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.