What Can the Tennis Brits Teach Us Squash Coaches?

I just got back from the British Lawn Tennis Association’s (LTA) 2008 Sport Science Conference, held on June 20th in London and thought I would update you on new and interesting information and perspectives that have not permeated down to we squash coaches in the trenches. You can view the conference speaker schedule here: LTA 2008 Sports Science Conference.

It was a great time to visit London with all the Wimbledon excitement and fantastic sunny weather. Here are what I believe to be the most interesting tidbits in no particular order:

  • Ann Quinn (an Aussie sport scientist well known in tennis) opened the conference by announcing that she had been hired just a year prior to develop the LTA Sport Science Department – and to date has hired 20 (yes – twenty!) sport science specialists to help develop British tennis. The Brits are throwing money ($50 million from Wimbledon and Olympic money) at their tennis programs, and in addition to sport science initiatives have just opened a 32 million pound National tennis center and pay the American Paul Annacone 1.3 million for 32 weeks work to direct their national tennis coaching program. Let’s compare this situation with Squash Canada’s and U.S. Squash:)
  • Ice baths, not hot tubs and whirlpools speed recovery after matches and between workouts according to Karle Cooke, one of the LTA sport physiologists. Although there is a proven benefit of 15 degree celsius cold water, he makes his charges partake of 8 degree water – “since this is the temperature of the North Sea where you can die of hypothermia”. I bet he is really popular with the players, and the Aussie’s may not agree 100% with the Brits in their research.
  • If you want to improve speed, reaction time and strength, all you have to do is sleep 10 hours a night! Donald Chu (U.S. father of plyometrics) reported on a Stanford study on the topic. Chu also reported on his philosophy of speed and strength for tennis, basically calling the current “functional strength” trend faddish, and recommending traditional strength and power exercises such as the squat and clean and jerk, for the athletes he trains as the best way to improve strength, speed and power.
  • I was somewhat disappointed with the sport psychology presentation by head LTA consultant Roberto Forzoni, he presented mostly well known general concepts and a few anectdotes. What I took away was that what appears to be important is to provide support to the players – the actual form of the support does not appear to be critical. There really has not been much advancement in the field beyond the practical techniques introduced by Jim Loehr in the 80’s, some of his resources are still the best.
  • Is it working? 14-year old Laura Robson won the junior women’s championships so maybe it is.

One Response to What Can the Tennis Brits Teach Us Squash Coaches?

  1. […] Well, first he (or she) looks for a conference, course or workshop related to one of the racquet sports or sport science disciplines near a tropical beach, so that his (or her:) employer can pay for the vacation with professional development money. Last year I went to London to attend the British LTA Sport Science Conference. […]

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