With the publication of The Athlete Centered Coach, Bill Patton is working hard to influence sports culture globally. There is a revolution going on in coaching, and Bill has always colored outside the lines, so he is ready for new lines to be drawn. He used to take his toys apart to see how they worked. He turned those experiences into a strength. Now he creates innovative templates so that others can build on success and make it their own.
He is most proud of winning an NCS Championship and becoming a published author for the first time. Once when trying to speak another language to a player, he thought he was asking if she was embarrassed, but he used the word for pregnant. That got sorted out later.
Bill Patton is a Tennis Professional and is currently coaching his 10th different high school with 30+ years of experience in the field. He has coached at several schools with many great results. Mainly, the players had a great time maximizing their games and playing on the teams. He is now featured on coachtube.com, with three different tennis courses.
Bill and his business partner Styrling Strother have started USATennisCoach, LLC, which trains, certifies, mentors, and collaborates with high school tennis coaches.
Bill, a Maverick Leader, is co-founder of USATennisCoachl, a Catalyst for Omni Athlete: The Future of Sport, a PTR and MTM Professional.
Visual Training for Tennis - Executive Summary
By Bill Patton
“To the man who only has a hammer, every problem looks like a nail.”
~ Mark Twain
1. Visual Performance is A Baby Science, Connected To Neuro Science Which Is Also Relatively New
Read the whole article for a special offer at the end!
The new frontier in performance in sports and work performance is in the visual/neuroscience realm. Approximately 60% of your brain’s activity is connected to processing visual information, it stands to reason that if we are going to major in the majors, we should start with visual performance as the foundation for all other training. Executives reading this who also spend much of their time reading and analyzing words and data might be interested to know that they can dramatically improve their performance along those lines. Many of the most successful people on the planet are avid readers. I myself am late to the reading party, but it has been a revelation to me how my mindset has shifted so much since I began to read more starting in 2010. Training visual skills improves reading and vice versa.
Origin Story Of Visual Training For Tennis
When I started to write in 2013, it was just a matter of time before I would start to write the first edition of Visual Training for Tennis which debuted in 2017. At that point, with then 28 years of teaching experience, an undergrad in Industrial Psychology, and a Masters Thesis written in Education, many collected bits and pieces of research and presentations that captured an aspect of the visual realm, I thought I knew enough to write a book. For the sake of due diligence, I decided that I would spend a few months researching, asking around, talking to as many experts as I could find, and digging into research journals. I was blown away at that time when I then learned 100% more than I had previously known. In the first edition, I simply wanted to present the most practical usable advice, for coaches and players, using minimal jargon, and also avoiding sharing too much research. Now in 2021, the fourth edition of Visual Training for Tennis captures 75% more content than the third edition, some readers have demanded more science to add credibility, so that wish was granted, and there is more content surrounding nutrition and Computer Vision Syndrome, and other pathologies. It stands to reason that this book will be a living work with a new edition approximately every 18 months to review, refine, and add new information.
Hammer, Screwdriver, and Skilsaw
What I want to do is give every coach, player, and program a full toolset in order to teach tennis, help players thrive, add value, and retain more people in the game we all love. Now I am going to share some major highlights from the book.
2. The question is Where, not What, or How
The pathway that processes the location of an object operates faster than those that process identifying an object or thinking through a process of doing. This is a huge discovery. It turns out the folks who say, “See ball, hit ball” in the caveman or woman vernacular are right. Go out on the court and only busy yourself with finding where the ball is, where you need to be, and where you want to hit it, then get out of your brain’s way. The unthinking zone-like state needs a space to operate.
The One Most Important Visual Skill
The one thing that most all players think they are doing, but are not really doing very well, is locating the ball off the strings of the opponent. I assure you that the elite players have their full attention on the ball coming out of the frame.
Even though their full attention is there, they also take a wider view of the entire player to read the ‘kinematics’, because the precursor behaviors give cues that you might not even consciously be aware of, but they allow you to better read and react to their shot. Nearly 100% of the players that come to me from a 3.5 to even a 5.0 level are NOT paying full attention, but when they do, it’s like they were struck by lightning, and they suddenly come to life with better reactions to the ball. I see a dramatic improvement in their ability to make better decisions in regard to where to move, and where to hit next.
You can move on time, or you can move late. There is not a way to move early.
3. The psychosocial factors that affect seeing are misunderstood and underappreciated
Tennis players are anxious, tennis coaches sometimes cause anxiety, but often don’t mitigate it in their students. Tennis clubs are not often mindful about the atmosphere created at their club to welcome or forbid. When players feel anxiety, the ‘affective filter’ is invoked. That filter reduces the amount of learning that can happen, and processing is prevented or delayed. A best practice to help your players see what is actually happening is to create the lowest anxiety atmosphere that you can, in order to raise or eliminate the filter. Reduce pressure on your players, rather than increase it. Take note of the very loose and fun practices of Djokovic and Federer, but also that Nadal enjoys a high-intensity workout. Of course, like cooking a frog, that would jump out if dropped immediately into boiling water, we can slowly increase the heat, so to speak, in order to create the training effect to allow our players to be clear-minded in the face of the greater external pressures that are sure to come.
Saving A Player’s Life In An Emergency Room Situation
Often times a new student will not allow enough time or make a wrong turn on the way to the club. So, they are late to meet a stranger in a strange place, to do the unknown, so naturally, they are extra anxious in their initial lesson. This can be fatal. My first job is to reassure them, calm and slow them down so that we can have a good lesson. This runs counterintuitive because most people will play hurry up, to try to get the most out of the remaining time. I have often saved so many first lessons, because the calm reassured person, succeeds in lesson one, then we move forward.
4. Your Visual Skills Are Trainable
There are a myriad of skills that are trainable! Eye muscles, smooth tracking, acuity, processing, recognition, reactions, and decision making can all be trained, but where to start? There are so many places to start, but first, you should probably go visit the eye doctor if you are having any trouble seeing the ball, and have your prescription updated as needed. It’s a great starting point. There are some amazing apps, and online visual acuity training programs available that I would love to share with you. When you do these things you will read better, drive better, play better, read the facial expressions of everyone around you… Better!
5. No One Sees Exactly The Same
Dr. Sherylle Calder has tested over 100,000 athletes, finding that no two have the exact same visual profiles of strengths and weaknesses. In working with many professional athletes she has found that many lack BASIC visual skills and that once those are trained, major mistakes are nearly eliminated, like dropping a pass in football or missing a volley at the net. My visual course is available in a tennis-specific format. Because no two people see exactly the same, among the 30+ videos that train a particular aspect may hit you differently than your neighbor. The professional you hired sees differently than you, they don’t see the same way as their players, and that 3.5 genius club player does not see the same at the 3.5 peers they try to advise. So the skill that is a revelation to you might fall on dull ears to another player, but a different skill that does not resonate with you will be a major game-changer for them.
Special offer for Tennis Club Business Newsletter Subscribers.
The value of the course is well over $1,000 as I have clients who are paying that much for a total of 5 hours of direct training. I sell the course for $97, but you can purchase the course through July 7th for $47, and you can also sell it to your clients for $97, and gain a 50% commission. It’s best if you are trained in this discipline prior to sending your players. Your player simply needs to Venmo @billpatton720 or PayPal me the fee, then I forward on your commission.
As a super special offer, if you make your purchase within 24 hours of the Tennis Club Business Newsletter publication, I will also give you a free 20 minute video call consultation.
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