Friday, March 21, 2008

TennisSpeed visits Europe-Part 1

March has been an interesting time for me as I traveled across the Atlantic for the first time without my “boss” and children for companionship and translation.

I was invited to make a presentation about our work with the SpeedChain in tennis at a special, one day seminar (on March 1st) exploring the frontiers of high-performance tennis development that was organized by the Tennis Education Group based in Palma de Mallorca, Spain (yes, that Mallorca that’s home to Carlos Moya and Rafael Nadal).

Tennis Education Group is the brainchild of Spanish Federation Coach, Jofre Porta, whose mission is to help bring to light the best and most advanced methods, concepts and techniques involved in training and developing world-class tennis players. Jofre also founded his own tennis academy based in Palma de Mallorca together with Moya called Global Tennis Team.

For those of you who don’t know who Jofre Porta is, he has already had a remarkably successful coaching career, as he is the man who coached Carlos Moya from the juniors to becoming the French Open Champion in 1998, all the way to helping Moya become the #1 player in the world in 1999. Jofre also played a critical role in coaching Rafael Nadal in his formative years (between the ages 8 to 17). Jofre was in charge of helping Nadal getting established on the right foot as a professional (he appears in the "No Strings" episode featuring Nadal), and even today, although he no longer travels very much on the tour, he continues to coach Moya from behind the scenes from their academy in Mallorca.

IMHO, Jofre is one of the best, if not the best tennis coach on the planet without question. His knowledge, wisdom and experience are virtually unmatched…
The combination of his intelligence, intensity, creativity, curiosity, open-mindedness, honesty and passion for the game, and his genuine interest and concern for the well-being of his players separates him from the other, perhaps more “famous” coaches at the pro level.

Let’s put it to you this way, how many other coaches do you know have taken not just one, but two players all the way from the juniors to Grand Slam Champion? I cannot think of anyone but Jofre who has accomplished this incredible feat in recent memory…

Being Jofre’s guest at his academy gave me the opportunity to see his coaching philosophies and methodology in action on a daily basis. And what I saw I can only really describe in these terms: it was as if I was looking into a crystal ball and seeing what the sport would look like, say, 5 to 7 years in the future. Jofre is training his players to play the sport of the future, not the past like it’s done in most tennis nations, including ours.

It’s not that you wouldn’t recognize existing or established drills and training exercises in their training system—it’s how they are integrated and executed in the context of Jofre’s vision of the tennis of the future that was nothing short of well, genius. Add to that mix Jofre’s own unending curiosity, creativity and openness to new ideas—he is constantly searching for any and all ideas that will help his players develop the skills necessary to compete at the sport’s highest levels—and he and his team have developed novel drills and exercises, on and off-court that exist nowhere but at Global Tennis.

And now, the SpeedChain is in the process of being integrated into the “Global System”, as the SpeedChain training device and training methodology fits seamlessly into one of the most fundamental training principles and goals of Porta’s vision of high-performance tennis: to maximize a player’s capacity to generate speed, acceleration and power in all facets of their physical game.

Jofre told me that the SpeedChain will enable him to break through many of the existing barriers and limitations of current training and conditioning methods and he sees the benefits of training of the SpeedChain extending well beyond increasing a player’s speed and power to helping train and develop, among other things, an athlete’s kinesthetic sense, proprioceptive capacity, balance, coordination, anaerobic fitness and other fundamental athletic skills and attributes.

Anyway, it was a fantastic stay for me at Global Tennis…

There were many hours of stimulating discussion with the coaching team at Global as well as with the other speakers invited to the seminar (including a leading Spanish exercise physiologist, and one of Spain’s leading sports psychologists, as well as Jofre and his head physical trainer, Pedro Zierof), and it was truly a privilege to be a part of what's happening at the “cutting edge” of tennis coaching and training.

What I learned in those 6 short days in Palma has fundamentally changed many of my own ideas about coaching tennis, and how to train and develop a high-performance player. (We’ll get into the details of those changes in future posts). The open exchange of ideas and knowledge between everyone was something that I will remember for a very long time, especially considering the “culture of secrecy” that generally prevails at the highest levels of the sport.

And, you can’t imagine how honored I felt to have Jofre tell me that I would always be welcome in the world of Global Tennis.

More stories, photos, and info from Europe to come…

TTFN!

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