Why Players Need to Be Unconscious at Times

cone stack drill

Because coaches base a lot of their success on how the player performs the drill, they will use drills pleasing to the eye.

A finely demonstrated and outlined cone drill can make onlookers envious of the ease at which a player moves through and around the cones. The coaches are aiming for a score of 10 from all the judges.

On the other hand, I would be looking for Ugliness. Yep, that’s right! I don’t want scripted patterns where my players learn to time their steps and groove a nice and neat pattern- I want to struggle, problem-solving, and the ugly to often expose its head.

If we are to categorize the two different philosophies, mine would be a very unconscious (open) state of movement, meaning the players solve a task, not doing a preprogrammed cone drill.

The first philosophy is putting the players in a very conscious (closed) state of how the feet should move to execute the drill- precisely what they don’t do on the court on match-day!

Let me make some sense of this for you.

Unconscious footwork, meaning they are not focused on how their feet are moving, concentrate on the task, and create opportunities for coaches and players to discover what is most needed in their footwork. The player exposes their strategies when they don’t think about their footsteps.

On the other hand, a very conscious driven environment is where the player is shown the footsteps, given the distance before the change of direction will occur, and the entire drill’s speed is known.

Believe it or not, there is a place for both. Yep, I admit it! The unconscious or “Open” training style is excellent for teaching players to solve problems and execute task-driven drills.

The conscious or “Closed” style is very good at allowing a player and coach to dial in on a specific footwork pattern that needs to be reorganized. Multiple reps can be done over and over to clean up a low-functioning pattern. This is good to a degree!

You see, if you live in a closed environment, you give the coach and player less material to evaluate the “real” patterns the player will use when they play in a reactive situation- like the match.

So it’s essential to use the closed environment, call it corrective planning, fix a problem, or clean up a low functioning pattern. If the player lives more in a reactive state, which can be very controlled, it allows the most accurate real patterns of how the athlete moves always to be exposed.

Your philosophy needs to allow for human function to be explored and not limited. I am the type of coach that doesn’t want a trophy for the best-looking practice and the coolest drills. I want my players to learn to READ and decide. I want the game-day performance of my players to be reactive, flowing, and attacking. If they never think one time about their footwork- I know I did my job!

I spent months preparing the Certified Tennis Speed Specialist course to allow my philosophy to shine through. I want coaches, players, and trainers to adopt this approach and see how great it is when their players start playing at a more aggressive and attacking style of athleticism. You can learn a lot more here.

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