2 Lessons for Tennis Players from the Royal Marine Commandos

One of my (Howard) key mentors, Keith Reynolds from the first day I met him he wanted me to use my military background. It’s taken a little bit of time for me (Howard) to come full circle and become comfortable with my military past on how I might use it in tennis. The main thing now that I believe is totally transferable to tennis and it’s the concept of…

From a military standpoint, in terms of your own weapon handling skills, regardless of the situation, condition weather all the way through to how you operate with the guy next to you, how you operate as a section troop, all these things would be rehearsed in varying levels of intensity and situation. I (Howard) believe that could be brought into tennis because I’d love to be able to ask at all times:

“How is that session, whether it be 30 minutes, two hours, how close from a tactical standpoint, physical standpoint, a mental standpoint, rehearse and practice what they’ll need in matchplay?”

I (Howard) think a lot of the time, if we’re truly honest, it’s a little bit too far from what’s going to be required. That starts with the engagement with the player themselves. Making them aware of the effort that you play for this next two hours session can have a real big impact on your next match. Or it could have a detrimental effect, because when we come to a position where the bullets start flying at you, you’re only going to drop to your worst level. For me, that was bullets. For the tennis players that’s to serve. If they’re not fully prepared, then that’s going to show up in the most stressful situations. Be it a breakpoint, tiebreaker, set point or match point.

What else can tennis players learn from the military?

One of the key things that is done in the military is what we call battle preparation. There would be specific camouflage linked to the specific scenario. So,imagine that you’re in the desert and you’ve got loads of grass hanging at the top of you, you’ve not really prepared. For an tennis player that might be, traveling to Country X. Having a look a what the weather’s like over there. Oh, wow. It’s freezing or it’s super humid. Right. Do I think I need to take some kind of electrolytes with me, so on and so forth. If it’s hot weather, I’ve got my son cream and my cap. We would check that our radio signals are all in line so we know we can speak to each other. That will be a little bit like a tennis player being very, very clear on his/her game plan with their coach before going into a tournament. Ammunition we would make sure that we were stocked. Have you got enough rackets, extra strings, grips etc.

The list goes on and on and they’re a so many simple things tennis players can do on a daily basis to have a bigger impact on their performance.

The rocky road of talent

I (Howard) do see in the tennis world some people dealing with adversity much better than others. There are many players that would have started and had kind of a meteoric rise. Then when they come up against adversity, they just fall off the edge of the cliff. So, they’ve not prepared themselves. On the way up the mountain, there’s a journal called The Rocky Road of Talent in which if you’ve got a player, that is doing great, beating everybody and every tournament is very easy to the player. That’s a red flag. That’s a big red flag. You have to do something about that.

So, one of the things you might do is within training put constraints in terms of drills with the players to make it harder for them to win and get them to train with or from time to time compete with the older players. You may even sign them up for a tournament ill prepared. You want to create what they in the journal would call talent trauma. A straight line up is danger. It needs to be a little more up and down. Players needs to both be great players but also have robustness and the resilience alongside that. That’s important and it needs to be trained.

Iga Swiatek who won French Open is working with a sports psychologist. Some commented that it was strange that she’s working with a sports psychologist, but Sport psych is a huge component. It’s a lonely place on the tennis court. It’s not like any other sport, where when you make an error. Your teammates can get around you or you can go missing for five minutes while you get your thoughts together. On the tennis court it’s all on you. So, the resilience, robustness and the whole psychological side alongside being a great tennis player is very important.

What not to do when working on coordination with Tennis Players

This is what sometimes worries me (Howard) when I see coaches working on coordination with tennis players.

I (Howard) see coaches go “Okay, I have got my session in 10 minutes”. They have a quick scroll on Instagram. Find a drill and decides it looks cool. That is then what they will do on the court.


…but it’s not fine because when the coach applies the random drill from Instagram, he/she doesn’t really understand the context of drill. So, the coach tries the drill. It’s going well initially and then it starts breaking down for one player. He just cannot achieve it. For another player it’s far too easy and a few players where it’s just about right. The coach will have a tough time make it easier or harder if they are not understanding the main purpose of the drill.

Further it becomes difficult to give effective coaching cues to the players as different kids prefer different information. The players ask the coach “What is it you really want me to do, Coach?” and if the coach doesn’t know it will become difficult to even carry on the drill. The drill continues until it deteriorates even more, or the coach just pulls the plug. Either way, an intelligent little player is going to pick up on that. And the coach just lost a little bit of respect and buy in because it became a little bit too much of a circus trick.

What S&C Coaches are trying to achieve when working with Tennis Players

My (Howard) main driver as a physical coach is to make the player as efficient as possible. By that, I (Howard) mean to use the lowest amount of energy even at the highest impact or highest speed actions. The more efficient we can make tennis players, the less energy they’re going to use and therefore the less impact on the body.

So, for example, the technology on Andy Murray, and a young British kid, similar situations. The younger kid shows higher impact forces, higher slowing down forces. Is that because he’s moving quicker or is it that Andy is moving more efficiently? It’s probably Andy’s moving more efficiently.

We’’re trying to really make this efficient athlete, doing the least amount of toll on the body as possible, because we know, tennis is becoming faster, quicker and more explosive. I (Howard) see it going more and more like Basketball, bigger players, stronger players, more athletic players.

Tennis Players are smart – Give them a chance

During this pandemic time I (Howard) have learned how young tennis players can be quite independent and we as coaches shouldn’t undermine that.

I (Howard) think we assume a lot we might over coach. We probably should give them a bit more kudos that they can work things out and find their own answers.

When I went to Switzerland, Benn Linder’s number 2 said his brother’s a teacher and he said: “The minute you give the child the answer, it takes away their opportunity to learn.“.

I (Howard) think that if just give them a little bit more chance to discover it might look messier from the balcony or through the window, but just give them a chance.

#98: Howard Green – Stand out, but don’t burn out


Hi guys, In this episode you are going to listen to Howard Green. Howard spent six years in the Royal Marines Commandos. Serving in Iraq and Afghanistan he has extensive experience in preparing ITF, ATP and WTA players and Currently Howard is the Head of Strength and Conditioning at USN Bolton Arena High Performance Tennis Academy which he has been for ten+ years.

You’ll get to know:

  • Non-ego-confidence
  • Setting up physical fundamentals for tennis players
  • What tennis players can learn from the Marines

Enjoy the show!


01:30 Rehersal
03:40 Mnemonics
07:40 Non-ego confidence
11:10 Why the Super Movers programme
15:20 Providing tennis players with the best possible fundamentals
22:00 What the Super Movers programme is all about
28:30 The key shapes
32:00 Determining the load of tennis drills
36:00 S&C on the professional Tennis Circuit
40:00 Speed up learning by sharing on social
42:00 Don’t be afraid to copy experienced coaches
43:30 The application of bungees in tennis
46:00 Don’t take away the tennis player’s opportunity to learn
47:30 You have to do extra