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What can Tennis learn from Fast Bowlers?

On the 16th and 17th July I went down to Wellington School, Wellington, Somerset to attend the first two days of Steffan Jone’s Pacelab training camp for a group of fast bowlers. For those of you who haven’t been following my tweets and posts on social media I have been taking the time recently to get to grips with some motor learning theories that at first glance fly in the face of established principles of strength training based on Newtonian laws.

My original intention was to summarise my trip and give some insights into what I learnt and how I can apply that to the APA Training method and Tennis. But there was just so much information to digest and much of it hung on my understanding of some of the motor learning principles pioneered by Frans Bosch and Periodisation concepts of Anatoliy Bondarchuk.  So I thought I would do a three part series on this, and having established the theory, do a round-up of my trip.

  • Part 1- Strength Training and Coordination- Frans Bosch
  • Part 2- The Bondarchuk principles of Periodisation
  • Part 3- Putting it all together- my visit to Pacelab


Part 1 Strength Training and Coordination- Frans Bosch

This book is one of about 30 books that stay on my book shelf, ready to be re-read again and again.  It isn’t a easy read, definitely more on the advanced end of sport science principles.  It reminds me of ”Special Strength Training Manual for Coaches” which is another of my favourites.  Every time you read it, you learn something new.

In the interests of not making this blog too long (if you’re really interested in the topic you’ll buy the book yourself!) I want to summarise my take away learnings from the first four chapters.  For me, these first four chapters set the theoretical underpinning for the remaining three chapters to give practical examples of overload, specificity and sport-specific training examples.

The introduction criticizes our tendency to compartmentalise the trainable aspects of the body into basic motor properties of strength, speed, agility, stamina and coordination.  The book sets out to demonstrate that this is not so, and that the basic motor properties can hardly exist in isolation.  Strength and coordination are thus closely related, and should in fact be treated as a single unit.

Sport-specific strength training means coordination training against resistance

I had to chuckle because the very back bone of the APA Training Method is the 5 S’s of Biomotor Ability.  However, I know that I am consciously simplifying the complexity of the body, in order to create a starting point for a common language.  I am not suggesting that physiological systems operate in isolation.

1 The basic concepts of strength and speed

Frans challenges coaches tendency to view adaptations in a predictable linear fashion.  But the body’s response to training is unpredictable.  All we have established so far is that periodisation with variation is better than training without variation.  We get our first introduction to the term ‘dynamic systems‘ which refers to the overall structure of complex systems and its implications for how the body behaves.  When we move in sport, adjustments to movement have to be made in milliseconds and these fluctuations are self-organizing.

We are introduced to the concept of decentralised factors which cannot be readily controlled by central nervous system (CNS) and we need to ‘plan’ for a degree of ‘noise’ in the system which won’t be accounted for with a linear understanding of the adaptation to stress.

This means there are no fairly rigid motor programmes stored in the brain, but that movement is composed on the basis of flexible sets of movement rules that are generally applicable and can filter and shape incidental adjustment to the demands of the environment.  I always thought of fundamental movement skills and sport skills being a kin to uploading some new software onto your computer (brain) and you can access the relevant software to run the sport or task required.  This gives further insight into the way the brain remembers movement through movement ‘rules.’

This also calls into question the need to seek movement perfection seen in physical therapy, golf, and martial arts to name but a few.

The precisely taught lifting technique will NOT be remembered, if only because the objects that are lifted in every day life all differ in shape and weight.  Stable yet flexible movement patterns do not develop by learning techniques precisely, but through self-organization from complexity.

In terms of movement coaching, a whole-part-whole approach is encouraged.  The whole part guarantees a combination of sensorimotor factors that is relevant to the sporting movement.  Part practice will occasionally be required to ensure progression.  Out of interest, whole implies a tactical context so when a coach feeds controlled balls so the player can alternate practising forehands and backhands, this is a type of part practice!

Furthermore, approaching sport-specific strength training from a purely physiological angle disregards the way in which the ‘learning system’ organises movements and transfers between them.  The most difficult choices coaches have to make are in the grey area between strength training and technique training.  Ultimately as a coach you have to decide if the root cause of the problem is with ability to produce enough force (increase resistance) or technique (reduce resistance)


2 Anatomy and limiting influences on force production

I will spare you an Anatomy & Physiology lesson.  In essence we are challenged to review our thinking which bases strength training on the qualities in the contractile parts of the muscle associated with force production.  Instead, also appreciate that neuromuscular factors linked to coordination have a role to play in regulation of force production.  What truly limits maximal force production ”during athletic movements?”

For me the context of the actual sporting movement is finally starting to come home.  I’m starting to appreciate that maximal strength training is designed to increase your potential (physiologically), not your performance.  Strength training can aid in your sports training but the increase in muscular contractile capabilities that may aid in ability to produce force at higher velocities will diminish as the training level of the athlete increases.  Ultimately it comes down to how much force you can access during the time frame of your sporting movement.

There was a good summary of the Force-Velocity relationship indicating that a muscle fibre is not able to produce high force and shorten rapidly at the same time.  We also got to see that different types of muscles favour high force (gluteus maximus) or high velocity (rectus femoris) contractions or both (gastrocnemius).

For me the big take away was in the fantastic description of elastic properties of muscle and the concept of ‘muscle slack.’  For a comprehensive discussion on this topic check out Strong by Science blog Muscle Slack and High Velocity Training: An Integrative Approach and Muscle Slack, which are both well worth a read.

The elastic components of muscle known as serial elastic component (SEC) act as:

  • shock absorbers– resisting opposing external forces
  • energy storers– storing energy of opposing forces during elastic stretch

Now, most rapidly performed movements generate large external forces that load the muscle with eccentric torque and so TRY to move the attachment points further apart.  The muscle can use its elastic components IF the force does not exceed the maximal isometric force in the contractile elements (CE).

Critical to this is the understanding that elastic muscle use is different from concentric explosive muscle use (speed skater push off, swimmer block start etc) or the commonly referred to stretch shortening cycle (SSC) which features an eccentric-concentric action.  High speed movements such as throwing, sprinting and jumping from a run up use an elastic muscle action, with muscle fibres acting isometrically and the musculo-tendinous units lengthen and shorten stretching the elastic parts.

Furthermore, if the change in knee angle in the stance phase of a jump exceeds 20-25 degrees there is little opportunity for short contact time and elastic muscle action, so amplitude of jump is a key determining factor in the underlying muscle action taking place.  Athletes are often unable to limit the range of the countermovement sufficiently because they lack the necessary mastery (and strength in my opinion) of the pretension technique.

I always just assumed that the bigger the range of the movement, the more effective the following muscle action would be, like firing an elastic band analogy (above).  However, where we get lost is that we often look at sports performance through the height of a jump as a measure of explosive power.  It is true that the counter movement jump (CMJ) will enable someone to jump higher than a squat jump.  But the higher movement velocity from the CMJ is the product of a longer movement time (ground contact time) and ”unnaturally” aided pretensioning and muscle slack reduction (unnatural because in sport there isn’t enough time for larger counter movements) which means early rate of force development (RFD) and reduction in muscle slack are not being trained.

You want to limit the eccentric action of muscle fibres.  Any lengthening that occurs is mainly due to slack muscle becoming taut.  What this means for training of high speed movements such as sprinting and single leg hop with a run up is that counter movements should be avoided.

The final section looked at neuromuscular function and in particular the size principle.  This means that the order of the recruitment depends on the size of the stimuli emitted by the central nervous system. We get stronger because we recruit more motor units (more of the larger FT fibres) through stronger and more frequent signals to the muscles, and later through improved synchronisation of the fibres.  So initially the idea in training is to progressively lift heavier weights in order to maximise the physiological potential of the FT fibres.

The idea of training with lower resistance and somewhat less predictable external forces is important not only in sport specific training but also in rehabilitation.  Being able to cope with unexpected external forces may be more important when relearning how to function in every day life than learning to cope with large external forces that can be easily estimated.


3 Analysing the sporting movement

The focus of this chapter was Dynamic Systems theory and the concept of attractors and fluctuators.  I said earlier that I always thought of fundamental movement skills and sport skills being a kin to uploading some new software onto your computer (brain) and you can access the relevant software to run the sport or task required.

The idea of having to improvise a movement and adapt it to the constantly changing demands of the environment does NOT mean that ALL of the components of the movement are constantly adapted.  Instead some are adapted and others remain unchanged

Effective movement is then a matter of changing the right components in response to the demands of the environment while leaving others alone.  According to the dynamic systems theory, the essence of motor control is more or less automatic elimination of superfluous alternatives or degrees of freedom.

  • Stable economical components of movement are referred to as ‘attractors
  • Unstable, high energy ones as ‘fluctuators


The fluctuators are needed in order to adapt the movement to the shifting demands of the ever-changing environment in which the athlete is moving.  When you learn a new movement, use is made of fixed components (attractors) of movements from other, already known movement patterns.  This is useful because it limits the degrees of freedom (the endless possibilities of movement solutions).

According to Bosch, this division into stable and unstable components cannot possibly develop from hierarchical top-down organization of the CNS.  Higher parts of the system ensure ‘general’ more abstract rules of the movement, while ‘specific’ muscle actions and ranges of motion tend to develop from self-organisation of the musculoskeletal system.  This capacity for self-organization is used to prevent at risk positions.

Bosch examines eight attractors of sport

  1. Lock position of the hip
  2. Swing leg traction
  3. Foot plant from above
  4. Positive running motion
  5. Keeping the head still
  6. Upper body first
  7. Extending the trunk while rotating
  8. Distributing pressure when decelerating


4. Fixed principles of training: contextual strength and coordination

In this chapter we learn about the importance of co-contractions to reduce muscle slack and we also look in detail at the laws of motor learning.  This whole chapter sets the scene for variation as a main means of training overload.

This chapter gets to the core of the issue- divergent theories about the relative importance of physiological adaptation (load capacity) versus motor learning adaptation (motor control).

It’s discussed whether maximal strength is a possible performance-limiting factor? If it was, Bosch argues, we would all work on making our muscles stronger, make passive structures more able to absorb more tensile forces, and the strongest athletes would always be the fastest athletes.  But this isn’t the case.

In technically somewhat complex sports, increased force production does not automatically lead to improved performance.

In explosive sports, performance is largely limited by the requirement that the movement must be controllable.

A movement is only controllable if it can withstand external pertubations (surface of  ground, weight of a ball, and any other unexpected movements) as well as internal pertubations (fatigue).  One of the most important mechanisms for controlling movements and making them robust is the influence of co-contractions in what is known as ‘speed/accuracy trade-off.’

The more speed, the more noise or ‘variability’, the more co-contractions, the more the speed of movement will be inhibited.  So the movement will be limited by coordination issues before the load capacity is reached.  The joint is protected by the mechanical properties of the muscles, but at the expense of speed movement.

In conclusion, the limit on performance in explosive movements is probably determined by the demands that motor control makes on intensive movements.

The second part of the chapter focused on the laws of motor learning

  • Cognitive schema theory– all information about how to execute a movement is generated by the CNS
  • Importance of Knowledge of Results (KR) feedback in terms of intention-action model
  • Importance of Variable learning

The problem with many strength exercises is that they lack a clear intention.  Children learn by copying an adult’s intention.  The body does not think in terms of processes, but in terms of the results of the movements.  If attention is focused outside the body on features related to the movement, the movement and motor learning processes will be controlled more effectively.



It is really important to look for KR feedback in practical coaching so that it can replace over-dominant KP feedback.  The KP would be instruction from a coach on correct technical performance, and KR would simply be using a tape measure to record how far the discus was thrown.  The KR feedback leads to external focus, which is a good thing.  This doesn’t mean that coaches no longer have any part to play, but that they should be gardeners rather than conductors!

Gardeners do not decide when or how fast plants should grow-when the next step should be taken in the learning process- but simply hoe and fertilize.  Create a learning environment with movement puzzles to solve and let them implicitly learn to recognize a biomechanically optimal solution.

The final topic discussed was the role of motivation.  Repetition has not only the advantage of imprinting a movement, but also the disadvantage of reducing motivation.  Sensorimotor ‘chaos’ is the basis for learning.  Variation in the execution of the movement in unfamiliar settings creates chaos- which is a good thing for learning.

More than anything the most compelling reason why periodisation models work is because periodisation lads to variation in training!

The learning system usually finds strength training monotonous and boring!  It also impairs coordinative transfer.  Perhaps one of the reasons we hit a learning ceiling is because training is too monotonous. But just as there is a point of diminished returns with strength training (Load capacity) there is also a limit to the value of variation.

When working with youths variation helps athletes develop the building blocks of movement control.  Spend a few years building up a good catalogue of basic components through variable training.  Only then does it make sense to start using larger barbell weights.

For example see below for some progressions in a step-up:

  1. Asymmetrically balanced bar on shoulders
  2. Vary the step up height
  3. Vary movement of the free (swing) leg
  4. Vary horizontal movement- placing more load on hamstrings
  5. Combine step up with torsion in the upper body


Repetition without repetition (Bernstein)

Differential learning and Random learning are the two forms of variable learning.

  • Differential learning– learn by frequently alternating many variants of one movement in one session
  • Random learning– learn by frequently alternating many different movement patterns in one session


The effects of learning the ideal technique and differential learning are different.  Learning the ideal technique will yield faster results- but this is deceptive, for the effect is usually temporary.  Not only is the solution quickly forgotten, but it can’t be easily transferred to other sporting movements.  In differential learning the immediate results (practice results) are not so good, but the eventual impact on the sporting movement turns out to be better and more lasting (the learning result).


Where I am next presenting?


FREE WORKSHOP: 5 Numbers to Live By

Dates: 9 Sept 2018,  09:00AM-12:00PM Location: Gosling Sports Park, Welwyn Garden City, AL8 6XE

Book your spot HERE

Hope you have found this article useful.  Remember,

  • If you’re not subscribed yet, click here to get free email updates, so we can stay in touch.
  • Share this post using the buttons on the top and bottom of the post. As one of this blog’s first readers, I’m not just hoping you’ll tell your friends about it. I’m counting on it.
  • Leave a comment, telling me where you’re struggling and how I can help




APA are recruiting!!

This year Athletic Performance Academy (APA) have exciting partnerships with a number of fantastic organisations.  We are looking for inspirational, honest, professional and courageous strength & conditioning coaches to join our team.

Part-time Paid roles:

We are recruiting part-time strength & conditioning coaches at the following venues.



Gosling Tennis Academy

Details: Welwyn Garden City, UK

Week day evenings, starting September 2018


Legends Tennis Academy

Details: Hertford, UK

Week day evenings, starting September 2018


New Hall School

Details: Chelmsford, UK

Lunch times and evenings, starting September 2018


Remuneration for all the roles is £10-17 per hour based on experience.


Essential criteria for this role to include:

  • Passion for performance sports and coaching
  • Level 2 Gym instructor qualification (or equivalent)
  • Experience in the provision of strength and conditioning support to young athletes


Desirable criteria for this role to include:

  • Currently enrolled or recently graduated from an S&C BSc
  • Desire to work toward UKSCA professional accreditation
  • LTA recognised Tennis Coach Qualification




YOU MAY APPLY VIA Email:              Please quote ref: APA.01


Interviews will be held week commencing the Monday 30th July  2018 at Gosling Sports Park, Welwyn Garden City, Herts. If you are successful at interview, you will be required to start work on the 3rd September


Internship role:

We are also looking for coaches wishing to gain experience in a high performance environment who are passionate about working in youth sport.  There is an opportunity to experience a range of environments that APA are operating in.

In addition to the above sites we also run strength & conditioning programmes at:



We need coaches who can volunteer 5-10 hours per week of their time.

This may lead to paid opportunities to cover our coaches as required and also do private coaching of your own as demand grows.

Opportunities to shadow/assist in sessions involving developmental all the way to elite professional athletes

  • Access to Coaching syllabus and additional resources to use during programme hours
  • Access to Coach mentoring including help to prepare for UKSCA accreditation if appropriate
  • Discounts on APA workshops and qualifications
  • Access to potential work at other clubs in the APA organization




YOU MAY APPLY VIA Email:               Please quote ref: APA.01


Interviews will be held week commencing the Monday 30th July 2018 at Gosling Sports Park, Welwyn Garden City, Herts. If you are successful at interview, you will be required to start work on the 3rd September


Where I am next presenting?


FREE WORKSHOP: 5 Numbers to Live By

Dates: 9 Sept 2018,  09:00AM-12:00PM Location: Gosling Sports Park, Welwyn Garden City, AL8 6XE

Book your spot HERE

Hope you have found this article useful.  Remember,

  • If you’re not subscribed yet, click here to get free email updates, so we can stay in touch.
  • Share this post using the buttons on the top and bottom of the post. As one of this blog’s first readers, I’m not just hoping you’ll tell your friends about it. I’m counting on it.
  • Leave a comment, telling me where you’re struggling and how I can help


LTA National Coaches Conference 2018 Review

Last weekend I attended my first LTA National Coaches conference. I have been working in Tennis since 2003 but have never been before.  The conference is for tennis coaches and since I’m not a licensed Tennis coach I don’t get invited.  This year I was asked if APA wanted to have a stand at the exhibitors area but I thought it would be more fun to be a delegate!

I really enjoyed it and there was a good mix of technical-tactical-mental-physical based themes so something for everyone. Sunday was a bit more focused on Tennis with Louis Cayer presenting on the British Tennis Doubles system and Julie Blackwood presenting on Sport Psychology for Tennis.  Simon Timson (LTA Performance Director) also presented on the LTA Player Pathway and the Performance Strategy, which has the objective of ”making GB one of the most respected tennis nations in the world for player development.”

Saturday had a bit more of a physical theme with Mark Kovacs and Ruben Neyens so I thought I’d summarise those.


Saturday 30th June

Mark Kovacs- Tennis Serve and Injury Prevention

Kovacs Institute and ITPA Executive Director

Mark took us through his 8 stage serving model and common faults and solutions.

The most common incorrect coaching cue is:

  • bend your knees more
  • push your hips forward over the baseline

In order to increase your serve velocity rather than focusing on these cues ask your players to load your back foot more.  Back foot loading and the ‘twist rotation‘, according to Mark, is the key to a fast and efficient serve.

He also took us through some injury prevention ideas for the hips and shoulder that can be done during warm-ups.  The main elements are:

=>hip stability and hip mobility

=>shoulder stability (scapular motion and rotator cuff function) and shoulder mobility


In the practical we went through some band walks for hip stability (see below). Mark said the closer the band is to the hips the easier the exercise- the closer to the ankle the more difficult.

We did some shoulder band work looking at band external rotations with elbows tucked against side of body and thumbs up (see below), as well as the 90-90 variation with elbow in line with shoulder.  We finished with a Y raise with band attached to net.  For shoulder mobility we looked at the side lying sleeper stretch as well as the standing version, where you place the back of your fingers against your lower back while you gently pull the arm forward with the the other hand by grabbing it from the tricep.

Mark also showed an example of a seated rotation exercise to improve thoracic rotation.  I had seen Sue Falsone show this at a coach education day with Mike Boyle Strength & Conditioning but have never used it myself. You sit on the floor cross-legged with your hand up in a ‘don’t shoot’ pose on the side of your head.  Then rotate to one side, hold it for a moment, then perform a side bend.

The idea is that the side bend make use of the contract-relax technique.  When you side bend you contract the opposite muscle (obliques) which at the same time relaxes the latissimus muscles and trunk rotators on the other side.

A few coaches also asked how to improve posture of their players as they tend to slouch and have rounded backs.  Mark showed a standing version of the wall slide- it’s easier to do it seated against a wall as it allows you to tuck your pelvis into a posterior tilt so you can’t cheat by arching your lower back.  By bending the legs it makes it even easier to lock the pelvis into position.



Overall it was a good lesson for me in terms of what tennis coaches want to see, some take away exercises that don’t need too much equipment or expertise that they can confidently incorporate into the physical warm-ups.

Ruben Neyens- Kids Tennis Blue

Flemish Tennis Federation 12u Physical Trainer

If you have seen the last few blogs you will know that APA hosted a Speed Workshop in June with Ruben as one of the keynotes.  Today was interesting because he was able to show case the other aspect of his role, with his work with the ‘Tennis Blue’ programme.  This work focuses on children between 4 and 6 years old, which is the stage before the well established mini tennis pathway Red (8-under), Orange (9-under) and Green (10-under).

Ruben spoke about the training philosophy and how to develop skills of sending, receiving and sending/receiving combined.

Ruben stressed the need to create a performance playground, a really fun space that uses equipment to stimulate the children’s imagination and excitement.  We want the children to be asking Mummy and Daddy, ”when do we go to Tennis again?”

He was in favour of giving them progressively more difficult tennis puzzles to solve, which mirrors his ideas on physical development.  He also wants to promote interaction between the children.  Much of tennis is about the coach working with the child, but its also really important to get the children working together in pairs and small groups.

He said it is easier to send the ball rolling it along the floor with a racket, and then hit it with a bounce, and then with no bounce (volley).  It’s also easier to receive larger balls such as balloons and beach balls etc and have fun ways to receive them such as hoops with nets, and big trousers that the children wear. So to give children confidence start with challenges where the children roll the ball to each other.

One of the delegates said that coaches feel under pressure from parents that the children need to be hitting balls over a net.  Ruben said that if you really wanted to- to settle parents- you could easily put a net in front of many of the challenges that Ruben had created, but that kind of misses the point.

Ruben had created challenges which require you to send different types of balls into different types of targets which are different distances and heights away.  Having a tennis net and sponge ball (in my opinion) limits the possibility to explore tennis in a fun environment.

The biggest constraint is that you need lots of equipment and indoor space. He said it’s well worth investing in the equipment because it creates a fantastic space that children will want to ‘play’ in and parents will tell other parents about.  As far as it needing to be indoors, Ruben said that in Belgium all the Blue and Red programme has to be indoors.  But for these ages you don’t need tennis courts.  In fact sports halls in schools and leisure centres are perfect because often they have more of the equipment you need to run these kind of sessions.


Where I am next presenting?


FREE WORKSHOP: 5 Numbers to Live By

Dates: 9 Sept 2018,  09:00AM-12:00PM Location: Gosling Sports Park, Welwyn Garden City, AL8 6XE

Book your spot HERE

Hope you have found this article useful.  Remember,

  • If you’re not subscribed yet, click here to get free email updates, so we can stay in touch.
  • Share this post using the buttons on the top and bottom of the post. As one of this blog’s first readers, I’m not just hoping you’ll tell your friends about it. I’m counting on it.
  • Leave a comment, telling me where you’re struggling and how I can help


Guest Blog Post with Johnny Parks- COACH THE BEST TO BE BETTER

This week’s Blog is a guest blog from Johnny Parkes, Manager of Player ID and Development

I met Johnny while he was studying a Masters degree in the UK in 2012 and was coaching out of Gosling Tennis Academy as a consultant tennis coach.  We stayed in touch after he went to the states in 2015 and he now has a fantastic role with the USTA focusing on all facets of Player Development from 10 and Under to the professional game.

As part of his role Team USA offers support to US juniors through supplemental training opportunities via camps around the country and trainings at the USTA National Campus. Johnny was recently able to attend the GAIN Network, set up by an iconic Strength & Conditioning coach Vern Gambetta.  It’s something I have thought about doing before as a great form of professional development and opportunity to connect with the GAIN network.

Its $2000 to attend the four days the first time you go and then $900 every time after or $300 to access the network site if you don’t go.  Here what Johnny had to say below!


Rice University in Houston Texas was the location of this year’s GAIN Network brought to us by Vern Gambetta, a world renowned athletic development coach. In its 11th year, GAIN brings together Strength and Conditioning/Athletic Development Coaches, sports coaches and sports medicine professionals into one location for high level collaborative professional development. Going into the program I didn’t know what to expect from the packed 4 days. Our Director of Athletic Medicine at the USTA National Campus and good friends with Vern had recommended me for the program. I was excited to dive into an area that I have ingrained as part of my personal philosophy developing tennis players and being exposed to this side of the development spectrum was going to be exciting.

The agenda was packed starting off at 6:30am and finishing around 8pm (10pm if you’re counting the interactions with other attendees and faculty staff). So rather than go through every presentation I will take you through some that stood out as it pertained the world I am involved with in tennis.

1. Theme of the Week:

We started Tuesday evening with Coach Gambetta setting up the theme for the week “Connecting the Dots – Getting back to basics”. Networking was the unsung hero of the week, where you got to connect with professionals from all walks of life from all over the world. This in itself is where a lot of the learning and sharing was done over breakfast, lunch and dinner.


2. Morning Madness:

Each morning started off at 6:30am at the Track and Field facility with “Morning Madness”. This was three 20 minute stations presented by faculty coaches of the GAIN network.

“Educational Gymnastics” – James Marshall from Devon, UK delivered a session on the basics of human movement, rolling, jumping, blancing, which made you feel like an excited 10 year who couldn’t wait to get out of math class to get to PE.

“Sticks and straps” by Steve Myrland was a personal favorite due to the shoulder stability/mobility related to overhead athletes. It was fun and collaborative focusing on internal and external resistant exercises using only sticks and straps with push-pull motions in certain stances. Something I will be applying with athletes as it beats the standard band work most tennis players are bored with and perform with poor quality.

“Locomotor patterns” and “Reaction based games” by Greg Thompson delivered two purposeful game based warm-ups going through many different movement patterns in teams. It highlighted the FUNdamentals in a fun dynamic environment.

Sprint mechanics was emphasized in both class room and on the track. Coach Jim Radcliffe from the University of Oregon presented two sessions he calls “the rehearsal” with his athletes in the “Oregon warm-up” and “Plyo Progressions”. His ability to teach without saying many words and letting you work through the exercise was a great quality, and I took this as a lesson in how to take something complex and the danger of over coaching can exist and simplify it for students.

The rest of the morning sessions were rounded up by UK’s Nick Hill and Gold Medal Fiji’s Rugby 7’s coach Naca Cawanibuka on “Robust Running”, Nick Garcia and Dan Noble on dumbbell complexes. Nick also presented his periodization plan with his football athletes, which was well thought out and detailed. I really liked the concepts he presented, but tough to apply in tennis with no real defined seasons especially in the junior world.

All morning sessions can be incorporated with tennis athletes especially juniors. The generalized athletic movements are a pre-requisite to reaching the top of the game now and in the futre and must start early in the child’s development, but as I look at how to impact our athletes, the need to be combine this early on with tennis specific movement patterns on the court is essential.

3. Workshops:

The day was then scheduled with two morning presentations followed by lunch. After lunch interactive hands-on workshops broke up the day. These sessions were 1. “The Tensegrity model and how it changes the concept of stretching” emphasized the importance of extension. 2. “Balance and it’s Permutations” with Grace Golden was another favorite of mine as it allowed for creativity in team based environment. 3. A PCA and return to competition assessment took us through some exercises that we can do with our athletes to understand their instabilities and weaknesses which can inhibit their ability to perform certain movement. An example being an athlete has poor dorsiflexion of the ankles, which I see a lot in juniors, could be due to the ankle joint or down to tight calves, but this may affect their ability to squat or to get into a viable ready position with ease, thus then affecting their ability to accelerate. It truly is inter-connected.

The workshops were followed by two more presentations and finishing up with more discussion after dinner. In the interest of time, I will go over some of my favorite sessions.


Coach Jim Radcliffe, Strength and Conditioning Coach for the University of Oregon presented two great movement madness sessions as mentioned above, he also delivered two stand-out presentations. One titled “Orientating your compass – Finding True North” brought you back to the essence of coaching which is teaching and educating first, an art that is slowly becoming extinct. We have to teach the athletes to learn the concepts, not just the drills; this was the presentation that set-up the mindset that is a pre-requisite to becoming a master coach.

His second “Robust Running”, centered on the development of running mechanics and technique via the hip in creating movement efficiency negotiating the ground. The piston position was emphasized and demonstrated which followed up with examples of exercises that promote the correct technique and hip mobility and projection.

Peter Weyand, a professor at SMU presented on “Science for Speed” creating an understanding that developing speed isn’t based around leg speed it’s based on improving peak ground force reaction and contact using three inputs, 1. Contact time, 2. Aerial time and 3. Ankle motion.

5. “Rehab and Return to Play”:

Grace Golden out of Colorado had a refreshing holistic approach presenting what the athlete CAN DO on their journey to returning to play. Fundamentals before sport specific and her progressions through the planes of motion in getting her athletes back to full health ready to train and compete. I was a huge fan of Grace’s workshop. She had a variety of equipment from balls, sticks bands, dodgeballs, gym balls etc. The idea was to take us through the planes of motions while stressing our creativity by giving us parameters and then the freedom to come up with our own exercises. It was a very clever way to engage us in her approach. The first centered on the frontal plane then the sagittal plane, the parameters was it had to be a balance exercise involving a push pull. We got together in groups and it really sprouted some great exercises from the groups. Made me think this would actually be a great idea to do with the athletes in expanding their thought processes and promoting creativity

6. “Endurance for What?”:

Coach Magness stressed the importance of developing the capacity needed for the demands of the sport, develop the awareness that it is about the athlete not the system and it’s about people and not numbers. Another example of getting to the core of being flexible with each athlete understanding that their needs may be different. This message particularly hit home being in tennis as you have athletes operating in different energy systems, all at different stages in their development and of course there is game style to take into account. It truly is an art to figure out how to help each individual maximize their bodies so they can compete at the highest level their bodies allow.

7. “LTAD – Sense or Nonsense?”

I was excited by the title of this presentation. The USOC recently came out with their “American Development Model – ADM”, to create a drummed down version of LTAD models that have had 7 stages or 10 pillars or whatever complex system the research has come up with. It left me feeling that year maybe the information makes sense but the way its presented makes absolutely no sense to coaches that are actually out there living it each day.

James Marshall whose background with athletes of different sports, NGB’s and now inspiring many kids at his own gym in Devon, UK was very well-versed in this area. He made comparisons to LTAD models and what is actually delivered provided an insight of making sure we don’t get away from what is most important, which is providing opportunities for our children to explore for themselves. LTAD models are too complex fictional and no possible way to execute. I agreed with all of his experiences and observations as he took us into the day in the life of his son, which showed us the many opportunities he had to free play, some facilitated by James, but a lot was through the natural environment. He simply put the question back to us, how do you measure that in your LTAD models? Free play is dying due to cultural factors, government policies with regards to P.E. as well as many factors deter our youth away from daily exploration of what their bodies can do athletically. With Generation Z, the iGen generation coming through, they will be the first generation that is grown up in a technological world. We must find ways to inspire free-play and let kids be kids.

8. A High Performing Culture:

I needed the tissues for Dan Noble’s story from the Hill Academy in Canada with a powerful journey through his development as a person and coach. Tragedy and strong cultural values drives an environment to come together to inspire greatness into groups of athletes and human beings. He implements daily journal time, free thinking and reflection, free play, where he showed us a video of his kids coming up with obstacle courses to go through in between classes, stressing the importance that it’s ok to fail. When it all comes down to it, the culture will create the environment, and he has certainly done an amazing job of that.

We finished up on a great open discussion on “Integrated Performance Teams and Scope of Practice” stressing the importance of communication across multiple fields which are becoming increasingly segmented due to specialty within specialty fields. In order to provide and plan in the best interests of the player, the sports coach who leads the athlete, the S and C / Athletic Development Coach / Sports Medicine and Nutrition all need to come together as one. We need to eradicate phrases such as “staying in my lane”, and do whatever it takes in the best interest of the person/athlete.

9. Conclusion:

There were many other great presenters that I could talk about. Overall, I was taken back by the level of detail and quality of the presenters and my fellow attendees. The coaches were very knowledgeable, highly experienced individuals. A lot of the learning took place in connecting with other attendees, understanding their sport and challenges and how they overcome those challenges to deliver their programs.

I took a lot away as predominantly a tennis coach who has a strong passion for athletic development and the art of movement within our sport. I firmly believe we have to specialize in generalizing but we must also have a very strong grasp on movement patterns and how to be as efficient as possible in those movements within tennis and to be able to do it with grace and ease. This has to be taught, trained and coached from an early age if a tennis playing athlete is going to reach their full potential. The skill as a coach working with the tennis athlete is balancing out the times where we can focus on the overall athleticism with the times we need to specialize with efficient movement patterns.

Vern closed us out with “The Champions Choice” posing the question to us as coaches “Do we make the champions choice in our coaching and with our athletes”, do we help the athletes understand and recognize what the champions choice is and what it means? The qualities of a great coach are being able to lead by example but unlock the potential of an athlete by the relationships we build with them and the quality work we put into their development.

It was reassuring and enlightening, overwhelming but simple, creative and collaborative. I have no doubt that I would go again year after year for my dose of professional development as Vern continues his quest to COACH THE BEST TO BE BETTER.

Contact Johnny at:


Where I am next presenting?


Level 2 Certificate in Strength & Conditioning

Dates: 27/28 Oct 2018, and 24/25 Nov 09:00AM-17:00PM Location: Gosling Sports Park, Welwyn Garden City, AL8 6XE

Book your spot HERE

Hope you have found this article useful.  Remember,

  • If you’re not subscribed yet, click here to get free email updates, so we can stay in touch.
  • Share this post using the buttons on the top and bottom of the post. As one of this blog’s first readers, I’m not just hoping you’ll tell your friends about it. I’m counting on it.
  • Leave a comment, telling me where you’re struggling and how I can help

What S&C Coaches can learn from Driving Instructors

Hey Everyone,

A couple of weeks ago I  presented at the APA Speed, Agility & Quickness Training for Sports Workshop.  If you have ever been to one you know it’s normally a four hour format and we cover the four types of speed that I refer to at APA:

  • First step speed
  • Straight ahead speed
  • Multi-directional speed
  • Sport specific speed

For this workshop I invited a few guests to present with me and we went for a six-hour format.  In the morning there was a theory based presentation from myself and Howard Green, and Ruben Neyens did a practical session.  Then in the afternoon we all did a practical. In the last blog I summarised my theory presentation (Speed Tips from World Class coaches- part 1) .  In this one I have taken inspiration from Ruben’s practical- this is part 2!

What really struck me was the learning environment that Ruben created.  You’ll get to see more of what I’m talking about if you go to this year’s Lawn Tennis Association (LTA) National Conference- he’s a keynote speaker.  He talked about the performance playground idea- a concept I first heard from Darren Roberts. It actually felt a little bit uncomfortable for me to see the child stumble through the exercises.  Ruben would set up the task- and then let the child practice it while he spoke to the audience for a few minutes.  My instinct was to want to step in and give the child more information on how to do it better!  It really benefited me to see his approach because I would say I’m a reluctant observer- I want to be at the centre of the learning.

I took the time to reflect on ”how children learn new skills” and this was the basis of the staff in-service training I gave last Friday.  Below is the summary of the presentation.

If you want to see the full presentation I will put the video below.  One of the key discussions about how children learn new skills is the concept of ‘Discovery Learning.’

Discovery Learning- the ‘How’

At the beginning of his coaching practical Ruben said that he preferred to set up a drill and then leave the children to practice it without the coach saying anything.  He thinks an important part of talent ID is finding out which children are open to learning, and actively seek out opportunities to learn.  Most of the time, children with a healthy attitude to learning would ask him ‘to watch them to see if they were doing it correctly,’ or they would ask him to show them something more difficult.

After a few minutes he might ask, ”Would you like a tip?” to which they might reply Yes or No.  Then he would give them just one or two instructions to ‘draw their attention to something that will improve the movement.

It was also noticeable that in more complex movements such as changing direction he would use a ‘constraints based’ coaching approach.  So in order to learn how to decelerate more effectively when changing direction the child had to place a round circular cone on a large traffic cone.  This ‘constraint’ using specific equipment required a strategy involving precise movement which by its nature made the child take more care to slow down in preparation for this task.

In all cases it was noticeable that there wasn’t a lot of instruction and verbal coaching.  Ruben was more of an observer and would respond to the athlete.

Education of Attention

The process of an more experienced coach selectively introducing the novice to the right aspects of the environment is known as ‘education of attention.’  This involves:

  • Showing them landmarks that orientate his or her activities
  • Helping them Learn what to notice and do

Assisted Imitation

Mimikry is one of the most powerful ways to Learn what to do, and that’s why doing a demonstration and then asking the child to copy is such a central part of the coaching process.  Ruben would give a good demonstration and then would let the child copy him.  He didn’t really use many words to describe or explain what he was looking for- he mainly showed it. If the child was not quite doing it right, he would ask them if they wanted a tip.

Progression not Regression

Ruben said he preferred to start with a simple skill and progress.  This was every child is able to feel confident in their ability to get involved and do the task.  You can then progress it for those individuals who need a higher challenge.  Ruben would take a simple task and add layers of complexity to it until he reached the limit of the child’s ability and the skill started to break down.

He also said it is important to have an idea of where you would like to go with the session but as far as strict session planning goes he said no- he prefers to have a box of tools and then he will go to his toolbox depending on how we feels the children are responding to the tasks.

I had to reflect on this myself as I tend to want to change the stimulus independent of how the children respond to it.  I move on because my session plan and my watch tells me it’s time to!! This is something I will reflect on.

Frans Bosch talks about Dynamic Systems theory and the complexity of the human motor apparatus. He talks about needing a ‘Psychophysical’ environment that provides a setting to exploit movement variability as a mechanism to enhance an athlete’s adaptability.

For me personally, you can either  start with the end in mind and regress if needed, or start at the bottom and progress (as Ruben demonstrated).  I don’t know if you can say that one is right or wrong as both will have consequences.  The consequence of starting with the more simple skill is that advanced athletes will get little challenge from the easier progressions.  The advantage is that it is inclusive and enables all the group to feel confident- and you can slowly dial up the difficulty until everyone finds the level of challenge appropriate for them.

One thing I think we need to talk about besides ‘Confidence’ gained from Competence is Safety.  I’m all for starting with the end in mind- or at least moving quickly to where the athlete is challenged if we do in fact start at the easiest progression.  I understand that part of ecological psychology is to let the person learn to manage risks in their environment.  If you take away the risk you take away their capabilities to assess risk because you remove it- such as what many councils do with playgrounds.

But what if the child lacks the physical (and sensory) abilities to ”actively [and safely] explore the possibilities afforded to them by the environment?  Isn’t their an argument for a basic level of motor skills?

Frans Bosch say that the relationship between strength and coordination needs to be better understood and they should in fact ”be treated as a single unit.  Since force has a strongly coordinative component and motor control limits production of force, the laws of motor learning are important within strength training.”

My personal opinion is that even if it is true that a ‘precisely taught lifting or jumping/landing technique will not be remembered, for it is not universally applicable’- we need to first determine a stable technique.  So can the athlete control their joint position in a squat- then a counter movement jump and finally a drop jump? Let’s get it stable first and then add variability to the movement patterns.

According to Bosch:

Stable yet flexible movement patterns do NOT develop by learning techniques PRECISELY, but through self-organisation from COMPLEXITY.

My personal tendency is to start at the bottom and work up.  Think of a driving instructor.  Would you expect a driving instructor to take a novice driver on to the main busy roads on the first lesson if they have no prior experience? No, they have to learn the fundamental driving skills first of how to put the car in gear, accelerate and decelerate.  Once they have basic control of the vehicle they can they take it on the main roads and learn how to interact with a dynamic environment.

This leads me onto the second part of this blog.

Functional Movement Skills (FMS)- the ‘What’

I believe it is important to explore a range of FMS in early development.  I also believe that ‘targeted’ FMS will augment/accelerate performance in Sport Specific Skills (SSS). Like nearly every aspect of Strength & Conditioning there seems to be a number of categories of FMS according to different organisations.

For example:

And here are some more:

For me I like to keep it simple- FMS are basically forms of Locomotion, Manipulation and Stability.  To make it even simpler I refer to Coordination (Locomotion and Manipulation), Balance (Stability) and Reaction Speed

I’d encourage you to check out the video below.  I have also included the journal article for more info. Youth Physical Development Model 2012

As I said, I believe it is important to explore a range of FMS in early development.  However, I also feel it is important to ask yourself what you expect to happen by doing a range of movement skills? Is the belief that elite athletes become elite because they played several sports as a youth? I don’t believe that.

I think elite athletes who were famous for being great in several sports and had a choice which sport to go into- were just supreme athletes who were going to make it in spite of the system they were in not because of it.  They probably would have succeeded regardless.

No, that’s not why I encourage children to develop a broad encyclopedia of movement skills (Fundamental skills). It’s because I want to give them options in later life to feel confident they can try a range of sports.  I never did gymnastics as a child- I wish I had.  I now have a fear response to falling, tumbling, rolling and it makes me nervous about trying activities that require these skills, even related skills like diving off a diving board etc.  When they are young (5-10 yrs) let them learn how to move in all kinds of ways.

As an extension to their development it’s also for that same reason why I would encourage them to play a range of sports in their early years (10-14 yrs) before they specialise.

Do Fundamental Movement Skills enhance Sport Specific Skills?

As I said earlier, I also believe that ‘targeted’ FMS will augment/accelerate performance in Sport Specific Skills (SSS).  If you go to the end of my coaches presentation I will show a research study highlighting that those children who performed best in a FMS- ‘surmounting obstacles’ using a specific task- running across obstacles- were also the best at performing gymnastic skills.  The highest correlation between running across obstacles was with a gymnastic task involving a springboard jump on the vault.

It’s not surprising that children best at running across obstacles would also be best at using a springboard to jump on a vault.  So the degree of transfer from a FMS to a SSS is going to be based on the similarity of the two skills!  This shouldn’t be a surprise- and it’s not a case for specialisation.  It’s simply saying that learning is task specific.  Give children lots of different movement experiences in early childhood so they have options in later life.  As they increasingly specialise and training transfer becomes increasingly important then naturally the pool of activities that you choose from on a daily basis will narrow to those most similar to the actions of your sport.


Where I am next presenting?


Level 2 Certificate in Strength & Conditioning

Dates: 23/24 June 2018, and 21/22 July  09:00AM-17:00PM Location: Gosling Sports Park, Welwyn Garden City, AL8 6XE

Book your spot HERE

Hope you have found this article useful.  Remember,

  • If you’re not subscribed yet, click here to get free email updates, so we can stay in touch.
  • Share this post using the buttons on the top and bottom of the post. As one of this blog’s first readers, I’m not just hoping you’ll tell your friends about it. I’m counting on it.
  • Leave a comment, telling me where you’re struggling and how I can help

Speed Tips from World Class Coaches- part 1

Hey Everyone,

I had a fun day presenting at the APA Speed, Agility & Quickness Training for Sports Workshop.  If you have ever been to one you know it’s normally a four hour format and we cover the four types of speed that I refer to at APA:

  • First step speed
  • Straight ahead speed
  • Multi-directional speed
  • Sport specific speed

For this workshop I invited a few guests to present with me and we went for a six-hour format.  In the morning there was a theory based presentation from myself and Howard Green, and Ruben Neyens did a practical session.  Then in the afternoon we all did a practical. In this blog I will summarise my theory presentation.  In the next one I will summarise Howard’s presentations and finally Ruben’s!

Daz Drake- The Key to a Successful programme

In my first presentation I wanted to set the scene for our day of talks/practicals on speed.  In the first half I was talking about the overall importance of athleticism (which I define with the 5 Biomotor abilities- suppleness, skill, speed, strength, speed, stamina).

  • Mindset first- don’t evaluate speed unless you know they are giving 100%
  • LTAD- move well => move fast => move often
  • Moving well means having mobility and stability, built on foundations of suppleness and skill.
  • Skill is about perception-action coupling- identify, filter and attend to sensory information quickly
  • Motor skill learning- Discovery learning using implicit constraints based coaching and external cueing
  • Strength is key to development of force- which enables you to accelerate.

In the second part I talked about the APA Training method, how we plan speed and Debunked some myths about First step speed technique.

  • Planning principles- gradual change of focus moving from general to more specific speed overall course of training cycle

Multi-directional speed (stopping) => Straight ahead speed (acceleration) => First step speed => Multi-directional speed (cutting) => Sport specific speed

  • Importance of evaluation both at start of training cycle but also within each session
  • Use of chaotic games and actual tennis play as real time assessment
  • Key progressions for speed: establish technique => add distance => add resistance =>add repetition
  • Acceleration model- what to look for
  • First step speed- debunking myths- the key to get off the mark explosively is to step back first!
  • Definitions of first step according to direction travelled- dig step (forward), drop step (backwards), directional step (sideways)

Straight ahead Speed- Acceleration Mechanics

Notice the three highlighted aspects of acceleration to look for.  The athlete in the bottom is executing them better. Large first step (approximately 1.5m on first step) / High knee on second step (approximating the hip level) and good separation between knees on third step.

First Step Speed- dig step

Notice the ”repositioning” of the centre of mass.  The body doesn’t move back- it actually moves forward!! It’s just the eye sees the foot moving back.  This is a natural reflexive action to initiate movement explosively from the athletic stance and is based on laws of physics- the equal and opposite force principle, and the stretch-shortening cycle of muscle contraction.


First step speed- dig step.  Look out for Fabio Fognini’s explosive first step forward!


Look out for Henin’s first step speed- directional step to move to the wide forehand!


Check out Rafa’s running steps when he was pushed out wide.  At APA First step speed is defined explosive movement in any direction. A key point is that the movement must be sprinting based, meaning the athlete is running to the ball. Since most movements on a tennis court are submaximal (such as side steps and cross-over steps) I like to group them under the ‘Sport specific Speed’ category.

Where I am next presenting?


Level 2 Certificate in Strength & Conditioning

Dates: 23/24 June 2018, and 21/22 July  09:00AM-17:00PM Location: Gosling Sports Park, Welwyn Garden City, AL8 6XE

Book your spot HERE

Hope you have found this article useful.  Remember,

  • If you’re not subscribed yet, click here to get free email updates, so we can stay in touch.
  • Share this post using the buttons on the top and bottom of the post. As one of this blog’s first readers, I’m not just hoping you’ll tell your friends about it. I’m counting on it.
  • Leave a comment, telling me where you’re struggling and how I can help

How to Get Fit Fast- ready for the Summer!

Hi Everyone!

With summer around the corner attentions are turning to exercise to lose some unwanted belly fat and get fit.

Last night I tuned in to ”How to Get Fit fast,” a series on Channel 4 which offers viewers top tips on how to get fit and lose weight, particularly in time for summer. This week’s episode focused on body-weight exercises as well as the right foods to add to your diet to aid workouts and help get rid of belly fat.  See a full review of the programme HERE which focused more on the nutritional advice given on the show.

I’d like to focus on the exercise regimes they discussed- which were designed to be done during a lunch break according to the time different workers set aside for lunch.  Apparently the average British worker takes 34-minutes off for Lunch.  In this show they designed a workout for someone who takes 30 minutes, 20 minutes and 5 minutes for lunch!!

All the workouts are based on a percentage of your maximum heart rate (MHR) to gauge intensity.  I have previously used the First beat system when measuring heart rate zones.

The First Beat System uses the following Training zones:

  • Max => 90% +
  • Very Hard => 80-90% MHR
  • Hard => 70-80% MHR
  • Moderate => 60-70% MHR
  • Easy => 50-60%

Different Types of Workout:

Option 1: 30-minute workout

Mode: Steady running on a treadmill for 30-minutes

% MHR: 65

Calories burned during exercise: 260

Calories burned after exercise: 0

Total calories burned: 260

Option 2: 20-minute workout

Mode: High Intensity Interval training (HIIT) for 20-minutes.  60-sec work: 30-sec rest bodyweight calisthenics (stair runs, wall sits, mountain climbers, jump squats)

% MHR: 85

Calories burned during exercise: 180

Calories burned after exercise: 100

Total calories burned: 280

Option 3: 10-minute workout

Mode: Sprint Interval training (SIT) for 10-minutes.  20-sec maximum work: 120-sec rest bike sprints x 4 sets

% MHR: 95+

Calories burned during exercise: 30

Calories burned after exercise: 220

Total calories burned: 250


What does this mean?

The conclusion is that any of the above workouts can work for you to burn around 250 calories.  But depending on how much time you have you can choose from the steady run, HIIT or SIT.  However, you will require to have a higher level of fitness to cope with the demands on the body of the HIIT and SIT workouts, so always consult a doctor before starting any of these workouts.

The benefit of the HIIT and SIT workouts is that they are more efficient.  They burn less calories than steady running during exercise but your body continues to burn calories after exercise, known as the ‘After Burn.’  When you exercise at high intensity you won’t be able to use oxygen to supply the energy so you have to use energy from elsewhere in the body, which raises your metabolism.  Your metabolism will continue to stay elevated in the 24 hours after your exercise, which explains why you continue to burn calories.

How does this calorie burn compare to Tennis?

Clearly you can expect to burn around 500 calories during a 60-minute tennis match, which is similar to an hour of boxing or a 10km run. But if you want to try an alternative way to get fit for Tennis there are a couple of other options:


Tennis Workout:

Option 1: 10-minutes HIIT Footwork

Use some of the drills I have shown in a previous BLOG on Tennis specific endurance tests.


Option 2: 20-minutes Hitting Balls

Benedikt Linder uses actual hitting until they get to about 95% MHR- which might take around 20-30-sec followed by rest until it drops to 80% MHR- which might take 30-40-sec. Do this 6-8 times per set, 3-min rest between sets and do 2-3 sets.  Usually it will take around 10-15 balls fed side to side to get the heart rate into this high zone.  As soon as it does you can let them rest.

In my previous blog Heart rate monitors in Tennis you can find out more about how Benedikt Linder performs high intensity intervals ON COURT with the aim of getting your Heart rate above 80% of your Maximum.


Where I am next presenting?

Speed, Agility & Quickness Training for Sports Workshop

Dates: 3rd June 2018  09:00AM-15:00PM Location: Gosling Sports Park, Welwyn Garden City, AL8 6XE

Book your ticket HERE


Hope you have found this article useful.  Remember,

  • If you’re not subscribed yet, click here to get free email updates, so we can stay in touch.
  • Share this post using the buttons on the top and bottom of the post. As one of this blog’s first readers, I’m not just hoping you’ll tell your friends about it. I’m counting on it.
  • Leave a comment, telling me where you’re struggling and how I can help







Resistance Training Guidelines for Youths

Hey Everyone,

I recently recorded an episode of Daz Dee TV which you can see below.  In this episode we look at Resistance Training Guidelines for Youths.

Please check out the International Consensus statement which I refer to throughout the video


You can also read another blog I wrote ”Why 12-year olds should lift weights” for further insights.

Resistance training is always a fascinating topic to discuss and I hope this helped you to understand my view on the matter.  Technical competency has to be a priority with anyone who is a developmental athlete or has a low training age.

At APA we determine readiness for external load by performing a bodyweight Physical Competency Assessment (PCA).  Once we are satisfied they are competent in the techniques of the main bodyweight movements such as squatting, lunging, pressing and pulling we will add external load.  The amount of load lifted will be determined on an individual basis.  Usually for the primary strength exercises (Squat, Deadlift, Bench) the typical progression is 5-10kg each week provided technique and bar speed are maintained at the required level of speed and control.   For Overhead press, and most single leg exercises the progression might be 2.5-5kg per week.  Progression will vary based on training age, lifting competency and frequency of training amongst other things.

Learn more about the PCA HERE and HERE


Where I am next presenting?

Speed, Agility & Quickness Training for Sports Workshop

Dates: 3rd June 2018  09:00AM-15:00PM LocationGosling Sports Park, Welwyn Garden City, AL8 6XE

Book your ticket HERE


Hope you have found this article useful.  Remember,

  • If you’re not subscribed yet, click here to get free email updates, so we can stay in touch.
  • Share this post using the buttons on the top and bottom of the post. As one of this blog’s first readers, I’m not just hoping you’ll tell your friends about it. I’m counting on it.
  • Leave a comment, telling me where you’re struggling and how I can help

Do Extroverts make the Best Coaches?

For the last several months I have been busy recruiting new S&C coaches and training them up. I have said many times before that I interview for character first and credentials second.  I’m more interested in what kind of person you are than what you know.  Let me be clear I am not saying knowledge of S&C training theory and practice isn’t essential, because it is.  But let’s face it, how many applicants for part-time and full-time S&C coaching roles aren’t coming with at least a degree in a sports related subject these days.

So it then comes down to how a person differentiates themselves from the competition, and that opportunity comes when I get them to do the practical part of the interview.  It’s about how they create an environment that inspires the athletes to listen, learn and have fun!

It also comes down to the values of the coach- what is important to them in a role and how do they fit with my company and my vision.

During my recent holiday in April I read several books and one that recently captured my interest was ‘QUIET’ by Susan Cain.

Do Extroverts make the Best Coaches?

I never really enjoyed learning about psychology and sports psychology at University.  Perhaps it was the lecturer I didn’t like.  In recent years it has become one of my favourite topics to study. I first got into psychology through a former colleague of mine Helen Emms, who continues to be a mentor to the present day.  We used to work together at Gosling Tennis Academy.  I also found the ‘’Chimp Paradox’’ work of Dr Steve Peters interesting.  However, I’ve always found the personality research a bit abstract and I never really engaged in it any more than astrology- that is supposed to tell me something about my traits based on my birth date!

Below is a summary of some of the key take home messages from reading the book:


Extroverts and Introverts

This book was interesting because it wasn’t written by a psychologist- it was written by a lawyer who was interested to learn about how researchers define introversion and extroversion.  Early 20th century researchers thought they were central building blocks of personality.  Contemporary researchers still can’t agree on an all-purpose definition.

Introverts are Thinkers- quiet and cerebral

  • Introverts- internal world of thoughts and feelings
  • Extroverts- external life of people and activities

They differ in the level of outside stimulation that they need to function well.

Introverts feel just right with less stimulation => sip wine with a close friend or read a book.  They often work more slowly and deliberately.  They like to focus on one activity at a time and can have mighty powers of concentration.  They are relatively immune to the lures of wealth and fame.

But they do have a sensitivity to novelty not just people!  More on this later.

Extroverts enjoy the extra bang that comes from activities like meeting new people, skiing slippery slopes and cranking up the stereo.  They tend to tackle assignments quickly.  They make fast (sometimes rash) decisions, and are comfortable multi-tasking and risk taking.  They enjoy the thrill of the chase for rewards like money and status.

‘’Introverts may have strong social skills and enjoy parties and business meetings, but after a while they wish they were home in their pyjamas.’’

Introversion is not the same as shyness.  The shy person is afraid to speak up, while the introvert is simply overstimulated.

Introverts=>Leadership executed with quiet competence.  Inventing, researching, caring- they are not alpha roles but the people who play them are role models all the same.

Rise of the alpha status

The increasingly competitive society of 1920s America went as far as labelling social anxieties as an inferiority complex (Alfred Alder).  In the western world (North America and Europe) we seem to celebrate extroverts as the kinds of personalities that will get on in life and do well in the world.  Shy or retiring types could be left behind it seems.

Quiet is seen as wise in Asian cultures but western cultures value charisma!!  You need style as well as substance.


The Myth of Charismatic Leadership

Salesmanship as a Virtue:

Unleashed power comes from ‘’high energy’’ according to Tony Robbins

Salesmanship: Act like an extrovert vs believe in what you are pitching

Zero correlation between extroversion levels and cold calling process. Persistence vs buzz.  Great salesman can be successful without a buzz if they are passionate about what they are selling and can articulate that through communication.

Power of persistence- don’t let others make you feel as if you have to race.

Vocal Leadership:

Quick and assertive answers (Harvard Business School) vs. quiet slow decision making.

We perceive talkers as smarter than quiet types.  We see talkers as leaders.

Getting your way vs. going the right way- just because you got your way, doesn’t mean it’s the right way!

Good talker vs good ideas- If the idea is good people shift.  Not every person who is a great talker has great ideas!

Giant egos vs. Giant ideas

Question: Is it best to make decisions in the face of incomplete information. Or wait to get as much info as possible?  By hesitating do you risk losing other’s trust and momentum?

If assertive people tend to get their way, then it’s a useful skill for leaders whose work depends on influencing others.  Decisiveness inspires confidence, while wavering can threaten morale.

(However,) ‘’We don’t need giant personalities to transform companies.  We need leaders who build not their egos but the institutions they run.’’ (Jim Collins)

Quiet Persistence

Leadership roles in public domain (suit extroverts)  vs theoretical and aesthetic fields (suit introverts)

In the opening chapters she describes a woman who is mild-mannered, tends to ask questions, never raises her voice, is constructive and makes simple queries by asking questions.

Introverts do better on intellectual tasks- disinclination to charge ahead.

Social Connectors

‘’Connecting people to fix the world over time is the deepest spiritual value you can have’’- Craig Newmark (Founder Craigslist) – modest, cerebral systems engineer at IBM for 17 years.

SOCIAL connectors- chatty, outgoing, spellbinding vs. SOCIAL MEDIA leadership (digital communication- establish a presence online and THEN extend these relationships into the real world)

Role to play as a coach? To be sociable- to be more extroverted as a social connector?

Is Temperament Destiny?

Temperament is hard wired genetic behaviour and emotional patterns that are inborn.  Personality emerges after cultural influence and personal experience

Temperament is the foundation and personality is the building.

Introverts have Reactive nervous system– more sensitive to their environments in concert with environmental factors from personal experience and inborn temperament.  Anxious side of the limbic brain- old brain.  It also has a greedy side associated with reward-seeking cravings associated with extroverts.

They tend to be philosophical or spiritual, rather than materialistic or hedonistic.  They dislike small talk- at least at the start of a conversation.  They love music, nature, art, physical beauty.

Rubber band theory of personality- we can stretch our personality.

Change your environment and act on your own free will.  We can stretch our personalities but only up to a point. We have free will and can use it to shape our personalities.  It can take us far but it cannot carry us infinitely beyond our genetic limits.

Free Trait theory

We have fixed traits but we also have free traits where we can and do act out of character in the service of core personal projects.  In other words introverts are capable of acting like extroverts for the sake of work they consider important.

Especially relevant for introverts living under the Extrovert Ideal

I coach with passion because it nourishes my core personal project/mission to maximise my athletes’ potential by raising standards in coaching excellence.  Many people especially those in leadership roles engage in a certain level of pretend-extroversion.  It can be effective if used judiciously but disastrous if overdone.  You don’t want to act out of character too much- and create as many restorative niches as possible in your life.


Like the nature or nurture debate related to physical attributes we can summarise that we can stretch our personalities but only up to a point. We have free will and can use it to shape our personalities.  It can take us far but it cannot carry us infinitely beyond our genetic limits.

Leadership roles vary.  Some roles are more suited to extroverts and others to introverts.

I personally think that the role of an S&C coach can vary according to the environment we are working in.  For example, one-to-one versus groups, adults versus children, males versus females, Westerners versus Asian etc.  For many of the roles that I recruit for that involve working with children I do tend to look out for the extrovert characteristics.  These are the coaches that seem to thrive in social situations and make everyone feel at ease.  They have charisma, and put a smile on everyone’s face.

But this book has confirmed for me that everyone is capable of stretching their personalities and if you’re an introvert you might need to show some pretend-extroversion.   I now understand why I get so exhausted by my role.  I’m an introvert at heart but when I’m coaching I fall into the role of the performer who is passionate about helping my athletes and coaches improve and I do tend to use a ‘high energy’ approach to grab attention!!


Where I am next presenting?

Speed, Agility & Quickness Training for Sports Workshop

Dates: 3rd June 2018  09:00AM-15:00PM Location: Gosling Tennis Academy, Welwyn Garden City, AL8 6XE

Book your ticket HERE


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Our updated Privacy Policy

Our Updated Privacy Policy

The information you have provided is subject to the General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR). The Privacy policy applies to all data collected via our website and in email communication.

Athletic Performance Academy (APA) Limited is responsible for all Personal Information held both electronically and on paper

Types of Information We Collect

We may collect information from you which can be used to identify you (“Personal Information”), such as your name, address, date of birth, email address, telephone number, medical insurance membership and tennis coach licence numbers. We also hold details you may have provided as part of an athlete details form, which may include sensitive, personal information such as medical information.

Information will be collected:

* When you register as an APA athlete when using one of our Personal Training or remote package services

* Throughout your training with us

* When your personal information changes or are updated (for example change of address)

* When you register for an APA qualification or workshop

* If you submit an enquiry to us via email or phone and you have consented to having your details stored.

We may also get information from a third party whom books an appointment on your behalf, such as family members, insurance companies, GP’s and Consultants, (e.g. referrals, medical reports, updates after appointments or procedures/surgery, consultant/GP appointments).

In some instances it may be necessary for us to contact third party providers to supplement the personal information you give us (e.g., validate your private medical insurance information with an insurance company, when processing invoices) to help us maintain the accuracy of your data and provide you with a better service.

Personal information we collect automatically

When you use the Website we automatically receive and record information on our server logs from your browser or mobile platform, including your location, IP address, cookie information, and the page you requested.

We treat this data as non-Personal Information, except where we are compelled to do otherwise by law or legal authority.

This data is only used in aggregate form to allow Google Analytics to monitor how our customers, collectively, use the Website, so that we understand how the user make use of the Website. This is statistical data about our users’ browsing actions and patterns, and does not identify any individual.

The Google Analytics Terms of Service, which all Analytics customers must adhere to, prohibits the tracking or collection of personal information using Google Analytics, and we adhere to these terms.

If you wish to opt out of being tracked by Google Analytics, we encourage you to look at the Google Analytics Browser Opt-Out Add-on which might serve your needs.


We may obtain information about your general internet usage by using a cookie file which is stored on the hard drive of your computer. Cookies contain information that is transferred to your computer’s hard drive. They help us to improve our site and to deliver a better and more personalised service. They enable us:

  • To estimate our audience size and usage pattern.
  • To store information about your preferences, and so allow us to customise our site according to your individual interests.
  • To speed up your searches.
  • To recognise you when you return to our site.

You may refuse to accept cookies by activating the setting on your browser which allows you to refuse the setting of cookies. However, if you select this setting you may be unable to access certain parts of our site. Unless you have adjusted your browser setting so that it will refuse cookies, our system will issue cookies when you log on to our site.

We may collect information about your computer, including where available your IP address,

Collection and use of children’s personal information

We only collect personal and medical information required to effectively train children, this information will be obtained from the parent or guardian chaperoning the child for their appointment, records will be stored in line with Data Protection laws and all the confidentiality guidelines issued by the professional bodies such as CSP, HCPC. From the age of 16 patients can consent themselves.

What we do with your information

We hold personal details including medical information and we use this information to obtain details relevant to your training and for medical and internal record keeping; this information will only be kept as long as necessary to comply with UK law and professional bodies.

We do not sell your information to third parties. And only share your personal information with third parties (i.e. insurance companies, GP’s & Consultants when required and with your consent/knowledge.

The confidentiality of your personal information is of the utmost importance to us and we comply with the Data Protection laws and all the confidentiality guidelines issued by professional bodies such as CSP, HCPC.

We may use your Personal Information, for the following purposes:

Workshop Registration/Training sessions: We will use your name, address, date of birth, telephone number, and email address to register with Athletic Performance Academy (APA) Limited, for the services we provide and to communicate important information to you. We may obtain additional personal information about you, such as address change and changes to your health information, correspondence from other healthcare professionals and insurance companies throughout your training and also if you return to us in the future to keep our records current.

Invoicing & Insurance Companies: When processing insurance claims, on your behalf your name, address, date of birth & insurance policy details will need to be provided to your insurance company to enable them to progress the claim, this may be communicated via telephone or email.

Training Session Reminders & APA News: We may use your information to send confirmation & reminder emails for your training sessions and for any correspondence regarding your sessions or updating APA workshops that might be of interest to you.

We may contact you from time to time, regarding APA news and information about our services.

Response to Legal Requests: Requests from third parties (e.g. solicitors if there is a personal injury claim) we will only photocopy your training records and provide electronic records on request providing we have written authorisation from you.

Accessing Your Personal Information

You have the right to access the personal data which we hold on you free of charge and we will provide this information within one month of receipt of request. If the request for data is complex or numerous we reserve the right to extend this period by a further two months.

Updating Your Personal Information

In connection with your right to manage your personal information you provide to us, you may update, change or correct any of your information.

Data Retention

In accordance with and as permitted by applicable law and regulations, we will retain your information for as long as necessary to serve you, to maintain your account for as long as your account is needed to operate our business. We will retain and use your information as required by applicable regulation and information management policies to comply with

our legal and reporting obligations, resolve disputes, enforce our agreements, and complete any outstanding transactions and for the detection and prevention of fraud.

Your Access Rights

SECURITY OF YOUR INFORMATION. Keeping your Information safe is important to us.

We have put in place procedural & electronic processes intended to safeguard and secure your information. All staff have a legal duty to respect the confidential information we hold, and access to this information is restricted to those who have a reasonable need to access it.

We provide reasonable and appropriate security measures in connection with securing personal information we collect, for example:

* Constantly work to update our security practices to implement accepted best methods to protect your Personal Information and review our security procedures carefully.

* Comply with applicable laws and security standards.

* Securely transmit your sensitive Personal Information.

* Train our staff and require them to safeguard your data.

* Transmit, store, protect, and access all cardholder information in compliance with the Payment Card Industry’s Data Security Standards.

How to Contact Us

If you have questions or comments about this Privacy Statement, please contact the Data Protection Officer in writing. Athletic Performance Academy (APA) Ltd, Gosling Sports Park, Welwyn Garden City, Herts, AL8 6XE

We welcome your feedback and comments.

Changes to our Privacy Statements

From time to time we may change or update our Privacy Statements. We reserve the right to make changes or updates at any time. Our up to date Privacy statement will be displayed on our website.

If we make material changes to the way we process your Personal Information, we will provide you notice via email or website. Please review any changes carefully.