Sharing the Knowledge
Fitness training guru Pat Etcheberry teaches coaches how to assess a player and devise a winning program.
By Greg Moran
As tennis has become 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. But one person who has been ahead of this curve is Pat Etcheberry.
A former Olympian (he competed in the 1964 Tokyo Olympic Games as a javelin thrower), Etcheberry has been a pioneer in sports fitness training for more than 30 years. Pete Sampras, Andre Agassi, Justine Henin-Hardenne, and Jim Courier are just a few of the tennis stars who have stretched, strained, sweated, and won under Etcheberry’s training. His students have won more than 100 Grand Slam titles and Olympic medals.
“Etch,” as he’s known to his players, has also worked with players from the PGA, Major League Baseball, 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 top executives and Fortune 500 companies. Clearly, when Etcheberry speaks about improving performance on court, we should listen.
I recently had the opportunity to listen and learn when I attended his new, two-day “Coaches Certification Workshop” held at the Sport Fit Club in Bowie, Md. Etch, fabulously fit at 64 years old, created the workshops as a way to pass along his philosophies and techniques to a new generation of coaches.
Designed for tennis teaching pros and fitness trainers, the workshops are held in the classroom, on the court, and in the gym. To become accredited, participants must pass an extensive written exam and an on-court test, covering strength, endurance, flexibility, movement, and nutrition. Workshop attendees receive continuing education credits from both the PTR and USPTA.
In fitness training, one size doesn’t fit all. Etcheberry teaches workshop attendees how to assess a player and then devise a program, using sport-specific drills that will help that player reach his or her athletic potential. During the weekend, which was hosted by the club’s director of tennis, Kevin McClure, I came away with an endless supply of training secrets. With Etch’s permission, here is one of them:
When Etcheberry meets with a student for the first time, he puts them through a very basic test, which you can use to give you an indication of your player’s fitness level.
- Have your player stand in the center of one of the service boxes.
- Say “Go” and then, for 30 seconds, the player quickly moves from side to side, touching the singles sideline and then the center service line with their racquet. Keep count of the number of times they touch the lines.
- 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 time the player touches the lines.
When they’ve finished all three 30-second sets, you’ll have three figures representing the number of lines they touched during each set. The first figure tells you how fast the player is and, obviously, the greater the number of lines they touch, the better.
The second number tells you how quickly they recover. Tennis is a sport where you play one long point after another, with just 30 seconds in between to recover. Their score in the second set of the exercise will give you a sense of your player’s recuperative ability. Ideally the number should equal the score during the first set.
The final number tells you a bit about the player’s stamina. Etcheberry compares this third number to the third set of a match and, ideally, it should be right up there with the first two scores.
When I returned from the workshop, I tested one of my juniors. His scores were: 22 touches, 17, then 13. So, what does this tell me? First, for his age, my junior player is pretty fast. But the fact that his second score dropped so severely tells me 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 don’t, then I’ll know that he hasn’t been doing his fitness work, which, in turn, will tell me a bit about his motivation to improve.
All participants in the workshop received Etcheberry’s new DVD series, “The Etcheberry Experience,” which includes 76 drills and a chart that allows you to compare scores to the pros and your player’s peers.
Though he’s best known for teaching people to look within themselves and “dig deep,” Etcheberry displayed the spirit of a champion recently as he successfully battled colon cancer. While undergoing chemotherapy, he continued to train his athletes, and even worked out himself. Because of this experience, Etcheberry has developed a conditioning program that allows cancer patients to be proactive in their own recovery.
The Coaches Certification Workshop, which my facility in Connecticut will host in May, gives teaching pros the wisdom and experience of one of the game’s best fitness trainers to help players improve.
Pat Etcheberry’s Coaches Certification Workshops
Feb. 23-24: PTR International Tennis Symposium, Hilton Head Island, S.C.
March 10-11: Etcheberry Sports Performance Center, Wesley Chapel, Fla.
May 5-6: Four Seasons Racquet Club, Wilton, Conn.
June 16-17: Etcheberry Sports Performance Center, Wesley Chapel, Fla.
Sept. 22-23: USPTA World Conference, Wesley Chapel, Fla.
Dec. 15-16: Intercollegiate Tennis Association Convention, Miami
For more on the workshops, go to etcheberryexperience.com.
See all articles by Greg Moran
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