#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

Long term commitments > Short term commitments

I (Michael) wouldn’t work with somebody where I don’t have the feeling that it’s a match. You are close together for such a big part of the year. You can only work on a long term basis because to change something or to improve something, it takes time.

It takes trust and it takes two people who understand each other.

So, for me, the only way is getting to know the player, getting to know the physio, working together with them.

There is no quick fix.

The connecting between the player and the person

It’s always important to get feedback from the player and learn more about the player.

Listen to the joys, the fears and small things in order to understand the player.

The tennis player and the human being is strongly connected

By understanding the player, you will also understand their reactions and also how you as a coach can help from the outside.

– Michael Geserer

#97: Michael Geserer – There are no short cuts in tennis


In this episode you are going to listen to Michael Geserer. Michael did not pick up a tennis racquet until the age of 17 but managed to play qualifying for all Slams and a career high singles ranking of #198. Formerly Michael has among other coaches Julia Goerges and is currently the coach of Jen Brady.

You’ll get to know:

  • Jen Brady’s attitude during Covid-19
  • How to plan so you can adjust
  • The importance of empathy and listening

Enjoy the show!


01:30 Communication with a player during Covid-19
03:50 Jen Brady’s approach and attitude in the Covid-19 period
05:15 Looking forward to the Australian tennis swing 2021
06:15 The German Tennis Coaching License
07:30 Planning as a tennis coach to adjust towards the outcomes
08:10 Empathy and listening
09:10 Respect
10:25 The tennis player and the whole human being is closely connected
11:55 The opportunity to practice in Regensburg
12:30 The environment in Regensburg
13:15 Experience and passion
13:45 Use your time it’s valuable
14:30 Learn and gather information
14:50 Surround yourself with positive people
15:15 I believe in planning
15:40 Swedish tennis coaches have predominantly been the inspiration

16:15 Long term commitments > short term commitments

17:00 How to go about long-term commitments with a player

18:30 How reach Michael Geserer

(Even more) Shoulder care in tennis

Most players already keep their shoulders healthy to some extent, but a lot could probably do better. It could be integrated a bit more.

Looking back onto my (Luke) own practice and what I did with tennis players is they’ll do their band work in the warmups. Then some specific posteria shoulder work in the gym program, but that’s really about it and when the player then goes away for tournaments, they will often go through their band work super quick and there is not a lot of attention paid to it.

In Baseball it’s something that’s heavily integrated into the gym program and it’s something that they have specific days where they are assigned to do a program that would do a posterior rotator cuff program on top of the warmups where it’s also heavily integrated into. It’s also a really big focus in the off season. Taking the example of a tennis player, who might only have a couple of weeks off and then they start in preseason. You’ve got a good amount of reduction in the load in chronic load and you’ve got a big spike in your acute load. You’re probably not going to want to pick up a racket for a period of that, but you can definitely keep a band and you can keep the scapula and your posterior shoulder really strong and really tolerant. So, when you do go back, they’re not just starting from zero. And I think that’s something where there’s potentially a lesson to be learned around that.

Why tennis needs more workload monitoring

Tennis players have a very short off-season which means that players chronic workload and what they’re tolerant to is relatively high all the time because they’re having to train and compete most of the year. There’s value in understanding the players injury history in terms of informing you as a tennis coach on how many times are you going to feed in that wide forehand or full open stance backhand. How much repetition is the going to withstand? If the player has had a previous knee injury or they have some chronic knee pain through the patella. That’s something to be aware of and to count. Maybe they’ve had an abdominal strain, which is something to be aware of. Maybe they’ve had lower back pain, then the serve needs to be paid special attention to. The player might have had wrist injuries or wrist surgeries. If you’re feeding them lowballs, close to the baseline, they’re having to do a lot of wrist action to pick up that ball. That’s something to be aware of.

So, a lot of it depends on the player you have in front of you and their injury history and of what things are high risk to them. High and low load doesn’t equal for all players. Players have different histories. So, what may be a really low load or moderate load for one player without injury history is might actually be a high load for somebody else.

How tennis coaches best collaborate with S&C Coaches on planning

It depends whether it’s specific or whether it’s global.

If it’s global, looking at in terms of how an academy sets up training a good way to approach would be to lay out what you’re doing as a tennis coach. Collaboratively discuss; “Is this getting the most out of our players?”

Present the S&C coach with:
– What are our main drills?
– These are our main basket drills
– These are our main conditional drills of additional points
– These are all main ways in which we try and structure in place maybe our match play

Let the S&C coach know why and discuss if what you are doing is the best way to go about it.

If it’s specific to one player discuss questions like:
– What is the drill related to?
– What is the goal of the drill?
– Why are we using it?
– How often is the player going to be exposed to this?

Then ultimately it comes down to if we are going to expose the player, to something regularly,
– How do we then manipulate the volume and the intensity of that?
– What is the required intensity of that drill?

That will lead to the program dictating the volume that then also dictates the amount that the player repeatedly can be exposed to the specific element.

So, having clarity in terms of what exactly it is you’re trying to achieve is key because that’s then going to drive a better and more informed conversation and then having that be a collaborative one where you can put your heads together. Potentially watch video to assess the course. If possible, get the S&C coach to see it live, because not all S&C Coaches in tennis know tennis inside out like the back of the hand.

I (Luke) was at Soto Tennis Academy for 6-7 years and it took me a number of years before I (Luke) felt comfortable understanding a lot of the drills on court and understanding actually what they meant, how to quantify them and what actually was hard and what wasn’t. So, for somebody that maybe hasn’t spent a lot of time in tennis, just having the coach be open to saying, “Hey, can you come on, go and take a look at this and then can we go back and discuss that? That’s really valuable.

Why tennis coaches have to quantify tennis drills

It’s been shown many times, again, with a lot of different studies around quantifying load, that if everything is always high then you never really hit your peaks because there’s a form of monotony Everyone self-paces and it’s not possible to run a marathon at a 100 meters sprint pace. So there has to be some form of modifying intensity. If volume is high and we’re spending four hours on court it’s not possible to do the some of the hardest drills, four hours continuously. It’s also not possible to have some of your hardest days five days a week or five days in a row. So, I think prospectively planning out days with different lows, whether it be a high day, a medium, day or a low day is important.

So how do I quantify drills?
There is a lot of value in terms of understanding as to what your low drills, low intensity and what are your medium intensity drills, and what are your high intensity drills. Volume is going to have a strong interaction with that. Your low intensity drills you can have a higher volume of that. Medium, you’re going to need to bring that down a little bit and then your high intensity drill you definitely need to have a low volume.

The second part is twofold, where you look at how does that map out across the week. You’d like to be prospectively planning your week out to try and work towards a bigger goal in terms of how you’re trying to develop that player, whether it be technical, tactical, physical or mental.

You need to be asking yourself: “Am I simply just walking onto the court or into the gym doing this today because I see that on the court and it’s just sort of spur of the moment and just planning session to session or day to day, or am I planning my weeks out specifically with a goal in mind of trying to develop certain qualities within that player over time?”.

If you’re doing the latter, then there is definitely a space to think:
– What days are my high days where I’m really going to push the player from a technical, tactical, physical or mental perspective
– What are my medium days?
– What are my low days?

When you are quantifying lows it relates more with their previous injury history or potential injury risk. If you have a player with a previous wrist injury, potentially a lot of low forehand work might be a little bit of a red flag, and that’s something to be aware of. Another example of previous injury history could be elbow and you’d have to be conscious of the serve. Shoulder would be another example regarding the serve. If, the player has had previous knee injury, then some of your wider forehand or backhand work, depending on which leg it is and potentially serve as well with landing on that front leg. So, all of these are important factors to consider.

What could be changed based on the statistics now available?
Historically tennis is a sport which is high volume, high density with lots and lots of repetitions. There’s a lot of space, a lot of justification, a lot of reason for that. But there’s also a large amount of space now armed with the rally length information for us to say potentially more emphasis could be placed on shorter, sharper drills that are focusing on some of the more percentage-based very important parts of tennis.

So, working on the serve, working on the return, working on the serve +1 or return +1 are we doing that safely?

All of these are low volume. So, it makes sense to quantify a lot of the drills and understand where they sit and then where do they sit across a week and how you best place your players to get the most out of that training by having fluctuations. So, you have some peaks and troughs, you have some mountains, you have some valleys. If everything is always the same, it’s very difficult to get a change or potentially the changes are suboptimal if you’re doing that.

Let’s get low practical
Question: Depending on where you are in the season and what you are practicing towards. If you, e.g. have just done a drill that was physically very demanding and high intensity would it then be preferably to follow that physically very demanding drill, by having a low intensity physical drill, but then high demanding on a technical aspect could be practicing the dropshot or whatever small technical detail.

It depends on the players training age technical proficiency. So, if you’ve got somebody with a high training age and someone who is technically proficient in the area, that’s probably okay because the player will have a strong base to fall back on. Further they’re probably less likely to get injured from that, but they’re also less likely to experience repeated failure because they’re fatigued and you’re just pushing the boundaries out on something which they’re already quite good on, but they could potentially get better as well, under fatigue.

Getting better under fatigue is something other sports have done a lot of work on. They create worst case scenarios or practice technical drills while under fatigue because that’s ultimately where a lot of the success or failure falls upon is can you execute something which normally you would be able to do, but when you almost have to and sometimes that can be mental acuity or technical acuity. It can be tactical. It can be a combination of all of these things.

If you take the opposite example. If you have a young tennis player, they’re not physically mature yet and they don’t have a full repertoire from a technical perspective. If you then place them in that fatigued environment, you’re potentially setting them up for failure. That can maybe have some impact from a psychological perspective. Further it can impact the development on the specific shot that you’re trying to have them execute. So, it depends on if you’re talking about somebody who’s has a higher level, then it’s a really good way of developing them in a fatigued state. For younger players, take a step back, look at it from a bigger picture and ask yourself: “What’s the objective here? And is that player ready for that kind of exposure?

…and if we take a look more globally on the weekly planning of a tennis player?

Q: Would it then make sense to have e.g. a Wednesday afternoon session that in general is relatively low intensity?

Yeah, definitely. Having either a Wednesday or a Thursday be a low load day or a half half day. There’s a lot of evidence and a lot of logical thought processes that support that. It’s very difficult to go hard and heavy every day. It definitely makes sense breaking up the week, whether it be a five-day training week or a six-day training week into two chunks. You might then have two-three days on hard, followed by half day lower and then by three days on.

It’s very difficult to look at training weeks from a Monday to Sunday or Monday to Saturday perspective. From an individual perspective and players who are competing the tour it makes more sense to look at it from a number of training days. So, you may not have a week. The week may not go from Monday to Sunday. Your training week might start on a Tuesday, and you may have all the way through till maybe the following Wednesday. So then at which point you have eight days of training. How are you going to structure those eight days? So, you have a match and then instead you are counting match minus one, minus two, minus three.

This way of approaching planning is very typical in other sports, but in the academy environments, the Monday to Sunday, the typical calendar week makes sense because that’s how a lot of it operates. On a more individual level, tennis doesn’t operate on a Monday to Sunday basis. You can be out on a Tuesday, you can be out on a Friday, you can be out whenever and starting a period of a short training exposure. So, looking at it from training day one up to training day six, or breaking up the days in terms of two-three days on with a low day, I think definitely makes a lot of sense.

How to approach an increase in tennis players serve amount

When tennis players are typically increasing the amount of serves quite quickly or maybe a little bit further down the track, they start to develop a little bit of shoulder pain. This probably speaks to a wider understanding of workloads, quantifying it and how we go about doing that. I (Luke) think this, particularly for tennis, is a really important one. Potentially one of the most important ones, because the classical way of increasing the number of serves is often like; I’m going to serve the basket, I’m going to serve two baskets, but the size of baskets and number of balls in a basket, is vastly different. It’s also quite common practice for a coach to stand at the back or to the side of the player and to feed in balls every now and again. There will be some discussion between each ball or in between a cluster of balls. Often it ends up with the coach saying: “Let’s just do a couple more” as a player start to get a feeling or start to get the movement better. There is this desire for the coach for a few more balls to be grooved. Quite quickly, you can get a little bit ahead of yourself when you’re doing more than what you’ve planned.

The first step – Serve count
Start with an actual ball count. It’s a quantification of what the players workload is. What is their current threshold? What’s that player used to right now? What their current habits around how much they train, how many hours do they train? How many balls do they typically serve? And how many times a week You might end up knowing that a player is serving approximately 40 balls and then the next step is to..

The second step – Use google maps
Decide as a coach how many serves you would like the player to be serving a day/a week to have the opportunity to develop the technical changes that you desire for the player to develop. From that understand how big a gap there is between the current workload and where you would like to see the serve count to be in the future. Think of this as using google maps. You have to put in your current location and your desired destination before it comes up with ideas of how to reach your destination. You need to have an understanding of what the player has been doing because that is what their bodies will be tolerant to. And then where you would like them to go. You might not want them to do much different but if you want them to be doing more then you need to safely map out that route rather than immediately jumping there. Let’s say that the player is currently serving 40 balls a day and you would like that number to be 60 balls a day. It’s safe to progressively do that over time – so how do you get from 40 to 60 balls?

The third step – The 10 percent rule
There is quite a lot of research on workload across various sport, cricket, rugby, and baseball, where there is strong evidence to show that if you go above a general 10 percent change in workload, whether that be a global workload, everything that you’re doing or something specific, roughly a 10 percent change is higher in risk if you go above that. So, you want to generally try to keep a 10 percent rule and you’ll be in fairly safe space when you are increasing the serve amount.

The fourth step – General things to keep in mind
If a player is going through a growth period, they are more likely to have losses of coordination. If you are not aware of the cause of the lost coordination you might as a coach want to do more repetitions in order to regain their skill set on the serve. Unfortunately, what you’ll often end up doing is adding more fuel to the fire onto a maturing body that’s growing and is not quite ready. Consequently, the player might start to get knee pain, shoulder pain. So, it’s important to always keep the players biological age, their training age and their current tolerance based on what they are used to combined with their injury history in mind. If you have got all of those factors in mind you have got yourself a well-rounded context for yourself to know how to move forward. It’s not always possible to keep all of the parameters in check yourself, which is why it’s important to have conversations with multiple team members including the tennis coach, fitness coach, the physio and/or the parents. If you do this, you are going to make more informed decisions.

#96: Luke Passman – “How to safely increase the number of serves”


Hi guys, In this episode you are going to listen to Luke Passman. Luke worked 6 years at the Soto Tennis Academy as the Head of Sport Science Support and have for the past 2 years been the Strength and Conditioning Coordinator at The New York Mets.

You’ll get to know:

  • The Google Earth Analogy
  • Why and how to quantify Tennis drills
  • What Tennis can learn from Baseball

Enjoy the show!


01:30 How to safely progress serve count in tennis
08:00 Using the Google earth analogy to help tennis players
11:00 Why there is a need to quantify tennis drills
15:30 How to balance intensity, repetitions and volume in tennis practices
18:00 How to plan a tennis player’s weekly practices from a physical point of view
20:10 How tennis coaches can approach S&C coaches to plan a tennis player’s schedule
24:00 What tennis can learn from baseball
27:10 What Luke would change where he to go back to Tennis S&C
29:30 Why you need to build strong relationships as an S&C Coach
30:45 Problem solving coaching and how to get organizations to change
31:30 Why technology needs to be on tap not on top
332:40 The biggest myth is that tennis players can’t lift weights
34:50 How different approaches work in different cultures
36:00 Favorite Books: “The Chimp Paradox” and “Conscious Coaching”
37:00 Luke Passman’s advice to tennis players, parents and coaches
38:00 How to stay updated on Luke Passman