Analyze – Understand – Improve

Analysis in sports is known for ages. For many years, coaches and staff have analyzed practices, matches and tournaments. It is clearly shown on movies when we can see coach standing next to the blackboard in a locker room and drawing arrows, circles and other tactical sketches. Analysis evolved and nowadays we are surrounded by tools and machines which we can easily use on and off the tennis court. Examples of these analysis tools are applications, software, cameras, tablets, laptops and many more complicated machines. A lot of coaches still like to sit with pen and paper and write down important notes so this method is not extinct too. Industries spend a lot of money on discovering and creating better and more accurate analysis tools so we sometimes feel overwhelmed by this mechanical environment. However, we have to consider these options and choose the best tools to perform effective analysis.


            At the beginning, I would like to compare old method of analysis with modern one. As we all know, many years ago coaches used blackboard, paper and naked eye to analyze. This method was fully based on coach’s experience and ability to see details. If coach could see flaw in technique or tactic, player would work on that part. However, we all are aware that many small details like position of elbow in backswing or wrist movement at point of contact are impossible to see without mechanical support. This means that many important technical issues can’t be seen and improved. Another method which is mostly known is writing numbers down (paper analysis). This method can be partly effective if it is performed by coach during competition but it is totally useless if it is passed to coach by parent after tournament. Why do I mean that? It is simple. Not all points are the same in tennis so numbers can lie. Imagine that you have a paper analysis of 3 sets tennis match. Player made 8 unforced errors in first set, 7 unforced errors in second and 19 unforced errors in third. Why did he/she do so many mistakes in the final part? Was he tired? Was he stressed? Did he take too much risk? Did he make bad decisions? Did rival change own game? There are so many questions that humans are unable to answer them. It is guessing. That’s why writing numbers down without seeing the action is useless. We have to relate picture to numbers and then we can analyze. We can’t do that only with numbers. However, this method can be great to see the progress player makes from match to match.


            Modern tennis is strongly related to mechanical support. Player trains with mind-boggling tools and machines. Coaches use cameras to record every move player makes and analyze it by using brand new software. Picture can say more than thousands words. Sounds familiar? I strongly believe in that phrase. In my opinion, the best method of analysis is by using cameras. Nowadays, everybody has ability to record other person. We have portable cameras with more than 5 hours working battery, mobile phones able to take pictures and record videos and more sophisticated machines which can even show which muscles work in particular move. Recording player while practicing or playing tournament is the most effective way for successful analysis. Having video, we can easily see many things in slow-motion view so we have access to details invisible for naked eye. Technical area is just one part we can analyze. Watching video we can show our player how he/she responds mentally after big winners/easy mistakes and work on that part. Tactical decisions can be easily analyzed with access to video. Player can understand that the last 2 games in the final set weren’t lost because of forehand’s mistakes but because of wrong tactical decision and attempts to play down the line in deep defensive situations.


            Many players prefer believing in what they see to what they hear. That’s why showing them clearly on video what is right and what is wrong makes progress much easier. Player doesn’t have arguments to confront with video so he/she can only agree. We have to remember that recording a player is a great way to see progress. We can compare videos from different months or years and see what moved on and what didn’t. Players and especially parents love to see their kids improving and nothing is more visible than video. Video has everything we need to analyze and prepare successful plan for player.


            At the end, I would like to say few words about software that we can use to make professional analysis. As we know, tennis is a fast-pace sport so slow-motion is of utmost importance. By being able to see things in slower pace, we are able to catch small details and improve it so it is necessary to use slow-motion while performing analysis. Another option which should be available is chronometer. Many times we train reaction, speed and explosiveness but we don’t measure it in real environment (while playing match). Having chronometer in our software gives us opportunity to measure things like recovery time, running to the net time and many more. Last option we should take care of is possibility to draw on video picture. Players like seeing where the flaw is and how to correct it. Drawing circles, lines or arrows seems more professional and gives players visual clues about needed development.


            Personally I think that we should use available tools to improve analysis. I don’t forget about writing down on paper or drawing on blackboard but we have to know why we use it for. Using cameras is all we need to be up-to-date with our players and see what we can’t see just with our eyes however other forms of analysis can still be useful in other situations.