the area become desperation machines – diving to short balls & wide balls, jumping in vain to anything & everything that flies over their head but in fact reaching very little.
Question: Is the effort genuine? ie Is it the best effort possible to reach that particular ball or is it often an example of “false desperation”? ie In the mind 100% effort but in reality an action that can’t possibly be successful.
Example: How many times do we see, not just young children but often quite skilled adults, lunge desperately (often associated with a very audible groan) only to be passed, when a couple of controlled steps would have created the opportunity to play a relatively easy shot.
My experience suggests that once the player is made aware of the above, they quickly realize the inefficiency of many of their actions & immediately set about making more genuine attempts.
The most obvious examples of this “F D Syndrome” tend to occur on anything that is hit out of reach – eg quite a friendly lob can be missed completely (smash) only to be followed up by an attempt to turn, run backwards & retrieve the ball with a back to front over the head hook shot. Surely if the lob was good enough to beat a genuine desperate attempt to smash then it could not be possible to recover from the attempt & then go & successfully retrieve the ball.
Short balls provide another excellent opportunity to exhibit “FDS” – dozens of times a day I see players battle unsuccessfully to “dig up” a half court ball when a simple skill test with a much shorter ball proves that the player is easily physically capable of chasing down the original ball.
I frequently find myself talking to players about how I trust them to “intend to put in 100%” to reach a challenging ball while at the same time challenging them with the concept that with a 100% planned & structured effort they may well have reached that particular shot comfortably.
South Australian Peter Smith has 40 years experience as a Teaching Professional. Twice voted Australian Tennis Coach of the year, Peter is most widely known as the long term coach of Lleyton Hewitt. He has, however, worked with a long list of other players including former World Number 1 Doubles player and current Australian Davis Cup Captain John Fitzgerald who says, “There is a great argument to say that Peter Smith has had more influence than any coach in Australia in the past two decades in terms of producing world class players”.
Peter is the Head Coach of the Peter Smith Tennis Academy in Adelaide, South Australia
Peter has recently released an instructional DVD “The Development Stage” (also available to download in individual sections or as a complete set) – details can be found at www.virtualtenniscoach.com. This website also contains FREE 10 day coaching course and interviews with a selection of Peter’s former pupils.