What is Holistic Coaching?

The word holistic is thrown around a lot in tennis coaching, what does it actually mean?

Holistic Coaching

A philosophical look,
Characterized by the belief that the parts of something are intimately interconnected and explicable only by reference to the whole.

A health and well-ness point of view,
A holistic approach means to provide support that looks at the whole person, not just their mental health needs. The support should also consider their physical, emotional, social and spiritual wellbeing. A holistic approach focusses on a person's wellness and not just their illness or condition.

In essence, holistic means 'Thinking about the bigger picture from connecting all of the smaller elements within'

How can we truly take a holistic approach to high performance tennis training?

Before we discuss the bigger picture, let's break down the smaller elements that make up the whole.

  • Physical fitness
  • Sport specific movement
  • Technique
  • Visual awareness
  • Decision making
  • Tactical understanding
  • Mindset
  • Communication
  • Training load and programming
  • Tournament and competition play
  • Goals and dreams
  • Relationships within your team (parents, coaches etc)

Each of the above can be broken down into additional areas of focus, but the point is, there are many elements and areas that create the holistic - high performance approach.

Linking complexities together

Here is where the art of coaching comes into play. Linking each of these training areas into an approachable program for the student. Combing them in a way that avoids common pitfalls like, overload, boredom, injury risk, mental fatigue at tournaments and optimal exposure to enough variety of sports to develop the entire athlete.

Training load
Training load is probably the most important thing for 10-15 year old players. It's also the time when players tend to overload all too often. Think about how much a child changes within this 5 year period. Mentally, physically, emotionally and environmentally. It's astounding they are able to maintain consistency with anything they do. Often we simply don't know or forget that our children are, children. Their training should be managed different to those professional players we look up to so much on social media and the big screen. Playing more is often the wrong answer to becoming a better player at this age.
In our UTP course, we dedicate an entire module on training load, understanding it for different ages and what warning signs are to be looked for.

When your goal is to link lots of small moving parts together to shape the bigger picture, a plan moving forward is our go-to second step. The first step of course, is understanding where you are right now with your load, type of training and what your goals are. This is where our Bespoke program comes into play. Taking the here and now, breaking it down into manageable pieces and shaping them from there. As you start to understand and refine the puzzle pieces, you can start to control and better link the complexities together in great plan forward.

Feedback and Changes
Assessment - Planning - Training Load - Review - Feedback - Make Changes - Repeat
Feedback from any program is crucial in monitoring any implemented program changes. Knowing what is, or isn't working. If we continue to make little feedback loops within all of the smaller building block's of our larger programs, we can very quickly make changes and adapt our training accordingly. Positive changes don't need to be months and years away, they can happen rather quickly if we get our feedback loop working well.

We must avoid emotionally holding on to habits that no longer serve us. Let me explain. We often hold on to coaching sessions, technique, coaches, training plans, tournaments and many other things because they worked in the past. They may have been exceptional at one point in time, however, are they serving us now? That is the question we must always ask - If no, how should you move forward towards the actions and habits that will? If yes, how can we maintain or even increase these habits and continue moving forward?

*Caveat on program changes. Often, you need time to see if smaller elements are having an impact within your program (positive or negative). If you chop and change too quickly, you will not have time to see the benefits (if there are any). This is a large reason why our Tailored Coaching is built around 12 week training blocks. It allows us to implement change, make small changes along the way and provides enough time to test those changes over time. In the new 12 week block, we take everything we have discovered in the first 12 week block to enhance and build on to the next 12 weeks.

I like to imagine that the player is at the center of a wagon wheel. Parents, coaches and anyone else create the first layer around them. Then each spoke leading out to the wheel are the moving pieces. Training load, private coaching sessions, nutrition, mindset, tournaments etc. The wheel on the outside in the results of all of these moving pieces working together to roll forward. Below is my attempt to create this wagon wheel image for you.

Wagon Wheel