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SYSTEM-9: SINGLES TACTICS

Andy Dowsett, Billericay, England, UK

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The Author

Andy Dowsett has educated over 3,500 coaches spanning three decades. As well as authoring books on tennis, Andy has lectured around the world on his min-tennis systems, educating coaches and parents on how to bring the best out of players and keep them in the game.

As a coach, educator, and writer, Andy is a trusted and reliable source in the world of tennis.

Andy is PTR Level 5 - Master of Tennis Performance and LTA Level 4-certified.

Visit www.tennisparent.net and www.ptrgb.org for parent and coach education.

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SYSTEM-9: SINGLES TACTICS

Reviewed by Rich Neher

Andy Dowsett offers Certification, Courses, and Consulting on his website. To truly understand his ideas regarding System-9 you have to dig deeper.  He offers, "Being a tennis player is a journey which we as tennis coaches are guides. From a child enjoying the fun exploration of the ball and racket, through to tennis being a game for life, we’ve documented the eight stages of the tennis journey in our SYSTEM-9 Philosophy." To illustrate his philosophy, he writes about those eight stages:

STAGE 1 – FUN
The right coach attracts kids into the game and manages to grow the club programme through this very important aspect – FUN. Without this element it is far too easy for kids to leave tennis for one of the many other sports on offer.

STAGE 2 – FALLING IN LOVE
From the FUN stage it is all too clear when the player falls in love with the sport. This tipping point is when the coach can push the player further and offer individual lessons. This will keep the thirst for tennis alive and progress the following stage:

STAGE 3 – LEARNING TO PLAY 
Over the years we have seen many 4+ year olds being pushed to early to this stage without having experienced the previous two. This is especially true when the player has pushy parents who may have been told by coaches that their child is talented. Unfortunately, this often leads to burnout or the player turning around to parents and telling them enough is enough and they no longer want to play tennis.

By progressing steadily through the previous stages, we can now teach the player everything required to give them a solid foundation in tennis. It is possible with SYSTEM-9 to teach percentage tennis tactics and the majority of all technical aspects by the age of 10/11.

STAGE 4 – PLAYING TO LEARN
This stage compliments the previous stage, and generally the player will be here at 7 years+. Many coaches miss out on the playing aspect and we find kids turning up for their once a week hourly lesson having not played tennis.   We have turned into a nation of lesson takers and not players. When we play, we learn more about what is required to play the game well.

STAGE 5 – MASTERING YOUR GAME
Orange and Green ball players can begin to understand their own game once they have a tennis age of 4-5 years. By this time they begin to understand their own strengths and favourite shots. At 10 years of age, this will begin to show despite the lack of strength in the body, and they will begin to favour certain styles of play. However as coaches we need to give them the complete all-court style  until the ages of 12 when they will take on their own identity.

STAGE 6 – UNDERSTANDING YOUR OPPONENTS GAME 
This area is what SYSTEM-9 calls ‘unlocking the combination’. It starts its basics in red and comes to fruition by the end of green ball at 11 years old. This is where we truly gain a ‘Tennis Mind’ and understand what is happening on the court.

STAGE 7 – THE CONSTANT PERFORMING PLAYER 
Players now put all the skills, training and practice together to hopefully continue on a path to where their personal passion lies; whether it be as a club or county player, or trying to play for your country. The goal is to constantly search for a never ending improvement of one’s own game.

STAGE 8 – GAME FOR LIFE 
Tennis, and the love of tennis, will stay with a player for life.

Looking through Andy's Shop on his website reveals an amazing number of books in many different langauges - even German and Chinese.

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In the SYSTEM-9: SINGLES TACTICS 54-page booklet, which Andy describes as "a comprehensive manual which covers a wealth of tactical training material," we are given 40 interesting drills and practices, "using all game situations, from which you can plan a whole lesson, camp or programme." (He's a Brit, what can I say?)

The booklet is clearly suited for coaches working with higher level players. It teaches and lets you practice the patterns of play in singles. Sven Groeneveld describes it as a blueprint to identify those patterns. He writes, "These exercises will educate you to read the game of tennis while you're playing these games!" He suggests that applying these methods over a period of time gives you "the ability to unconsciously adapt and apply any strategy based on the educated instinct to tennis." He sees this strategy like utilizing them to see the court as your board game. Interesting read from one of the biggest coaches in our game who coached one of the biggest singles player of our time, Maria Sharapova.

Tactics and tactical play for singles - very rarely do you see someone give you such a blueprint. It's a different book and that's what I like about it. 

Another celebrated UK tennis coach, Phil Vivian, who was the 2013 PTR International Tester of the Year, has accredited over 3,000 coaches through the PTR in the UK over the past 20 years, and received a Lifetime Achievement Award from PTR in 2019, wrote, "Andy Dowsett's book on tennis tactics outlines the simplicity with which a coach can produce effective thought processes and high levels of decision making in tennis players of all ages." 

Andy describes all possible phases of a singles match, including practices for serves out wide, serves to the body, serve and volley, serve to backhand, percentage returns, attacking weak serves, and so much more. It's just jam-packed with ideas and strategies.

I liked what Anne Pankhurst wrote. The former LTA and USTA Coach with a Ph.D. in Coach and Athlete Development, states, "Andy knows how nervous and negative I am about Tennis Drills books - because normally they have little to do with the player's level of ability - or worse still - how the game is actually played! As far as Andy's book is concerned, I have nothing negative to say about it!

There you have it, folks. I wholeheartedly concur with Anne Pankhurst! Nice job, Andy. Every coach should have this booklet in their library!

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