Modern vs. Conventional  

On August 24th a Wall Street Journal article was written by Tom Perrotta that throws tennis development back into the old misconceptions and conventional techniques that only have about 15% success (as measured by coaches on the ability to rally consistently).

Tom Perrotta quotes renown coaches as supporting his views, but I recall, from listening to Nick Bollettieri at La Quinta, California, in a USPTA Convention presentation, that Nick has changed his mind quite a bit from his beliefs from the past.

Judging from this, I am not sure if Perotta’s quotes about other coaches he mentions are up to date.

The Wall Street Journal article

This article is quite opposite (and opposed) to what I preach, the Play Like the Pros motto.  I developed my techniques because they are the easiest for kids and for amateurs of any age.  Effortless, natural tennis for beginners.  Great for the body.  Over 90% success.

These modern techniques are the reasons why top players succeed.  Regardless of whether these marvelous champions discovered them as a result of practice, or whether coaches taught them, it is clearly the reason for their success.

Why shun these great examples of ease and naturality?  Don’t people copy, in all other sports, the top performers?  The best athletes in their field?

Perrotta’s Wall Street Journal article not only shuns copying pros but also recommends techniques which stunt development.  It’s a century old debate.  Who will win?

Eventually, the one that works better, or to put it more simply, the one that works….  But these developments need to be know.  Please pass the knowledge along.

Oscar Wegner, TennisTeacher.com

Comments (5)
  1. Matthew C.Pangborn Reply

    Great analogy and in my personal learning and teaching techniques I believe that there is room for both. I still teach some of the methods that were introduced to me. but I now include more of the modern methods of training which I feel broadens the skill set enhancing consistency and overall durability. Start with old school and add the modern style of play. Just my opinion!

    1. Oscar Wegner Reply

      That is close to the same as Bollettieri’s viewpoint. I don’t agree, but hard to contradict Nick.

      What if you had started modern without any other input? What do you think would have been the results?

      Nice question, right? You need to mull it over and perhaps try it with some of your young ones.

      Regards,, Oscar

    2. Oscar Wegner Reply

      Matthew. if you start the students with modern tennis from the first day, you’ll have faster and better results.
      Best wishes, Oscar

  2. Luke O’Loughin Reply

    Hello Oscar,

    Regarding the comment “there is room for both” (Mr.Pangborn), I’d suggest VERY little of what we all learned years ago applies in todays game. Lets agree that although ‘basic points of contact’ and ‘hitting through the ball’ still apply, many other elements in todays game almost completely debunk traditional methodologies.

    I still remember your very basic (but effective) approach to making good contact with the ball (from the late nineties) started with “find and finish”. That meant to find where the ball is to make good contact and allow the racquet to naturally finish where it feels most comfortable. Oh and you also said to “Relax”, which we know is a hallmark of incorporating modern swings combined with fluid movements/footwork patterns.

    Lets review some of the canned phrased we heard when we were learning the game; ‘firm up you grip’; ‘keep your eyes on the ball’; ‘bend your knees’; ‘step forward’ (on every shot); ‘don’t hit off your back foot’; ‘stop your racquet at the target’ (can you say TENNIS ELBOW) ; ‘aim for the baseline/corners’; ‘aim low over the net’; ‘hit to this target’ (usually a small unrealistic area that does not take into account applicable speed/spin/angle/height and position of self and/or opponent)…

    After more than 25 years of coaching, I recently took on two students in a semi-private setting and have seen tremendous improvement because of their combined embracing of ‘modern’ principles. Once they gave me permission to ‘TRY’ to do what the pros do, the results were almost immediate.

    One of the keys to unlocking the ‘modern potential of a player’ is first achieved by ‘Breaking the Chains’ (USPTA 2002 Las Vegas Coaching Conference O’Loughlin/Krimbill) which at its core suggested that the modern principles of strokes and all associated movements were more bio-mechanically natural when employing modern techniques. ‘Breaking the Chains’ also suggested that NO COACH was/is responsible for the way the game is played today. Moreover, it is the PLAYERS THEMSELVES who have always provided coaches with the most updated templates to work with. It’s only in recent years (beginning in the early nineties) that coaches have really begun to correctly interpret the game for those mortals simply attempting to learn it in a fun and easy way.

    I’ve never commented to you before Mr.Wegner, but you have been a great asset to the delivery of modern coaching principles. I applaud your attention to the NY TImes article which is clearly a long since outdated assessment of todays game.


    PS. I have extrapolated many elements of the game for the benefit of my teaching career from the likes of Conors, McEnroe, Evert, etc…but only applied stroke/movement principles beginning with Lendl, Becker, Agassi, Seles, Sampras, Muster, Kuerten, FEDERER, Clijsters, Sharapova….Now the predominant look of a modern tennis professional is so strikingly similar that we can pick and choose from a limitless supply of appropriate models…We could also use the similarities of a baseball swing, Tiger Woods golf swing, Crosby slap shot in hockey to further suggest that we would be missing the mark if we decided that traditional tennis methodologies were the answer to teaching todays bio-mechanically advanced game (naturally correct and way easier to learn and apply)….yes I’m passionate about this subject!!

    1. Oscar Wegner Reply

      Good, Luke. Simplification is the key.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *