Wimbledon 2018 is upon us! Have you taken notice of the changes to tennis equipment have been contributing to the improvement of the quality of the sport? Rackets are more high-tech than ever, and modified tennis balls are now used in every tennis academy. Tennis courts are constructed with much more advanced materials and equipped with ball tracking and score tracking technology.
Have you heard the names of Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, or Serena Williams? These tennis stars are performing better than ever. Even the most casual tennis fans know their names, and the players are also mentioned in the same breath as celebrities. Winner of last year’s Wimbledon, Federer, is seeking a landmark 100th career title at Wimbledon this year.
While the tennis technological evolution has undoubtedly changed the way the game is played, it’s also changing the way it’s being taught.
Technological Advancements Enhance Coaching Jobs in Tennis
The advancement of tennis technology is helping to create new teaching methods, not only for the top performance tennis coaches that tour with the pros but also for recreational coaches at the high school and club level. For example, elite tennis academies have used video analysis for decades. However, it was not always a teaching tool available to the masses.
Today, any tennis instructor can videotape a tennis shot on their smartphone, and then download the video to analyze and share with colleagues or students in a matter of minutes. We’re also seeing coaches and academies starting to invest in specialized devices, software, and training tools to attract and retain students. So, what are some of these tools that coaches and players utilize to improve performance?
4 Examples of How Technology is Revolutionizing Tennis
1. Modified tennis rackets and balls
When watching Wimbledon on TV (or if lucky enough to view at the arena), most people are accustomed to seeing rallies lasting between five and ten fast-paced shots throughout the game. Imagine the disappointment when a new player steps on the court and is having a hard time hitting two shots in a row over the net. It was always a challenge for coaches to explain that it takes time and practice to be able to rally the way the pros do consistently.
The introduction of low-compression tennis balls has drastically changed the way tennis is taught. There are red, orange, and green color balls – each color is designed for a different age group and behaves differently to keep players in the game. The technology of modified tennis balls makes learning easier for beginners and children. Therefore, making them more confident, which contributes to a more positive and fun experience on the court. Combined with the appropriate size racket and the court, children can become accustomed to basic tennis strokes quickly while moving through the colored ball stages. They eventually progress to the regular, more bouncy, yellow balls you’ll see at Wimbledon, as well as longer rackets and bigger courts when a certain level of technical proficiency has been achieved.
Modified tennis equipment has also given an opportunity for players of different skill levels to be able to play a game called Pickleball, a sport created for all ages and skill levels. Pickleball is a game that has become increasingly popular over the past few years, and at one time was the fast-growing sport in America. The rules are similar to those of tennis, but the game is played on a shorter court, shorter net, and a large plastic ball.
With these tools in mind, tennis coaches can build solid recreational programs even in places where not many people play.
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2. Analytical tennis equipment for measuring performance
Sophisticated, smart equipment such as KITRIS-KIT, Dartfish, and PlaySight smart courts are designed to transform matches and practices into fully interactive and shareable events. They help with measuring player performance and providing valuable analysis to both players and coaches.
In the past, coaches had to attend tournaments and take notes. Such data, of course, was mainly based on the subjective analysis by the coach. Some of today’s tennis and sports technology, however, includes monitoring systems that allow coaches to watch matches live on their smartphones, look up statistics, and understand the mechanical characteristics of the players’ tennis strokes and court movement.
3. Tennis gadgets to enhance practice on or off the court
There are many technological teaching devices that coaches use to help players improve their game. These devices help educate by complementing the on-court practice with a coach. Any tennis player who’s spent a reasonable amount of time on the court will likely be able to name a bunch:
- Tennis ball machines (Lobster, Tennis Cube) help practice tennis strokes through repetition.
- Training aids (TopspinPro, ServeMaster, EyeCoach) help players feel what coaches try to teach, and therefore accelerate learning.
- Sensors that attach to rackets (Zepp, BabolatPLAY, Sony Smart Sensor) and smart garments (Ralph Lauren Polo Tech Shirt) are wearable devices that collect and record training data, chart it on smartphones, and share via social networks.
4. Online learning for tennis
Learning tennis on the court is a fun and exciting activity for everyone, but it can also be expensive over time. Online learning technology, however, has been around for years and is being embraced more than ever before. Coaches provide instructional resources (video courses, eBooks) online and on their social profiles. With access to phone apps, training software, and online teaching videos, players can find inexpensive (and in some cases free on websites such as YouTube) and helpful instruction. Gone are the days where all tennis instruction must be done on the court.
Social media has also become an excellent resource for players and coaches. On Facebook, for instance, there are many groups and pages dedicated to teaching, discussion, and knowledge sharing. It’s also a great place for social listening – gathering insights about what tennis enthusiasts are into – what they like to watch, topics of interest, and how they like to learn.
Final thoughts about tennis technology
If you’re pursuing a career in tennis, it’s essential to embrace these technological changes and incorporate them into learning programs. Use online channels for discussion and promotion, improving credibility, and passing knowledge to other students and enthusiasts in the most efficient way.
Although hardware and software cannot replace the experience of traditional practice and match play, we can all agree that technology is helping our ability to learn and grow as tennis fans and professionals.