Junior Tennis Rally Length Data Tell Consistent Story

It’s 2019 and after 8 years of mapping and analyzing Junior Tennis Match Play Data, the numbers still tell a consistent story – the majority of points played in matches land between (0-4) shots.

As our coaching team across the globe continue to analyze and map data from Junior match play (ages 10-18), the number 2 and the number 3 are the most popular shot rally lengths.  Styrling Strother is widely known as the #1 Junior Tennis Strategy Expert in the World and doesn’t stop at the rally length data alone.  There are many more data analytics that are telling us exactly how to interpret the flow of the match.  In 2018, Styrling discovered what he is now calling the Momentum Scoring System that helps players become more aware of exactly how momentum shifts from point to point, and game to game.  Using Momentum (winning 2 points in a row) and Conversion (winning 3 points in a row) Points, players are able to consistently stay in the moment or the “zone” more often and for longer periods of time throughout the duration of their match.

Analyzing the data with players on the court before practice is essential to leading a player to understand how to capture and keep momentum from point to point.  Even breaking the points down to controlling momentum shot to shot!

At the Art of Winning Global Project, our coaching team is discovering that players are able to control momentum better by sequencing 2-shot patterns and combinations.  The importance of 2-shot sequencing integrates with the data confirming the average rally length of points throughout the match.

If 85-90% of the points played are ending 0-8 shots, then 2 shots + 2 shots for each player is where ALL the action takes place!

There are thousands of coaches across the world embracing the powerful truth of this data and beginning to spend more practice time addressing the tactical and strategic plans of the first 4 shots a player will strike.

The Serve

S / S1 / S2 / S3

S/S1 Combination Sequences involve the 1st and 3rd shot of the point

S2/S3 Combination Sequences involve the 5th and 7th shot of the point

The Return

R / R1 / R2 / R3

R/R1 Combination Sequences involve the 2nd and 4th shot of the point

R2/R3 Combination Sequences involve the 6th and 8th shot of the point

Here is one of many matches tracked thus far this year and the story remains the same:

 

Girl 16s Level 3 North Carolina Tournament Match

February 2019

Oliver vs. Kerrigan (Oliver was the player mapped)

Match Score 4-6, 5-7

Oliver vs. Kerrigan Match Analysis Data 2.2.2019

Trinity vs. Kerrigan Rally Length Ratio 2.2.2019

The Rally Length Win/Loss Ratio Chart developed by Styrling Strother in 2016 shows that Oliver struggled with the S1, R, and R1 shots with emphasis on the Return of Serve as being the main hindrance to Oliver winning the match.  What is interesting is that even though Oliver spends approximately 10% of practice time with extended rally practice, she won 8 out of the 11 points that where +9 shot rally length.

As our coaching team continues to track match data every week, we find that players are steadily improving after seeing how the numbers land into the different categories of rally length.  Adjustment recommendations are worked out with each player and the continued emphasis on learning and practicing the art of re-focusing after each point is making a big impact in the overall performance of each player from match to match.

Matches like this one where a player loses a close match can then be analyzed with pin point accuracy of when and where a player needs to re-focus more as well as understand the dynamics of pressure and momentum and use these forces to advance their lead or capture one if necessary.

Click on the link below to access the Momentum Flow Chart PDF and study more closely each point rally length and how momentum shifts from one player to the next throughout the match –>

Oliver vs. Kerrigan 2.2.2019 NCL3 16s Girl

 

In the PDF, you will be able to see the entire match momentum flow chart, below is a quick picture of each Set of the match.  The Momentum Equilibrium Line (MEL) is there to help a player understand that moving above the line is “gaining momentum” and moving below the line “losing momentum” in the match.  This is a powerful visual for players to see how they earn momentum (2 in a row) and conversion (3 in a row) points.

Oliver earns Conversion points noted by a RED triangle, and Momentum points noted by a RED square.

Kerrigan earns Conversion points noted by a BLACK triangle, and Momentum points noted by a BLACK square.

Set 1

Trinity vs. Kerrigan 2.2019 Set 1.png

 

Set 2

Trinity vs. Kerrigan 2.2.2019 Set 2.png

 

Momentum Scoring System Chart (MSSC)

The Momentum Scoring System (MSS) analytics show how many Momentum and Conversion points were won by each player.  Conversion points are more valuable than Momentum points as they carry more weight with regards to gaining a greater separation value in the Game Score.  For example, in Game 4,5, and 6 of Set 1 – Kerrigan earns 3 Conversion points to Oliver’s 0 Conversion points to win the Set 6-4.

Even though Oliver earned more Momentum points than Kerrigan, 16-8.  Kerrigan was able to convert 13 Conversion points to Oliver’s 6.

The Chart below shows the total number of Momentum/Conversion points for each player and how the difference in Conversion points won was reflected in the match score.

Trinity vs. Kerrigan Momentum Score 2019.png

 

As you can see in the Stacked Column, Oliver actually scored more combined Momentum/Conversion points with 24, Kerrigan combined Momentum/Conversion with 21.  However, the Conversion point difference is enough to help Kerrigan get the victory this time around.

When it comes to building and sustaining momentum, Conversion points are the ultimate to achieve towards winning the match.  If Conversion points are tied between the two players, the Momentum points become more valuable to separate the winning and losing player.

So, how does this type of data analysis transfer to practice scenarios?  Every month at the Art of Winning Project, our coaches are creating new challenges and games for players to experiment with the types of adjustments and changes in their mental/emotional mindset and tactical plans needed to win more points in a row.  One of the games we use at the Art of Winning is a game called Conversions.

Game Objectives:

  1. Player focuses in the present moment by tracking the number of points they win in a row to gain momentum.
  2. Player focuses on stopping their opponent from winning 2 or 3 points in a row.
  3. Player begins to understand how momentum can be captured and how points are the object of momentum.

 

Click on the Video below to watch the Conversions Game – this game is to encourage players to focus on winning consecutive points in a row to capture and build momentum.

 

 

Hacking Flow for Optimal Tennis Performance

Flow in the simplest of terms is an optimal state of consciousness, a peak state where we both feel and perform our best.  In my upcoming book, 7 On Court Strategies To Experience Your Play State – How to Win Every Time You Play, I discuss the advantage of why being in the Flow State is the most powerful influencer of winning.  As Harvard Medical School psychiatrist Ned Hallowell said, “Flow naturally catapults you to a level you’re not naturally in, flow naturally transforms a weakling into a muscleman, a sketcher into an artist, a dancer into a ballerina, a plodder into a sprinter, an ordinary person into someone extraordinary.”

Everything you do, you do better in flow, from baking your favorite food, to planning a vacation, to solving a business plan, to playing tennis.  Flow drives optimal performance and accelerates performance.  Researchers now believe that flow sits at the core of almost every athletic championship and why so many champions remain at the top of their sport for longer durations of time – those athletes simply master and get in the flow state for longer periods of time and more often than others.  In this blog, I’d like to dive into one of the most fascinating ideas I’ve ever discovered when it comes to hacking flow.  Overall, there are 4 varieties of hacking flow, external triggers, internal triggers, social triggers, and creative triggers.  There are several external triggers that hack flow.  External triggers are qualities in the environment that drive people deeper into the zone.

hacking growth

The term “Hacking” comes from the electronic world wherein hackers were originally found in tinkering with technology in an attempt to improve performance.  Although the word has since taken on a negative connotation, it is a powerful way to discover how to maximize human performance – and in this particular example, winning when you play on a tennis court.  In this case instead of hacking external technologies, the focus will be on hacking internal technologies, our own psychology and neurology.  Hacking flow then refers to any action performed that propels us into flow.

Focus is the goal of getting more into the flow.  Risk is one external trigger that is a powerful way to hack flow.  Using risk as a “flow hack” can be an extremely potent trigger because flow proceeds from focus and consequences catch our attention.  Not only do consequences catch our attention, they also drive neurochemistry.  As risk increases, so do two nature chemicals in our brain release.  They are norepinephrine and dopamine.  Norepinephrine is a chemical released from the sympathetic nervous system in response to stress.  One of the major advantages of norepinephrine being released is it causes an increase in the amount of oxygen going to our brain – this helps us think clearer and faster.  Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that helps control the brain’s reward and pleasure centers.  Dopamine also helps regulate movement and emotional responses, and it enables us not only to see rewards, but to take action to move toward them.  Our brain uses these two to amplify focus and enhance performance.  Playing with this trigger often produces long-lasting effects:  risk takers are transformed into risk seekers.  Risk moves from being a threat to be avoided to a challenge to be risen toward.  This is the major reason I change the word “drills” to “challenges”.  Drills originally came to be known of instruction or training in military exercises.  Challenges are an invitation or call to take part in a contest or competition.  I’ve found especially around young players that using the phrase, “Alright, here’s our next challenge!”  The response physically and emotionally is so much more positive and the player or players are motivated 100x more to participate than when I use to say, “Alright, the next drill is….”.

Being challenged is a risky proposition, there will be winners and losers (in the score), there could be embarrassment; physical, mental, and emotionally stress – but that’s exactly the point – it’s a powerful trigger towards playing in the zone, in flow.  Using the word challenge can only push you towards the flow state, it’s like having a great pair of tennis shoes to begin.  When risk is a challenge, fear becomes a compass – literally pointing players in the direction they need to go next, the direction that produces more flow.  As neuropsychologist Barbara Sahakian, the University of Cambridge, England, says, “To really achieve anything, you have to be able to tolerate and ENJOY risk.  It has to become a challenge to look forward to.  To make exceptional discoveries, you absolutely need risk – you will never have a breakthrough without it.”

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I have witnessed over 20 years of coaching, the players that embrace risk (I call it in my book, “embracing the pressure”) always push through and win every time they play.  They may not win in the score in every match or competition, but they develop towards greatness – a sense of achieving more than they believed.  There is a sense of fulfillment and learning to find joy in the journey of becoming better players and human beings.  I’ve also witnessed this phenomenal idea of embracing risk watching professional players play the game.  The best players have always had a sense of rising to the occasion, looking fear in the face, embracing all the risk of the moment, and going for it!  Players of the past like Graf, Evert, Navratilova, Conners, Lendl, Agassi, and Sampras – Players in modern times like Serena, Sharapova, Federer, Nadal, and Djokovic.  These players embody risk taking and playing in flow.

ryan-harrison 2016

Certainly taking risks is needed for you to activate flow.  There are different types of risk taking, physical, mental, social, emotional and creative risks.  The application of imagination – a very short definition of creativity is all about mental chance taking.  The game of tennis is a very mental challenge, and taking risk is something that must be embraced to be your best.  And the risk is real because losing is real…. stay tuned for the book and more to follow 🙂

Hacking flow requires full commitment to the process or the journey – and it must be ferocious.  Accelerated performance needs unyielding focus and commitment, coaches that design training environments that create a safe space for taking risks is one where players will thrive and play in flow more often.  They will “Win Every Time They Play!”

7 On Court Strategies THE BOOK

7 On Court Strategies To Experience Your ‘Play State’

– Discovering how to win every time you play may seem like a daunting task but it’s actually well within your reach.   Styrling’s new book opens the possibility to explore your game from his innovative perspective of winning on the inside in order to truly appreciate the win on the scoreboard.  You’ll find yourself reflecting that when you lose a tennis match, it’s an incredible opportunity you’ll have to carve out the formula to winning – adversity makes room for opportunity.

Release Date:  7.7.2017

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About the Author – Styrling Strother

Yep, it’s official – I’m an author now.  Unbelievable, at least to me.  I never imagined that as a young boy who struggled with a speech impediment would end up writing a book. Anything is possible if you believe, be yourself, and trust your instincts.  This was a project that pushed me to the limits.  I couldn’t have done this without the support of my wife and family, my incredible editor Bill Patton, extraordinary entrepreneurs Gary Vaynerchuk and Lewis Howes, as well as the encouragement from my players and friends.  My passion has always been to inspire people in person, it’s a dream come true to hopefully inspire you with the written word.  I hope you enjoy 7 On Court Strategies To Experience Your ‘Play State’ and it inspires you to play at a whole new level of fun!

Developing Better Footwork

The foundation for developing better footwork from the baseline is the reset positions after you play a ball to your opponent’s court.  Instead of thinking of the tennis court as a rectangle that has one center, picture three main triangles that shift as you play the ball into your opponent’s court.  Even if you are playing the ball down the middle of the court, you are actually resetting and hitting back into a triangle, not a rectangle.  In the videos below, seeing is believing and this is really step #1 in transforming your practice court to developing better footwork and reset positions from the baseline.

 

Extended video 3 Centers of the Court

Throw Away Shots

Click on this link to watch video with player –>

https://www.facebook.com/plugins/video.php?href=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.facebook.com%2Fstyrling.strother%2Fvideos%2F10210842261827325%2F&show_text=0&width=560

Transcript:

Let me talk to you about “Throw Away” Shots in a match. One way to define success is to win the point. You can win the point with 1, 2, 3, or 20 shots (which doesn’t happen very often). Now 20 shots are unlikely but 0 – 8 is typical.

You’re playing for 1 point but there is not a lot of emphasis on each shot. There’s not an urgency to play each shot because I want to win the point. You’ve got to stay in the moment of executing 1, 2 Re-set. You’re emphasis when you do this isn’t on winning the point, it’s on making shots! Specifically 2 shots in a row.

Two shots in a row lines up with the data. In 6 out of 10 points, the points end in 0 – 4 shot rally length. Another 2 shots for each player gives you 8 shots which is 9 out of 10 points you’ll ever play. Don’t worry about the 1 point out of 10 that rarely happens that go past 8 shots.

Focus on right when the points begins. Right when it starts it’s about to end. In the beginning, there is the end.

If you only focus on winning the point, you can have “Throw Away” shots. You can randomly spray shots.

You have “Throw Away” shots because you’re not thinking, you want 1 shot to set up your 2nd shot. You’re not thinking about finishing a point with 2 shots or more. You’re thinking let’s just end the point there. You hit it as hard as you can with very little decision making. You hit a deep ball which pushes your opponent behind the baseline, they give you a very short ball and all you have to hit is a drop-shot. Instead you hit an 80 mph forehand into the back fence.

You have to understand a point is won by a series of smart shots, making good decisions.

The key is making 2 shots, reset, then hitting 2 shots, reset. Within that, playing catch and keep away.  Sometimes you have to play catch because you’re in trouble and you want to make the shot.  When you have the opportunity, you play keep away.

You can Run, Reverse, or Cage them.

You’re so focused on winning a point, not focused on running patterns or trying to get the opponent out of position.

You can’t get too far ahead or stuck in the past when you lose or win a point.  You’ve got to let it go.

This is how you win every time you play.

The score is one small measurement of success. We’ve made it the “be all, end all” of success.

An ultimate success is you come off the court and you gave it all you got at that moment in time, then you say to yourself,

“I’m going to play and practice harder.”