While at Cary Academy from 2014 to 2016, our Varsity girls high school team went 72-11, 2 NCISAA State Championship appearances and State Semi-Finalist. 3 Conferences Championships and shattered all-time school records for the most wins in a single season. All of this success I attribute to transforming our practice court to mirror what actually is going to occur in match play. We took the data from the previous two years, 2012 and 2013 of the average rally length per point in singles and doubles matches. I developed the TPC training system which focused specifically on training the first 8 shots of a point (4 shots per player).
First 4 Shots (0-4): S -> R -> S1 -> R1
Patterns of Play Shots (5-8): S2 -> R2 -> S3 -> R3
S (Serve) – 1st shot of the point
S1 – 3rd shot
S2 – 5th shot
S3 – 7th shot
R (Return) – 2nd shot of the point
R1 – 4th shot
R2 – 6th shot
R3 – 8th shot
The main reason I labeled the shots S-S3 and R-R3 is because I wanted players to focus on 2-shot combinations. Kids are smart and they began to understand very quickly that connecting the S-S1 and then S2-S3 was a great way to organize their 2-shot combination patterns and move forward in play.
I’ve found that most coaches will agree that points end quickly in match play. What I’ve also found is those same coaches spend very little time training the first 4 shots (S-S3, R-R3) in a deliberate way. If a player wants to experience being in the zone more often, then automating patterns of play is the key to the brain becoming calm while executing shots. As players we spend a lot of practice time in the POP (Patterns of Play 5-8 shots) and Extended Rally (+9 shots) phases, rallying and playing out points without the Serve, S1 and Return, R1 combinations. Beginning the point with a Serve and S1 or a Return and R1 requires a specific skill set. The movement and resetting positions from a S – S1 or R – R1 are completely different that just moving and hitting in the POP or Extended Rally phase. Getting into a rhythm or flow of a rally is easier after you begin the point with the first 2 shots. That’s the punchline though, starting a point to focus is the beginning of flow.
There’s much more to this introduction, so if you’d like more information about how to begin this process of Transforming Your Practice as a player or a coach, drop me an email through my Contact Page and we can talk more.