Wayne Miller Interview SummaryWayne has been an elite level Tennis Australia certified coach for over 30 years. His main focus resides in the development of younger players and providing them with grounding for future elite progression. He is a highly reputable coach, helping to develop professional level tennis players.
The motives for choosing Wayne, as an interviewee, were to better understand the dynamic of the player-coach relationship, particularly in younger athletes. Other smaller areas of discussion included the Tennis 10’s tennis program, the adoption of innovation and modern equipment, and player health.
The main insights gained through the interview were:
- Motivation and improvement comes from a player’s awareness of what he/she did incorrectly and understanding ways of remediation. A coach can lay the foundation, but a player is the one and only person who can improve his/her own performance. Also, the player can drive his/her own motivations.
- Questioning is key. Embed in the player’s mind that he/she must understand the issue and find the answer. Tennis is an individual game and often times a coach cannot intervene. By asking questions instead of telling a player what to do, the player begins to actually understand technique.
- The enjoyment and lessened frustration for younger players through the adaptation of Tennis 10’s tennis is as important, if not more important, than the physical benefits of modified tennis rackets, balls, and courts.
- Mental health and stability is as important as player fitness.
Lavie Sak: The first question is how long have you been coaching?
Wayne: 31 years. So I started really coaching at 27, I’m now 58; I’m turning 59 this year. But I was coaching prior to that in my 20s before I became qualified. So a long time.
Lavie Sak: Have you always known that you wanted to be a coach?
Wayne: No I didn’t always know that I was going to be a coach, although I was very keen Tennis player but never was a great athlete therefore; I suppose my involvement drew me towards this.
Lavie Sak: When did you know if you get try out of this? When did you know? Wayne: 21 or 22
Lavie Sak: 21, 22?
Wayne: Yes, definitely.
Lavie Sak: Why did want to become a coach? Wayne: Love the sport.
Lavie Sak: So just passion for the game?
Wayne: Yes, I was very fortunate one day that someone said to me and say “I think you should come and play tennis” I think I was 13 at the time. And I did. Coming from a pretty low economic background, therefore opportunities that we had in my small country town was limited. It was a snowball from that little statement or that question.
Lavie Sak: What do you enjoy also about coaching?
Wayne: Seeing players succeeded. Seeing that we work towards our common goal. And that I have fun. Fun is properly not the right word, because fun there is on the player. My coaching has changed from the time I began till now. It really has evolved differently. So fun is an interesting word but probably the one I can think of the moment.
Lavie Sak: Is there anything else that you want to discuss about your experience, your past coaching experience?
Wayne: Yes, sure. Every athlete that I’ve coached or had the opportunity to work with, have remained friends all my life. So it’s interesting to come across people that I may not have seen in 10-15 years and be able to have a conversation and recall memories that are all good. So it’s not only just a sport, it’s all the other things.
Lavie Sak: OK, so you mean you love tennis and also the relationships you built? Wayne: Yes, Definitely.
Lavie Sak: The next topic is the player psychology. What you think what the players are thinking when they are practicing, playing, things like that?
Wayne: Varies. Varies dramatically dependent upon what that player wants to get out of it. And I think I said it earlier, initially I was happy to coach people than just wanted to play but now I really wanted to coach people that want to be good. So what they think now has to be along the similar lines to what I think. We can have fun, but it’s not fun “HAHA” It’s fun at what level can we get to.
Lavie Sak: So that being said, what do you think is harder to coach, the physical technique or the mental preparation and awareness?
Wayne: Both can have their problems, or challenges. But if the player doesn’t have the mental awareness of what they want, it would not matter what I try to do physically or technically, wouldn’t work. So I suppose the player should have the mental side of it in tune. They don’t have to know if they are going to be number 1 in the world but they got to have the desire. So, I can help mold the mental side of it, but if it is not there in the beginning, the desire or what you want to call it, then there is nothing I can do.
Lavie Sak: Is that something you gauge at your players initially? Try to understand their desire?
Wayne: Yes, I think anyone that comes to me. You can sum them up very quickly as to whether it’s going to work or not. Everybody wants to hit the ball good. Not everyone can hit the same. But a player who shows frustration and disappointment, but can understand that “well, I can do something about it” then you can work with that person. But a person who just gets pissed off about it and can’t function. I think we both know a player by the name of [Torin] who becomes so overwhelmed with anger than he can’t function.
Lavie Sak: So you are more inclined to coach less of an athlete, but has that really strong drive?
Wayne: Yes. They are the best ones. I just recently read that, a guy that comes 3rd or 4th in a school is more likely a person who strives to break the world record than the guy that comes 1st, because they already achieved that first place. It’s the one that has the work ethic.
Lavie Sak: Is there anybody on the tour that you see as that kind of player? I mean they’re all very talented but…
Wayne: Yes. Ferrer, the Spanish David Ferrer. He would never win a grand slam. He is a brick ladder by his profession so you know he has to go out there and do all that sort of hard laboring job. So he probably appreciates more the fact that he can now something that he really loves. He uses that same sort of ideals that he would in his tradesman job, you can see that he is a tradesman on the court.
Lavie Sak: If you are to coach someone on tour, you would most want to coach him?
Wayne: No, I wouldn’t coach Ferrer but because you wouldn’t really have no work to do there, except keeping him more focused. But the one you’d have most fun probably is someone like Ferrer. Trying to get him to win a grand slam.
Lavie Sak: So talking about desire, it more on a motivation? How do you motivate your players?
Wayne: Really easy. Did you get it in? If you didn’t get it in, why didn’t you get it in? Do you want to get it in? What can I do to get it in for you? The answer is that I can give them some ideas on how to. But they must have that as their ideals. So the motivation must come from them first. It can’t come from me.
Lavie Sak: I’ve read an article on motivation especially on tennis. There is this negative incentive motivation.
Wayne: Like the pushups, etc?
Lavie Sak: Yes, and there is this more positive motivation.
Wayne: I think both have their place. Let us say, when I first started out, I would probably never have given anyone a punishment because they missed a shot. But now, having seen what it takes to become a player, even at national level, he can’t just hit the first ball after hit. Every ball must come in. So, first ball errors are like cardinal sins. A lot of players will hit a first ball error, “Okay, I’m only warming up” But if you use that sort of mind set and you hit that first 3 shots in the match, you’ll have 40 because your training lead allowed you the freedom to make a mistake on the first ball.
Lavie Sak: You mentioned one technique you like to use is “Questioning” Why question them? Why do you find it useful?
Wayne: Because otherwise they are always looking for me for the answer. If I keep telling them what you know. For instance, it didn’t get set. You are too late in establishing your balance. Then they are always going to be looking to me (saying) “did I?” Ultimately, I think that the coach needs to be observant. And if someone is not getting what should be happening correctly then they must intervene, and it could be like what we were just talking about “questions,” videos or many other tools.
Lavie Sak: So tennis often leads to nervousness or anxiety? How do you prepare your students for anxiety and how can you remedy it?
Wayne: My training them as hard as possible. Lavie Sak: Physically or mentally hard?
Wayne: Both. Couple of my players, I have them play someone give them a score line ahead to play from. One player is and adult had to start at 5-1 down, 15-40 down second serve. So you couldn’t be in a more difficult scenario unless you thought “I’m going to let this sit go and I’m going to fire up and really going to start to just play shots now, but this particular player became so agitated that he had try and win this set. That set’s gone unless the other player collapses. So what I‘m trying to get at with him was “Let us work towards getting a mindset that’s going to take us forward into the next set.”
Lavie Sak: So you set the stage for a mock anxiety?
Wayne: Yes, I get them used to scenarios where they might find themselves. The easiest scenario is to be up in a match and your opponent just self-imploded. The most difficult scenario is when you haven’t found the keys to change the match around. So the more and more you try scenarios similar to matches, or even more difficult than matches could ever be, the more you think that it is just hitting a ball at the end of the day.
Lavie Sak: Do you have more methods on putting more anxiety on, to really simulate somebody on?
Wayne: I put something up to start a match like this man “If you lose, you’ll give him 10 bucks and if you beat him, he gives you ten bucks.” Put a monetary incentive, because invariably players play on practice match and there is nothing on the match except their face. It doesn’t matter because in two weeks’ time nobody remembers.
Lavie Sak: We talked about anxiety and motivation. Another one we’ll talk about is Confidence. How do you build a player’s confidence?
Wayne: Through their competency. If you have practiced your serve in different positions like you just practiced your ball toss or you practice throwing the racket and you practice tag and then you practice one serve in scenarios that we just talked about. Then those training ideas then translate into you knowing that when you walked into the baseline or you are at the baseline and missed your first serve it’s 40/30, you know you can get your second serve in because you’ve done the work. Confidence is knowing that you have the ability to do something.
Lavie Sak: Any other ways that you can reinforce that (confidence)?
Wayne: Showing them when they have been successful. Showing them when they won a point, how they won their point. And again technology today is changing how tennis can be groomed so much earlier than it was 20 years ago. Players can now see how a forehand should be hit and they can see how they hit it. I have some 8-year old and we discovered that he looks out the corner of his right eye to hit a fore hand. Now this kid, at 8 years old really a coordinated boy. I said “Eddie, do you realize that you are using only this little part of your eye and you’re using the peripheral vision out here?” I stood behind him and I said “Can you see me?” and he said “No” and as I move around and moved away he could start to see me and say “Can you see me now?” “Yes I can see you now.” “Now turn your head to me, now you can clearly see me.” But until he saw that photo, he never even knew that he was just looking at the corner of his right eye.
Lavie Sak: So, having that feedback helped him?
Wayne : Yes that is right, and now it gives him the confidence to know that the better I can watch the ball the better I can hit it.
Lavie Sak: The next question is about feedback. Is there anything that you can add about understanding your players?
Wayne: Players are like colors of the rainbow, they are all shades. No one is the same. In how you handle them, girls particularly in tennis takes so much more need and care than boys. They need so much more encouraging. They’ll something until it’s absolutely perfect, whereas boys will do it and it will become perfect.
Lavie Sak: Is there a specific gender that is stronger mentally? Wayne: Women are much stronger mentally.
Lavie Sak: How about age wise?
Wayne: Girls mature so much quicker than boys.
Lavie Sak: What can you say at 15-16?
Wayne: By that time, if girls or boys… girls will fall out at a greater than the boys. By 15, if a girl is still playing tennis at originally high level and committed, therefore you can be much tougher with them. Boys will last longer than girls. And they seem to take the harshness of it better than girls.
Lavie Sak: The next question is the about the new evolution of this new “under ten’s tennis.”
Wayne: Super tennis as they call it in Australia. Super tennis is going to change the tennis in Australia dramatically. We had its first round in Sydney last year in October through November till the early week of December. From teams we gathered no one. Then of the 16 boys and 16 girls we have form 4 groups of 4 they have played for 50 minutes of singles and 50 minutes of doubles. The team that I was the manager of was very, very skillful. Top 2 in my team has extraordinary skills. But when we went on to the national level, the top four in every team in northern territory was skillful way beyond the major studs. Extraordinary. I have no idea that some of these Victorian boys could hit volley lobs with precision. Now anyone that play tennis knows that if you can hit a volley lob To me, it was profound to see that their understanding of intercepting in doubles, crossing, slice, top spin, sliding serves, top spin serves… This is 10 and under. These skills were mine when I was 27 through or maybe nearly 40s. Ten and under are not getting those skills until they are 14 or 15.
Lavie Sak: Do you think that the Super Tennis allowed for that?
Wayne: They started to play with low compression balls. They started at an early their age. They started 5, 6 or 7 . They started with those very low compression balls, on small courts. So they already started to develop tactics at a very young age. So by the time these kids get to tennis they’re groomed.
Lavie Sak: Is this because of the low compression balls? What do you think?
Wayne : Absolutely.
Lavie Sak: Why is it?
Wayne: The slowness of the ball and it encourages the kids to actually hit the ball. When you applied to tennis, when you first initiated into tennis, did you have a low compression ball?
Lavie Sak: No.
Wayne : So you had to go straight on and hit that hard yellow ball. And every kid I coached up until the last few years had to do the same, how difficult was it? We are asking kids to do what adults had difficulty doing.
Lavie Sak: When was the May tennis started?
Wayne: In Sweden, been around for years. To be honest I’m not sure why it has taken us so long to have taken it on board like all nations have. Not just Australia, the UK, the United States… All of these major tennis countries all now embrace this idea of modified tennis, not only in court structure but rackets and balls.
Lavie Sak: Why do you think it wasn’t developed earlier? Was it the technology? Or was it the fear of changing the perception for kids?
Wayne Miller: I don’t think we really understood how dynamic it could have been like the Swedes are doing it for years. I think half of the group, because you know the weather in Sweden is different. So they form indoor complexes. And if you have a lot of kids, you have to fit a lot of kids into the court way. You better plan it sideways. That way you can fit more kids on the court. I don’t know, I’m just thinking off the top of my head. I remember coming back from my seminar in Melbourne early in my coaching days. Having seen modified tennis at the tennis center in my country town where I was based. We built a couple of little tennis courts, but I have to say that I didn’t persist with it. So you know, I think and I looked back and I wonder, I should have persisted because I knew it was the right thing to do.
Lavie Sak: Beyond just Physical Capabilities what is the psychological effects for kids?
Wayne: To have fun. Straight away, do you remember your first own experience with that great yellow ball?
Lavie Sak: Not easy?
Wayne: It bounced over you or it took a bounce that you don’t really expect, then it went flying through the air and everyone said “I’ll have another gallop” and here comes the next ball. Just their ability to track the ball, move to the ball, hit the ball… Have fun, success. We were talking about confidence. Well, success means you have hit the ball in the court. It may not be the best shot on winning but you have to do it again. So then, once someone is hitting the ball in then they want do more. So confidence is not that great at that age. It’s about fun and letting them grow some confidence, knowing the fact that they can make a mistake.
Lavie Sak: So again help boost Motivation and confidence? Wayne: Yes.
Lavie Sak: Anything you want to add about the Super Tennis?
Wayne: Greatest concept that could happen worldwide. I just don’t know where it will lead? Because right now, Tennis Association is initiating a program for twelve and unders. Well that’s because whether there are 10 and under, super kids go. They now need to move to something that’s structured similarly. So because the pyramid base is going get bigger and then you are going to have this flower effect. In Australia it’s going to mean that there’s going to be more and more structures for these kids so they can go flow into the system.
Lavie Sak: The next part of the interview is going to be about the Player health. How important is player’s health and injuries and stresses to students and new players?
Wayne: Probably the mental health is the key to it because if some kid is having problem either at home, on the court with the coach, fear of the fact that they’re going to fail. I think that dramatically impacts to what they can achieve. Physical health, if you can’t run, you can’t play the sport, if you have some injuries. I know that the players and coach, we do a warm up. But for warm up what we do is only based on insistence of me or someone I deployed to warm them up. What I’m trying to do myself is to educate them to become more aware of being ready before they strike the ball physically and mentally of course. They have to be ready to strike the ball.
Lavie Sak: So you mentioned warm up activity. What specific equipment do you use?
Wayne: Balls, ropes… Skipping ropes are major part of it. Throwing medicine balls… I haven’t done a lot of work. And again, I think one of my weaknesses is having a structure of certain warm up exercises that I think I should educate them all to do. So that, no matter who it is, little Billy, a seven year old, he has a gut on doing this. Threw to someone like Emma, who is not a bad athlete. They do a single sort of a warm up program regime, so I need to develop that.
Lavie Sak: What do you know about specific equipment like shoes, rackets and things that have changed through time to help the player health?
Wayne : Rackets have changed dramatically. The lightness of the racket, less stress on the body… The shoes obviously developed on their lightness, durability, the strength in the heels. I remember we used to wear Dunlop Volleys. It wouldn’t matter where we played on, hard court or clay or gravel. Whereas now, you cannot wear Dunlop volleys on Hard court, it stresses the ankles.
Lavie Sak: How about court services, has they changed a bit for health?
Wayne: For all the people we have this stuff called synthetic grass which is horrible and pathetic. But it was born because of people’s ability to feel the court’s softness underneath them.
Lavie Sak: Do you know about Cardio Tennis?
Lavie Sak: What are your thoughts on cardio tennis?
Wayne: Great! Great for those people who want to keep in the sport. It is great for those young people that you know, who wants to hit balls. Not maybe hit them correctly and perfectly, but just have the fun of just hitting the ball and running around, being involved in an exercise program that is fun, fast, loud, exciting. I don’t like it, but I wouldn’t coach it . My field is not that field.
Lavie Sak: But do you think there’s definitely a place for it?
Wayne : Absolutely.
Lavie Sak: On play health, do you have anything you want to add?
Wayne: I think that if a person is mentally healthy, then that goes with the physical health.
Lavie Sak: The next is about the player interaction. This describes your typical routine. Nothing’s too obvious. Describe the very beginning of the lesson throughout the whole process until the conclusion like you do the tone, how you approach them, all the activities that you do, why you chose it, do you have preparation before it, what did you do afterwards? Just pretty much the interaction between you and the player.
Wayne: I have my nets written out in a diary. I’ll have what I perceive is a warm up. Skipping, running, and stretching… And I’ll allow a time frame for that maybe 10-15 minutes then talk about what we aim to get within that lesson. My aims are to work on Emma’s serve. Emma has a problem with her release point on her ball toss. It’s far too early and then she has two actions within that motion. We have been working on it for a while. At this stage, she hasn’t done enough practice. I’ll talk to her about that. We’re going to the lesson and do some warm up possibly where she has to side skip a couple of times backwards and forwards across the court. Then run and throw ball, pass the ball… To get more accuracy with the throw… So that would be to coordinate her brain and her legs and adapt some more speed, flexibility, agility and just a general warm up so she’ll start feeling mobile.
Lavie Sak: So you have a little pep talk before the warm up?
Wayne: Yes, we talked about it and I should have said probably at the last game, what she would like to do. Sometimes I can be a bit problematic about what we are going to do and again she will give me her input and maybe she want to work with her slides backhand and we fit into the structure somewhere along the path.
Lavie Sak: In what tone (voice)?
Wayne: With Emma, it’s very much business.
Lavie Sak: But you change it according to your player?
Wayne: Absolutely. Although I must admit, like I said earlier that when I first started out, my coaching attitude is very determined to succeed. But now, I don’t want to coach anyone that doesn’t want to be good. So, I’m mainly looking to coach people that really want to succeed. Therefore the time that you take with them it’s not being angry or anything. As a matter of fact, this is business that we are at. Worse maybe when I started out, I was a bit more I want to be your friend. But I don’t think that a coach can afford to be a player’s friend. They have to be able to draw the line and be honest and be able to say “that’s not a cup on a mustard” We can’t do it that way. We’ll use Emma as a model. Because she sometimes think that I’m a too hard on her. She says, “Why did you yell at me?” and I said “Well you know, it’s just not good enough.” “But you don’t have to yell at me” “Well maybe I don’t have to yell at you but I’m not your friend, I’m your coach.” And again that is Emma taking it as a personal front and not as a coaches’ role. The coaches’ role is to be honest. There is not point on telling her that it was a good shot when it’s not. So we work through the lesson and Emma invariably has an hour and a half. The first 40 minutes maybe on ground strokes then we’ll give her a sort of time out and then we’ll work on her serve.
Lavie Sak: How do you decide what specific drills to do on the ground strokes?
Wayne: Well, it would be based on the fact that we have to get accuracy, coordination, consistency. So we will do drills that requires her, them or in this particular case, to hit targets. And hit them as quickly as possible. So she’s focused on why we are doing this? We are doing this for these reasons and if it’s breaking down, why is it breaking down? Initially I’ll get her to hit center of the court. When I get her to hit it in the center of the court, it’s nothing about mobility it’s all about coordination and contact point. And if we do a cross court drill, either forehand or backhand, that now involves some movement but it’s all about contact point. If we we play a four point rally, it’s about who gets the best two strikes.
Lavie Sak: So you are giving a feedback almost all the time? So she’s hitting the ball and a lot of pausing…
Wayne: Yes. Sometimes feedback is on the way and sometimes there’s is no feedback. Feedback only needs to be there when things are going really well, so there is limited feedback or the things are going poorly. If it’s going really poorly we have to stop. The problem with Emma is that, she would just keep working no matter what, if it is good or poor and it wouldn’t matter. She’d just be like a horse, she’d keep going until she drops death. One of the things that I need to educate her on is that she needs to have breaks even if it’s going good or average. We have been talking about that and she is learning to do that. Then we go to that process and do serving. Serving allows her now to not do so much running but more coordination. So the structure is a lot calmer. The talk will be quiet out.
Lavie Sak: So between games you have talks?
Wayne: Yes, and try to get her to the stage. She might not think about tennis at all for few minutes and then she might talk about what she wants to get out of this toss. What is her win? And what she is doing with her arm. No one should be more in tuned of that.
Lavie Sak: So you have done this same structure with many players?
Wayne: With many players, most of them would have serving involve in every lesson. Lavie Sak: With the same kind of pep talks in between and feedbacks?
Wayne: I think most players are the same. Some players have the strength to one side or the other. So the strength, we must keep building on strength. But also, if there is weakness, we have to test it out and find out under pressure, why it is breaking down. In my coaching now because I’m older, I use a hitter. When use a hitter, it’s that for the player to get that consistency of the striking the ball. And I think that it also makes it better for me because I can actually stand and observe. Whereas if I’m the hitter, I also have to hit and then observe… And from the distance you can actually get the same information, I think that’s changed my coaching a lot because now I can be very close to the player.
Lavie Sak: Towards the end of the lesson, what kind of things do you say?
Wayne: The third component is putting both the serve and the grand strokes maybe or the volleys into match play, because you must test it. The player must get feedback. Sometimes feedback is just amazing and they are very happy. Sometimes it doesn’t work at all. And now, we were talking earlier about player’s motivation. You can now work out the player that’s able to move wrong or the player that made that mistake in a match is history. Because I’ll just see the match for 20 minutes before the match is over so that is what I’m finding out is how they deal with errors.
Lavie Sak: Do you give them… afterwards; do you talk about the lesson?
Wayne: I have videoed some of it. I will then talk to them about what I see. They brought their own diaries. Most of the kids bring their own diaries so they make their own notes as well about how they thought the lesson went. I will then email them things that I have seen within that lesson. Technology is just changing and that ability to see that kid looking at the corner of his eye. It is not something that you can pick up sometimes. So you know, that was profound. I’ve looked at this kid hit the ball so good and realize that he is doing it with what percentage of vision. But this ain’t 10 %. Feedback for these players is not only verbal, written, it’s visual.
Lavie Sak: They have homework?
Wayne: Well they do, because what is the point of coming to a lesson if last lesson is going to be repeated this week?
Lavie Sak: Do you think other coaches are this comprehensive?
Wayne: No, the coach in Sydney is pathetic in a nutshell. The end of the year he’s going to meet a guy that runs a center across the road. Now I stood and observed these people coaching and distresses me is to see the level of incompetency that happens to some of this public courts and I don’t know how they can justify the qualification on how they take money. I see one day a coach with 25 people all hitting one ball. They all get to hit a ball, and then had to go and pick it up.
Lavie Sak: How can this be fixed to make things more consistent amongst coaches?
Wayne: Unless the council allocate the leases to these courts and get on board with tennis Australia as the governing body of tennis in Australia, these are the requirements for coaching standards.
Lavie Sak: Do you think this gives players a sense of mistrust to coaches? They just don’t know what they’re getting into?
Wayne : I don’t know. They accept what has been given to them. An example of that would be, even with coaches of my level. I took some players to Melbourne for the super tennis. One of those players was my number 1 player. She played a girl from Queensland who had no idea how to play point. She lost this girl 9/3 and they played for 15 minutes singles. She’d get up in the game but didn’t know how to finish it. Her serve was falling out. Her coach is a leading coach in Sydney. Her parents came to me and said “Would you be interested in coaching her?” Then I was happy to make reports on what I saw. I said “You’d have to talk to her coach first.” Then I sent the same report to the similar qualified coach who took it personally that I was having a go at them. But I wasn’t having a go at them, I was trying to point out in comparison to the players this coach was coaching, she was crying on the court, crying as she was trying to play a point. I said “Janine you need to actually look at this and find out what is happening in this court? Why were you so upset?” So coaching at many levels, some coaches see differently the way I see. When I saw the example of 25 players on the court, I saw this girl who is very skillful, crying on the court. Both of them had values in them.
Lavie Sak: The concept of trust amongst your players. Do you think there is mutual trust? How do you build trust with your players?
Wayne: Honesty. Tell them what you see, show them what you see. Then they can make their own judgments. You can’t ask anyone to trust you unless you can demonstrate it to them.
Lavie Sak: That’s in your opinion is lacking a bit, because they haven’t inherent trust?
Wayne: I think mom and dad take it along with the coach. “This is your coach. They know what they are doing. So listen.” With regards to adults, adults don’t know any different either unless they go searching out and finding what is a tennis coach, and what does a tennis coach teach you.
Lavie Sak: You would describe your coaching more as collaboration rather than a lecture?
Wayne: I’ve been guilty of lecturing. I have been guilty. I’m no saint, I’ve made many mistakes I’m sure. But just listening to Jasper last week at a seminar he said “If you are not making mistakes, you are not learning, just like your students” So when I started I would have been flabbergasted to look back now in the mirror about my coaching and think “How can you ever charge anyone for what you are doing. So you know, I have been guilty of lecturing but I have also tried to embrace a new way of coaching and that is to allow someone to hit the ball and discover. Coaching as I first see it was analysis and correction. You are always looking for a mistake as against to always looking for what was good. You’re always looking to critic something when invariably what could have been good. So coaching now… It is still analysis and correction, let them discover, if they can’t, help them. I think questioning “what do you think , how do you think that was, what do you see?” I have just done about 2 hours work on some videos and send off to some players with questions on them, so they’re not reliant on me to solve the problems.
Lavie Sak: What are the 5 most important things about interacting with your players?
Wayne: Respect. I’m not sure if this is in order, but respect is very much up there. It again changes in my philosophy that I don’t want to be their friend. I have to be the coach and they have to be the player, but we must have mutual respect. Honesty, I think is the number one, because if they come to me and they want the truth then I must be prepared to tell the truth no matter how bad or how much it might affect them. Fun is the word with such a great things. It can be fun that I’ve just hit the biggest serve in my whole life which is explosive or fun could be the little 6 six year old that she can hit the ball after ball and her face is smiling. It can go from one extreme to another. Challenge, the challenge of finding how good you can be. Because everyone can be good but not everyone can be number one. I have to think about the fifth one, there’s so many other things…
Lavie Sak: The next question is about the starting a game play. How has it changed the overall tennis game play over time, from the creation to now?
Wayne: The influx of Europeans, the influx of players that have grown up on slow courts and their ability to hit 50 million, trillion balls just to win one point. Their work ethic against, what were the 3 leading nation UK, US and Australia. What were they playing on grass? Now there are only 2 tournaments a year on grass that lead up to Wimbledon and Wimbledon, every other tournament is played on either hard court or clay court. so 55-60% of tournaments are on these other surfaces. So these Europeans are dominating the world of sports. The surfaces changed the game.
Lavie Sak: How about the rackets and things like that?
Wayne: Of course. The strings has changed, rackets have changed. Training techniques have changed. Off court trainings have changes. Athletes have changed. The size of the athletes have changed, totally different. Groups have changed, how player strike the ball. Just the speed of a player it’s like anything in the evolution. Everything seems to have gotten faster, stronger, bigger.
Lavie Sak: So how did this change your coaching? Are you adjusting quite a bit?
Wayne: I think all of the things we just talked about. Now I see that even in hot shots in Australia. Kids at red ball level, which is the lowest level, are now learning a strategy. First up, not hitting the ball. We could have 2 kids sitting across each other having rolled a ball to each other and how to beat that person that I have rolled the ball with. A very simple example.
Lavie Sak: Anything else that you want to add in strategy, the game play?
Wayne: Power, speed.
Lavie Sak: So just the athleticism?
Wayne: Total different athletes. If you withstand the 2 athletes from 50, 60, 70, 80’s to the present day, beside each other, you will see them getting taller and leaner. But their leg strength is just enormous, their ability to move. They don’t necessarily have three times legs, but the shape of the player has changed.
Lavie Sak: Is that pushing you towards making better athletes? Like changing regimens…
Wayne: I can’t make them athletes. They have to be an athlete. Firstly they have to be athletic and they have to be intelligent. Which comes first, intelligence, athleticism? Hard to say. Because Ferrer is not very tall but he is very athletic and very strong.
Lavie Sak: The last past I want to talk about my proposal, what I’m trying to get at in this proposal. There is the 3 step evolution that I’m proposing. The first step was from the conception of the game from France and they use wooden rackets and grass courts. The 1st evolution was the technological material revolution that allowed wood to be transformed to metal to composite, allowing frames to be bigger, lighter, and stronger. It changed the game because you can hit harder. That was a very big change. Then the court service variation, string development… That was the first push, so tennis has increased because of technology. The second evolution that I propose was it become more player centered. Instead of looking on developing equipment, methodology, for the actual game of tennis, we are now looking at the players. So thing like under 10’s, they finally realize that these are kids. They are small and tiny and they need something different. Some people don’t care getting better. They care about fun and fitness and that’s where the cardio tennis comes into play. Now we’re not just looking at players as just athletes, but they want to increase their athleticism and also make them healthier, so looking up concepts like player health. The third evolution that I’m proposing is the system of personalization and feedback where it is not just… They are hitting but they’re getting verification systems and they can look at other players and get feedbacks on themselves, almost, an automated coaching in a way.
Wayne: When you saw that tennis is [striving] out. A player said to me the other day “Can I get it and download it myself?” Now you see the coach can get redundant, because what would stop their player from getting their Ipad and putting it on a camera tripod and capturing hitting balls and overlaying it to the model. The coach now is redundant.
Lavie Sak: So that’s the feedback system like the automatic feedback system, which I think is not redundant but more of a great supplement.
Wayne: It could, if someone didn’t want to pay coaching fees. He can easily coach himself. You only have to have a keen eye and initially see the fundamental differences. As I said, anyone who is starting out should know where is you contact point. If a person has knowledge of that, all he has to do is to look at the model and work toward that model. So a coach could be redundant. You have a lot of European… where parents do the coaching more often than the employee coach. They can easily do that.
Lavie Sak: So those are the 3 steps, some of them obviously overlap a bit and that is the overall structure of the dissertation, that’s what I’m trying to prove, do you agree with it?
Wayne: Yes, I do. Because when you look at the likes of strained tennis player they can rose from a good hard labor. When the strain was so dominant, they would be using Dunlop or they be using wooden rackets, playing in Dunlop volleys on grass courts with Slazenger tennis balls. Slazenger tennis ball is gone. They don’t make Slazenger tennis balls anymore. They don’t make the Dunlop volleys racket anymore, they don’t make the wooden racket anymore. They’re more of a costume, sneaker-type things as against really tennis shoes. Then we go to your second phase which was the composite rackets, and we had a string with fiber that could bite the ball more. Then we have the Prince racket which was nearly 2 inches thick, the Thunderstick it was called, it could hit the ball like a bullet. You have the oversized Wilson rackets and then you go now to present day where… Look at the frame of the rackets now.
Lavie Sak: The material is less constraining… Of the three, which do you think is important in game change?
Wayne: Yes, age groups. Starting the kids younger so they become indoctrated from a young age that tennis is fun, I can be successful. Soccer had it. We use to play under 8’s soccer but we never used under 8’s tennis because everyone was expected to play on a big court. So as soon as you change the structure of the court and give it to people on that size, then you make it valuable to them then obviously technology comes into that. I think that’s where it starts.
Lavie Sak: Great! I think that is all… Anything else you want to add?
Wayne: No no, good luck with these.