Recently a couple of tennis coaches came to us searching for information about teaching methodologies. And also to make sure that they are on the right path. It is very clear the total lack of knowledge of what a methodology is. Which methodologies are the most common and which one to choose. All of them lost without a clue about the way to follow. They are the meddler’s victims. When athletes’ parents question them, their insecurity about it surfaces. It makes them search for alternatives to complement the job, usually with a consultant who had good personal results as a player or coach, what certainly does not guarantee that he has the necessary knowledge to add to the current plan.
The methodologies used for sports development, easily found on the literature, are the analytic-synthetic and the global-functional systems. The first one based on the construction by parts to reach the whole, from the simplest to the most complex situation. The other develops from the whole, playing the game, to gain the specifics as a natural consequence. The definition seems to be very easy to apply. However, definitely it is not! There is no analytic system without the functional part, and there is no global system without the synthetic part. In soccer, all players practice their fundamentals, as it is in basketball. Even though they might have learned the game on the global-functional system.
In team sports, it is easy to understand the global-functional method, not in a pure and absolute way, but one can evolve using it. In sports like tennis, boxing, gymnastics, golf, among others, there is no way to initiate an athlete on the global-functional method. Imagine two beginners playing box without fundamentals, it would look like a street fight and they would never make any progress. In gymnastics, try to get a beginner to do a flip on his first class. No comments about that! On these sports it is obligatory the use of the analytic-synthetic method. As it is on tennis!
Facing many doubts, the only way is to call a consultant. As we said before, it is not unusual that his knowledge comes without any scientific basis. Most of the times he does not know how to teach even what he has done his whole life, his own fundamentals for example, or does not know how to transfer the necessary skills to the athlete. His curriculum is of no use at all. The personal experience does not guarantee that what the consultant will teach is what the athlete needs to perform. There is not a model that applies to everyone, some practical and scientific basis are necessary to deal with individuality.
The application of the analytic-synthetic method will develop all the skills and fundamentals of tennis, so that the athlete will not have weak spots on his game to be explored by his opponents. Without the proper focus, on skills and fundamentals, the athlete is destined to a non-return way; stagnation is just a matter of time. Using the global method to initiate kids on tennis will condemn them to a limitation on their game and their future as competitors, even their professional career, if that is the goal.
TEXT BY GABRIEL PIMENTEL AND PAULO CÉSAR PIMENTEL