As tennis has gotten faster (and more stressful to the body) at both the professional and recreational levels, more and more instructors are recognizing the importance of agility, strength and fitness training towards helping their students reach their potential.
One person who has been ahead of the curve for years is Pat Etcheberry. A former Olympian himself, Pat has been a pioneer in the world of sports fitness training for over thirty years.
Pete Sampras, Andre Agassi, Justine Henin-Hardenne, and Jim Courier are jut a few of the tennis stars who have stretched, strained, sweated, and won, under Pats training.
"Etch" as hes known to his players, has also worked with athletes from the PGA, Major League Baseball, The NFL, NHL, NBA, speed skating, motor racing and even sumo wrestling. His premise that a "fit body creates the emotional and psychological base for top level performance" has led him to the corporate arena where he has created client-specific programs for numerous top executives and Fortune 500 companies.
Pat Etcheberry is clearly "The Man" when it comes to improved performance, which is why when "Etch" speaks we should listen. I recently had the opportunity to listen when I attended Pats new Etcheberry Certification Clinic held at the Sport Fit Club in Bowie, Maryland a few weeks ago.
The fabulously fit 64 year-old created the clinics as a way to pass along his philosophies and techniques to a new generation of coaches and trainers. Held in the classroom, on the court and in the gym, my fellow coaches and I had the opportunity to pick the brain of the man whose students have won more than 100 Grand Slam Championships and Olympic Medals.
During the weekend, which was hosted by the clubs Director of Tennis Kevin McClure (Kevin is also the host of The Tennis Podcast Internet show), I came away with an endless supply of "Etchs" secrets, and with Pats permission, Im going to treat you to one in this months column.
When Pat meets with a student for the first time, he puts them through a very basic test. Its a test that you can use as well, and whether you are a serious tournament competitor, recreational player or are new to the game, the results will give you a good indication of your tennis fitness level. Here it is:
- Stand in the center of one of the service boxes.
- Quickly move from side to side, touching the singles sideline and then the center service line with your racket. Continue back and forth for 30 seconds, keeping count of the number of lines you touch.
- Rest for 30 seconds and then do it again (30 seconds, keeping count)
- Rest for 30 seconds and then do the drill for one final 30 second period, again counting each line you touch.
When youve finished all three 30-second sets, youll have three figures representing the number of lines you touched during each set. Heres what those numbers mean.
The first tells you how fast you are and, obviously, the greater number of lines you touch the better. The second number tells you how quickly you recover. Tennis is a sport where you play one long point after another with just 30 seconds in between to recover. Your score in the second set of the exercise will give you a sense of your recuperative ability. Ideally the number should equal your score during the first set.
The final number tells you a bit about your stamina. Pat compares this third number to the third set of a match and, ideally, it should be right up there with your first two scores.
All participants in the workshop received Pats new 3-part DVD series, "The Etcheberry Experience: Strength & Conditioning for Serious Tennis" which includes a chart that allows you to compare your scores to the pros and your peers.
Its one of the many fabulous things I picked up during my "Etcheberry Certification Experience" and, when I returned from the workshop, I tested one of my junior players. Here were his scores:
1: 22 2: 17 3: 13
So, what does this tell me? First, I can see that, for his age, hes pretty fast. However, the fact that his second score dropped so severely tells me that he needs to work on his recovery after long points. With his third score dropping even further, I can see that during a long match, his fitness (or lack of) could be a deciding factor.
Armed with this information, I was then able to put together a series of exercises for my player to do on and off the court. I told him that, in one month, we would do the test again. Hopefully his scores will improve. If they dont then Ill know that he hasnt been doing his fitness work which, in turn, will tell me a bit about his motivation to improve.
The test is simple, quick, easy to take and very telling. The next time you and your practice partner hit the courts, give the test to each other and see how you do.
Although Etch is best known for teaching others to look within themselves and "dig deep", he displayed the spirit of a champion himself recently as he battled colon cancer. Diagnosed late in 2004, Pat, who competed in the 1964 Tokyo Olympic Games as a javelin thrower, drew on his lifetime experience in sport to successfully fight the illness.
Pat cites his athletic career as a tremendous ally in his battle with cancer. "The physical demands that I have made on myself over the years helped me to look inside and recall the resolve required to fight the disease," says Pat. Incredibly, while undergoing chemotherapy, Etch continued to train his athletes and even worked out himself.
Perennially upbeat, Pat turned his cancer experience into a positive by developing a conditioning program that all cancer patients can use to empower themselves and to become proactive in their own recovery.
Though you may not find Pat Etcheberrys name engraved on a Grand Slam trophy, he is as much a champion as any player who has ever held a racket. To learn more about Pat Etcheberry and when and where his Etcheberry Certification Clinics will be offered in 2007, or to schedule your own Etcheberry Experience, go to www.etcheberryexperince.com.