Coaching Tennis Best Practices for e-learning using 4K video footage

Nick Bollettieri: A lot of times - people don't believe what most coaches say.
"So remember - you learn a lot from Watching, rather than just Talking."
(Coach of Andre Agassi, Jim Courier, Monica Seles)

In Sunday Night Football, you often hear the comment, 'Let's go to the Video!'.
On Monday, those players sit in that room and watch for an hour or two exactly what they did.

Tom Brady was Superbowl MVP at 43 years old.
His Love of film made him a superstar.

5 Best Practices for e-Learning

#1) Freedom to skip around

It's not compulsory to watch every minute straight from Chapter 1 to Chapter 10.

Explore the topics and teachers you find interesting first. Then go back and briefly cover and explore other chapters at least the first few minutes.

Feel free to skip ahead or come back later. Seek the topics that spark the most interest and motivation.

#2) Don't Need to Binge!TopCourt Tennis

Yes, this is not like trying to blast through 5 seasons of a sitcom in one weekend. It's not a race nor a time-limited food buffet to see how many dishes you can stack.

The goal is to understand this stuff and retain it.

  • Watch a few videos, then take a break to reflect. I prefer my 25-minute "sprints".
  • Can you explain what you learned to a peer, in your own words?
  • Sleep on it - let your subconscious review the lessons and ideas overnight before bed.

#3) Learning to Balance the Ratio of Practice-to-Play Time

How to Study Smart is a great youtube video to watch for any student.

  • Aim to learn one or two drills max per session.
  • Practice each drill at least twice during the week.
  • Repeat in your own words the key points first.
  • Go out with a parent, friend, or coach. Demonstrate what you witnessed.
  • When you teach someone else, you reinforce it. Always be a student of the game.
  • Incorporate the new shot with the skill learned from the previous week
Stacking skills - also known as "Interleaved Practice" - is covered more in-depth from this book on teaching.

Make it Stick: the science of successful learning and their website.

I encourage students to pause mid-way through a video.
Create your own mini-intermission to reflect. I watch long movies this way too :)

Try to understand how the pros adjust to different balls (high bounces, short balls, or wide shots).

#4) Watch fast, review slowly - Stories, Drills, Instruction

1st - Skim through the stories and get the overall idea. Play the Stories at 1.5x speed.
2nd - Slow down the key Drills. 0.5x speed for the key sequences, perhaps without sound.
3rd - Watch the Instruction, then go back. Pause and take notes. Resume to explain it and reenact the lesson on the court for maximum effect.

GOAL: Aim to take away the top 1-2 key points from each lesson.


  • What are the basic mechanics?
  • List one good habit to focus on. List one bad habit to avoid.
  • Why is it used? When should you use it?
#5) Have Fun! After struggling with new concepts, try a Points Game or Challenge
Set some progression goals to level up and challenges with friends.

Level 1 - Make 3/10 in a target zone and try for 4/10, etc. Subtract points for unforced errors.

Keep it interesting but yet just challenging enough to keep going and not be bored.

The harder it is to learn something new, usually the better you'll remember it later.

E-Learning Takes Off, Fewer Barriers of Entry

These tips can apply to any online education platform.
Other MOOCs I would also highly recommend:
  • Udemy
  • Khan Academy

Higher Education Quality from Home
Leveraging fully online content delivery. College institutions aim to dissect the 4-year degree in manageable bite-sized chunks of certificates and micro-degrees. Is this the new trend?

Snacking for professional utility, rather than binge-eating to earn full diplomas.

Stanford GSB Executive Education - Micro-courses in Business and Finance tailored for working professionals. Unlike traditional MOOCs, these are enhanced, interactive digital equivalents to Stanford GSB courses. From a week to a quarter long, students can selectively customize their skillsets and education pallet at the class and electives level. - Courses from Harvard and MIT - many are free, and others allow users to earn professional certificates and MicroMaster specialties in a fraction of the time to complete a traditional degree. Plus earn it from anywhere in the World! 
Founded by Harvard and MIT, edX is home to more than 20 million learners, the majority of top-ranked universities in the world, and industry-leading companies. As a global nonprofit, edX is transforming traditional education, removing the barriers of cost, location and access.

Offering 2000 online courses from 140 leading institutions, edX helps people gain new skills, advance their careers, or learn for fun with courses in computer programming, data science, business, finance, marketing, engineering, language, humanities, science and more. 

TopCourt offers a hybrid learning model for tennis.
Education + Entertainment = "Edu-tainment".

Watch, Learn, Train, Improve your
Tennis from Home in 2021

Stay safe, enjoy tennis, and learn indoors for $15/month.

Distance Learning - the school's schism of 2020

At colleges and schools all around the world - parents and teachers all understand this simple yet inconvenient truth. It affects all students - rich or poor, young or old, from rural to urban - the new classroom format is at home on the kitchen table...for better or worse, we must grow.

Education is shifting to becoming digital, continuous, and largely video-driven.

Digital content will reinforce more screen time.
In turn, we must seek more time outdoors to get unplugged and recharge.
Quality education must now be both engaging and entertaining in TicTock-sized chunks.

In the ocean of digital noise and swipe-left, he who can gather their attention first wins.

We must adapt or risk failing our children's future.
Not one semester, not one year, but one generation.

Seeking the right teachers and offering a patchwork library of content is the key.
Mixing in a digital "spoonful of sugar" is key to helping kids unlock learning while locked down.

Customer Acquisition starts with the big stars and names. Retention and interest are maintained with a campus-wide offering of appealing instruction. All-time classics add the mortar to those bricks.

It has worked for Disney+, Netflix, etc - wow them and then keep them engaged.

Bring them in with Mandalorian and Queen's Gambit.
Intrigue them with awe and diversity with Soul and Tiger King.
Keep them nostalgic for Lion King (live-action) plus Korba Kai season 3.

Advantages of Democratized Education

  1. Learn Anywhere - Social Distance is baked-in. Crowded lecture halls become obsolete.

  2. Dynamic Pacing -  smarter kids can accel at a rapid pace, not held back;
    slower students are not discouraged for not keeping up. Lack of comparison and peer judgment.

  3. Asymmetric Sharing - One Teacher can now deliver personalized 1-on-1 lectures anywhere in the World at any time zone. Sal Khan of Khan Academy: "variable time, fixed outcomes".

  4. Exciting Visuals - Classic topics must be modernized for newer viewers and younger audiences. Fan demand creative camera angles and personalized stories with real characters and emotions.

  5. Scoreboard Challenges and On-Court Games as Tests - Fun, friction-less, and adaptive; knowledge retention should be interwoven and skill checks sprinkled generously. Public participation and replayability in practice are some keys to success.

  6. Digital Badges and Points: Showering rewards for not just the right answer but also for showing the proper reasoning to arrive at those conclusions.

Tips for Teaching with Tech

  1. Speed control - option to skim through chapters at 1.5x-2x speed in the background, or carefully study and replay the last 30 seconds of the key idea. Bookmark and highlight with time markers.

  2. Build Your Own Replays For clarity of understanding, each student should curate content like an editor. Imagine creating a movie trailer for each lecture of only the most important parts.

    Encourage those sharing eureka moments - like reading a great book, we get something new on the 2nd or even the 4th time. Aim to learn one new thing each day.

  3. Freedom of Choice and Voting Kids now get a very democratized menu for learning. They have so much more free unstructured, spare time outside the "core" curriculum.

    How we fill this "idle time" could determine their future more directly than ever before. Off-court or outside school, alternative education plays a much larger factor today. Giving diverse subjects options is a great way for kids to sample new or unrelated categories that might spark their minds.

  4. Boundless Exploration consumption of videos and memes has more than tripled in the last decade. Seamless transition to the next as we shorten intros and credits to squeeze in the next episode.

  5. Breaking the Self-Inertia to Create Habits - Avoiding lazy idleness. Just Do it.  It's not just a Nike slogan anymore. Building routines around actionable knowledge is key.

    Procrastination is sinfully easy now; parents must be responsible gatekeepers. Learning now takes extra diligence at home to prevent their kids from automatically being lured away by all the other digital media vying for their attention.

Overlap the Practices with Match Play

Practice like you play. I recommend spending 15-20 minutes max per set of drills. It can be repeated after a break or a different drill. Do not simply repeat it to a point of exhaustion because your body will not want to repeat it the next day.

The mind must be fresh in order to avoid making sloppy bad habits and one should isolate each step.
The emphasis should be on Deliberate Practice - the pros put in the time during moments of solitude to hone in on very specific aspects whether in the gym, the court, or behind the screen. Outstanding athletes are mentally preparing before they prepare physically for a new challenge.

"Amateurs practice up until they get it right. Professionals keep practicing until they can't get it wrong."

Watch the pros on TopCourt. Each one exercises their craft religiously.

They understand that in order to bring a new pattern into a pro match successfully, they must be able to reliably compete for a living with it on the professional tour.

New tennis exercises need to be run over and over, then combined with old ones. Just like interval and interwoven training, the new is constantly molded with the old. Over enough time, it will blend in with the rest of the routine and workout circuit.

Even a short video gives you a small nugget of knowledge.

The viewer should decide what to watch first, last, or skip altogether.
Not all video clips are created equal. Not all teachers are created equal.

Watch selectively. Practice progressively. Learn passionately.

Mastery requires trial and error

You have to get your hands and feet dirty. You have to get out there on the court and actually create muscle memory in order to put it to use during a match.

Remember these words: "Don't tell me - just show me."

You have to go out to the real world and prove it can be done. It may not need to start on a tennis court. But learning must start with shadowing and rehearsing, or it won't stick.

In all likelihood, with anything challenging, we will not get it the first time.
Most people should go back to review the video (or take it along with them on an iPad or Tablet). Go back and replay it while practicing to get the steps right.

Real development that is lasting requires facing and overcoming adversity.

As a pro tennis instructor, I find it takes several sessions for each lesson to get comfortable for a student. It takes another few to get competent. With continued practice, it may require months to gain true mastery. But it has to be incorporated into your regular cycle of drills.

Two types of reward systems: ones based on success and that on effort.

The students who seek success tend to go for only the low-hanging fruit in order to get praise and rewards, avoiding embarrassment. 

Those students who are praised for strong effort and work ethic will tend to seek greater and greater challenges despite setbacks. Outside of competition, it is clear which players are in it for the league trophy and then there are those out there on the practice courts in the offseason because they love the game and improving.

There is no finish line.

Performance measurements and skill level cutoffs can also be a detriment to promoting a plateauing effect on young children. If a pass/fail system is always used, there is a tendency to do just well enough and then shut down. Real tennis matches require not only reaching the finish line but crossing it with momentum.

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