Far too often, parents and coaches push their children to throw a ball as far as they can or shoot a three pointer before teaching them the proper technique. When this happens at a young age, it ultimately makes it very hard for the athletes to reach their full potential. The mission of CoachUp is to help athletes do so by allowing them to focus on the fundamentals. Parents, young athletes and coaches in the United States would be well served to follow the example of Russia in that respect.
A rundown indoor tennis court located in Moscow appears to be similar to any other recreational tennis court in the world. But, this court in Russia’s capital is not just another tennis court— it is the court where the Spartka Tennis Club trains, the same club that has produced more top-20 women’s tennis players than the entire United States. This certainly did not happen by accident. It happened because of the unique training techniques, intense focus and strict discipline the players are taught at a young age.
Daniel Coyle was one of the first to identify this hotbed for professional tennis players that he chronicles in his book, “Talent Code”.
Coyle described the club atmosphere to be similar to a ballet class with “slow, simple precise motions with an emphasis on technique.” This is common at Spartka as all players, regardless of age, play without a tennis ball for a significant period of time, focusing solely on their swing and footwork. Coaches break down every aspect of their players’ games and have the players perform in slow motion quite a bit. In addition to not being allowed to use a tennis ball for much of their training, students are not allowed to participate in any tournament for their first three years at the academy as well. These techniques and rules were implemented by the Spartka’s lead coach, Preobrazhenskaya, who states that, “If you begin playing without technique, it is a big mistake. Big, big mistake!”
This holds true in all sports and the methods of Spartka should be used as an example for parents, young athletes, and coaches around the world. The training technique that Spartka has adopted is called “deep practice”, which can be described as a practice that breaks movements into chunks and is then repeated over and over with immediate feedback. Essentially what deep practice does is creates myelin around your nerves. Coyle expertly explains the importance of myelin:
“The revolution is built on three simple facts. (1) Every human movement, thought, or feeling is a precisely timed electrical signal traveling through a chain of neurons – a circuit of nerve fibers. (2) Myelin is the insulation that wraps these nerve fibers and increases signal strength, speed, and accuracy. (3) The more we fire a particular circuit, the more myelin optimizes that circuit, and the stronger, faster, and more fluent our movements and thoughts become.”
CoachUp provides parents and their young athletes the opportunity to receive one-on-one coaching on the fundamentals of their sports. Particularly in team sports in our country, the focus on fundamentals is often forgotten and can be a true difference maker for athletes when they get out on the field to compete in games.