Cork Tennis Blog

Welcome to the Cork Tennis Blog.

This blog will, hopefully, keep you up to date on the tennis scene in Cork, both socially and competitively. Whether you are new to the game or an experienced player I hope you find the information and posts here, useful and interesting.

You can contact me by email at rob@racketrestringing.ie

As well as local tennis news, there are also some very good articles written by local players and I am always looking for people to contribute to the blog, so don't be shy.

Please also feel free to comment on individual posts, or alternatively through the comment box on the right of the blog. I hope you enjoy reading through the blog and that it was of some use to you.

Enjoy your game, Rob

Rob's Racketrestringing

Friday, December 12, 2014

Getting the Most Out of Your Tennis Training Regime - Helen Curtis

Getting the Most Out of Your Tennis Training Regime
Playing tennis requires you to use many different aspects of performance to succeed including strength, speed, power, agility, flexibility, and endurance. Learning to balance your training regime to work on all of these at once is a demanding task but one that you must take on if you are to compete at a high level. Below are a few principles that you can follow to get the maximum benefit from your training sessions and reach the top ranks of the tennis world.
Improve the functioning of specific systems through repetition
Tennis will put demands on parts of your body that are not used to dealing with the increased level of strain(1). The principle of adaptation is the belief that the body will adapt to these new strains. Running long distances will cause adaptations in the heart and lungs, making them stronger and allowing you to run longer distances. Specifically for tennis, the more you practice serving, the more your arms and back muscles will adapt to enable you to perfect the technique.
Lift weights that will challenge your limits – but not too much
You should always be looking to push the boundaries and exercise at a level that challenges your ability to consume the appropriate oxygen. However, do not over do it. Lifting too much too soon can do more damage to your body than good (2). It’s not a game and looking at it that way can lead to problems of you constantly challenging yourself to lift heavier and heavier weights, a common problem among amateurs in every sport (3 + 4). To maximise performance, you should lift loads heavier than you do in normal daily activities but not anything too drastic. Many tennis players think that the longer they spend lifting heavy weights, the harder they will hit the ball and the faster they will serve. This is folly and you should balance lifting weights with the other activities on the list to avoid risking injury (5).
Work out what works for you
Specificity is the principle that adaptations to the body occur under stress brought on through exercise. However, what is specific for you is not likely to be specific for another player. Your training should be physiologically demanding for your style, level and in comparison to your opponents, and for you as a tennis player. Things like the surface of play and rest breaks should be brought into account when you are working out the specificity of your regime. Remember that both aerobic and anaerobic energy systems should be trained up specifically for the sport of tennis (6).
Train at an intensity that will push you as in a real game
Intensity relates to specificity in that you have to gauge how intense your training should be based on how intense the games of tennis you will be playing will be. It’s not necessarily the stoppages and the length of points that are important but the intensity of the exertion. You have to look to improve performance at the intensities specific to tennis. The best way to measure intensity is with heart rate. Match your heart rate in training to the heart rate you experience in a competitive game.
Determine how long you should train for
The total amount of training you do, both on court and off court, should be carefully monitored. Not just the time of training but also the intensity should be monitored to ensure overtraining doesn’t occur. Your training programme should be worked around this giving you a specific time and intensity to work on your weaknesses first and foremost (7).

Determine how often you should be training
The frequency of your training sessions is something to consider carefully. You should work out a timetable to give you a focussed schedule to work on your game. Not planning this out carefully can leave you with not enough training to encourage adaptation, or leave you prone to damage caused through overtraining.

Make sure you mix it up
Variety may seem to conflict with principles of specificity; however, you should select a variety of exercises in your training regime that all push the limits of specificity in different areas. For example, work on your footwork, and then work on your serve. By using a variety of excercises you are much less likely to become bored and lose motivation to succeed.
Leave enough time for recovery
It can be tempting to go on and on but you must leave enough time for recovery if you want to continue to improve. Without recovery, adaptation is not possible and injury is highly likely. However, if you leave too much time for recover, you will not improve and adapt at an optimum pace which is obviously the most desirable state of affairs (8).
Conclusion
If you follow all these principles when coming up with your training schedule, you will be sure to adapt your body at an optimum pace and in a way that will make you improve as a tennis player.
Sources

A very interesting article written by freelance writer, Helen Curtis especially for the Cork Tennis Blog.  Many thanks to Helen and as always please feel free to contact me if you would like to contribute to the blog.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Shot-Stats Challenger coming soon.


In a previous post I reviewed two other tennis gadgets, that can be attached to your racket, to provide feedback on your performance.

Shot-Stats Challenger is the newest to the market, or will be when it's released next year.

Challenger is the brain child of Lavie Sak and without having seen the product yet, what I have read about it is very promising.

I like where the sensor is going to be located, it will mean the balance of the racket will be barely affected.  The feedback and the ability upload the info to an app is another positive. 

I am really looking forward to testing this early next year, in the meantime have a look at the video and learn more about Challenger.





Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Brain Training for Tennis


Brain Training for Tennis

A very well written article and a great read.  The article was written by Irish tennis player, Rachel Dillon, and was taken from the Tennis Ireland website.

Well-known player and coach Rachael Dillon (pictured) has provided us with an exclusive article “Brain Training for Tennis”. As well as being a Tennis Ireland coach, Rachael plays Fed Cup for Ireland, and holds WTA singles and doubles rankings. Rachael has a degree in psychology, and is currently working in the Department of Psychiatry in Trinity College, Dublin.

Brain Training for Tennis 
By Rachael Dillon 

“We pushed each other to the limit and I could not drop concentration throughout the whole match to win it.” – Novak Djokovicspeaking about his 2014 Wimbledon win. 

Tennis is often broken down into four parts – technical, tactical, physical and mental. Players spend hours on the practice court refining technical parts of each stroke, hours of matches learning how to become a smarter tactician and – in the last 20 years – off court working on their physical conditioning. Furthermore, with tennis often being referred to as 90% mental, sports psychologists are becoming increasingly present on the professional tour. Players consult psychologists to conquer anxiety, choking and to learn how to manage the emotional rollercoaster of a tennis match. Sports psychology is a well-established field with plenty of research ongoing worldwide; however there is yet to be extensive research done on one aspect of our tennis cognition – focus and concentration. This brief article will explore what cognition is, the importance of sustaining attention, and if it is possible to train this area of our tennis brain. 

What is Cognition?
Cognition is the mental action or process of acquiring knowledge and understanding through thought, experience, and the senses (Oxford dictionary). There are a number of different aspects of cognition that are vitally important in carrying out daily activities, let alone play a sport as complex as tennis. Aspects of cognition include:

Processing Speed
Auditory Processing
Visual Processing
Long-Term Memory
Short-Term Memory
Logic and Reasoning
Sustained Attention

Our use of cognitive processes is an ongoing and permanent feature of our consciousness – in fact, this very minute, you are using a variety of cognitive processes to read this article! On a tennis court, the demand on our cognitive processes is both incredibly taxing and vitally important to performance. For example – at a very basic level – our visual processing speed is challenged when calculating a tennis ball coming across the net at us. We have to visually process at what speed, with what spin, and where the ball is going to land – no mean feat! The better the player, the more accurate they are at processing the shot and the quicker they are at doing so. This particular article however is going to address a slightly different aspect of cognition – our ability to focus and concentrate for extended periods of time (sustained attention). 

Attention
Attention is the act or power of carefully thinking about, listening to or watching something or somebody. ‘I lost my focus’, ‘I lost my concentration’ - I’m sure as coaches you have heard these words from players referring to points lost in a match or practice. When it comes to performance players, the higher up the level you go (all the way to the top of the WTA and ATP tour), it is often that one short forehand missed wide or that easy miss on a return that makes the difference in a match and as a result a difference in the rankings! That brief ‘loss of focus’ has cost players tournament wins and Grand Slam finals. 
But what can be done about this? Can we train focus and concentration? Or is this an innate ability that cannot be taught? 

Training Concentration 
To date, and to the best of my knowledge, there is little research done pertaining to the nature of sustained attention in elite athletes. We do know that perceptual cognitive processing in professional athletes (their ability to process action scenes visually at speed) is vastly superior to both amateur and novice athletes. Furthermore, there appears to be scope to train and refine this skill through perceptual training using 3D computerized tasks (Faubert et al., 2012). 
When it comes to concentration and focus however, we do not know for certain what it is that sets the top ranked players (TRPs) (top 150 WTA/ATP and above) apart from the highly ranked players (HRPs) (1000 – 150 WTA/ATP). There are certainly a lot of different elements that need to align in order to create a top ranked player (technically, tactically, physically and most importantly mentally) and coaches love to debate the ultimate recipe for a tennis player (Roger Federer often being used as a reference point). One crucial skill however, that can be observed in all TRPs (albeit not scientifically just yet) is their possession of an ability to sustain high levels of focus and concentration for long periods of time. 
The ultimate question is, however, can this be taught and trained? 

Brain Training 
It would be fantastic to be able to take a pill that could boost our concentration and focus, but there are two problems with this 1) a pill to do this doesn’t exist (although it does in the movie “Limitless”) and 2) drug testing may be a small issue!!! 
An emerging body of research called Cognitive Remediation Therapy (CRT), however, is looking at the ability to train peoples’ cognitive skills through practicing exercises in order to make people more efficient at problem solving, concentrating, sustaining attention and memory. To put it simply, CRT is brain training or a workout for the brain. This research is being conducted worldwide with great results on a variety of people – healthy individuals but also people suffering from schizophrenia, Alzheimer’s disease and anorexia. One area yet to be researched however, is sport. 
The concept of CRT is simple; the brain is a muscle that can be trained through exercise.
Online programmes like www.luminosity.com provide a training programme aimed at improving concentration and overall thought processes through a rigorous exercise regime.  If regular individuals’ concentration and cognitive skills can be improved and refined through the use of CRT, why not tennis players?  
Thirty years ago, off court physical training was unheard of.  Today, it is an essential part of training for a professional tennis player. Out of the four elements of tennis (tactical, technical, physical and mental), the psychological aspect of the game is most certainly the least well explored and trained. As the game of tennis evolves and the level gets higher on a daily basis, the mental side of tennis is undoubtedly going to emerge as an area of research and training. Who knows, in the future, we may see tennis players incorporating off-court brain training as part of their daily routine!

Another oldie - Sunday's Well Team


Another oldie supplied by Dick McCarthy, Waterford.

It is a Sunday's Well team, we think playing in a Kevin O Brien Trophy.

The team is Ken Stanton, Bill (fish) Williams, Peter Mockler and Eamon Smith.

Remember if you have any old photos of Cork teams or tournaments please pass them on.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Blast from the past!


Here's a few old photos I found earlier.  The top one is Munster's U-18 team from 1990. (Back row left to right) Ruth Byrne, President of the Munster Branch, Denis Heffernan, Rob Leahy, Carl Williams, Jonathon Barriscale, Kevin Goggin, Greg Morris - team captain.
Front row: Louise O Meara(i think), Rosemary Barry, Julie O Mahony, Judy O Brien, Deirdre O Meara(or Louise??)




This one is from a Munster vs Ulster friendly in Ulster, not sure what club, in 1995.  Struggling for all the names here.  Here's who I have Stephen Leeman,  Shane Groeger, Mark Magrath, Louise Carmody, Martin Cusack, Dermot Power, Roy Wilson, Aine White, Catherine Curran, Amanda Coburn, Deirdre Collins, Noreen Ryan.  Would love some help on the last few.

Federer to play Hewitt in 'revolutionary' new format or is it that new?


There are some changes being mentioned here that will 'Revolutionize' the game of tennis but two of these variations were tested some years back.  I remember playing, a Winter League event I think, about 18 years ago where we used the no advantage and no service lets rule.  There is for an against both options but I hope it is not being thought of as a replacement for the traditional game as we know it.  If that is the case then history goes out the window, just my opinion.
Here's what is being proposed!
Roger Federer and Lleyton Hewitt will clash in a new shortened, faster form of the game ahead of the Australian Open that organisers Tuesday said they hope will revolutionise tennis.
In a world first, the 17-time Grand Slam champion will play his long-time Australian rival in a Sydney exhibition to showcase the new concept developed by Tennis Australia.
They will face off in a best-of-five sets match on January 12 that will feature four rule variations -- no advantage scoring, no service lets, tiebreakers at three games all and sets of first-to-four games. 
It is expected to last about half as a long as a normal five-setter.
The format has been piloted at clubs across Australia and is being billed as the Twenty20 of tennis, a reference to the fast and furious form of cricket that has proved a huge hit.
Tennis Australia chief Craig Tiley said he was delighted Federer was involved in promoting a new way of playing the game.
"The new format is a game changer and is set to revolutionise the game of tennis, particularly at club and social levels," he said.
"Time today is precious and this new fast format is perfect for any player who wants to fit their tennis matches into a busy lifestyle.
"To have Roger and Lleyton, our own great Australian champion, showcase the format for the first time is not only special for Sydney and Australia, but for the sport around the world."
Federer, fresh from helping Switzerland win the Davis Cup, said he was honoured to be involved.
"I can't wait to come to the beautiful city of Sydney for this very special match against my old friend and rival, Lleyton Hewitt," he said.
Great friends off the court, Federer and Hewitt have one of the most enduring rivalries in tennis. The pair, both aged 33, have faced each other 27 times since 1999, with Federer winning 18 of them.
Their last four matches have been split, with Hewitt winning their most recent encounter at the Brisbane International final in January.
"Playing Roger in this new format will be an exciting challenge for both of us and a lot of fun," said Hewitt.
"It's a fantastic innovation for tennis, and one that I hope will take off.


Monday, November 24, 2014

Old Photos Request


Here's a photo sent onto me from Dick McCarthy.  We reckon it was at a Kevin O Brien Trophy match in Sunday's Well during the 70's.
That would have being some doubles match.
Picture includes (from left to right): Franks Furney, Ronnie Daunt, Kieran Madden and Frank O Donoghue.

I would love to start a gallery of photos from Cork tennis events so if you hvae any or know of anyone who has some please get in touch, thanks.

Tennis Elbow and how to treat it - Michael Greaney


Tennis Elbow Pain 
By the term itself you would think this is a condition that affects only Tennis players but it can also affect anybody male or female.  The condition affects the outside of the elbow.
Many a person who has been diagnosed with Tennis Elbow were surprised because they never played Tennis. It is called Tennis Elbow because it is a very common condition among Tennis players. The condition is also called Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI) (Repetitive means overused) or Lateral Epicondylitis. Lateral means the outside, epi means upon, condyle refers to that part of the bone, &  aitis. means inflammation.
Every muscle has an origin & an insertion.  The origin is on the bone itself, the insertion is via a tendon that crosses the joint & joins into the other bone.  When the muscle contracts (shortens), the insertion moves towards the origin.

Example of the Elbow:
The muscles collectively called the wrist extensor muscles originate at the elbow & cross the wrist via tendons on the dorsal aspect (the outside) & extends the wrist.  This movement is known as the backhand stroke whilst playing Tennis.
When these muscles tire, we are inclined to continue playing on or working on & minor micro tears occur exactly at the point where the muscle originates at the elbow.  The body s cells lay down new tissue growth to try & repair the damage called scar tissue but we continue to use the injured muscle whilst it is trying to repair itself (heal) & cause further tears therefore it never gets time to heal properly & continual repetitive use causes the muscle to inflame at the bone or origin known as Lateral Epicondylitis or Tennis Elbow.
The symptoms can be varied but weakness at the elbow e.g lifting a kettle or using the backhand movement is very common therefore loss of power on that movement.  Painters & Plasterers along with Tennis players suffer frequently with Tennis Elbow.  It was very common one time for Electricians to suffer this condition due to the tightening of screws with screwdrivers on a daily basis but not as common now due to the use of battery or electrically operated screwdrivers.  Other symptoms are radiating pain that spreads into the forearm with pain & tenderness at the elbow, worse on activity like lifting & grasping objects

                                                              The Treatment
A detailed case history is taken along with various physical tests to determine the diagnosis and cause of the condition

The treatment at my Clinic is first to encourage you to rest from the activity that causes the pain.

Ultrasound:
In the acute (early) stage we treat using ultrasound which has many benefits.  It works via ultrasound waves that penetrate through the tissue.  The ultrasound waves speed up the rate of odema (swelling) therefore it resolves quicker by increasing the number of blood capillaries around the damaged tissue, this results in an increase in blood flow and the removal of debri and carrying the vitamins & minerals to the damaged tissue. It also increases collagen secretion, that’s the white protein that lays down new tissue growth by up to 30%. The ultrasound waves cause a vibration which helps break down the old scar tissue that has not healed properly so that new scar tissue can form.



Laser:
The Laser treatment is used which is excellent in reducing swelling & pain & improves the condition immediately thus allowing you to reduce the dependency on medication.  Low intensity Laser Therapy is an advanced system used for treating & accelerating recovery from a wide range of soft tissue injuries like Tennis Elbow, Achilles Tendonitis, Shin Splints, Bursitis, Plantar Fascialitis, Rotator Cuff Strains etc.  I will write more on these conditions later.

Massage of the muscles is carried out once the inflammation and pain have eased this work helps to loosen the muscle fibres and break down the scar tissue and drain off any lactic acid build up.
Electric faradic stimulation
Faradic pads are placed on the muscle, this is similar to a tens machine, this method is used to passively contract and relax the muscle on its own without any active effort by you,  this regains full range of movement to those muscles.



Rehabilitation:
The final part of the treatment is preparing you to return to your work or sport, therefore stretching & strengthening exercises are given so that you regain the full range of movement and power and to act as a preventative.  If the condition was caused through playing Tennis then we suggest you speak with your Tennis Coach who will check the type of racket you are using, is  the width of the racked correct for your hand size & the technique you are using & also the type of ball in use.
The recovery time for Tennis Elbow can vary depending on how long it was before you sought treatment but my findings at my Clinic is an average of three to four weeks.
Conclusion:
There is no need to be suffering from any condition that is treatable & curable & preventing you from working or playing the sport you love, so call me.

This article was written by Michael Greaney for the Cork Tennis Blog.

R.I.P Michael and Valerie.