Principles of Teaching & Learning Part 2 of 4

This entry is part 4 of 4 in the series Principles of Teaching & Learning

In this months blog series we focus on aiding LTA Level 1 and 2 Tennis Coaches to gain a greater understanding of how players learn, and how this should influence their own coaching behaviour .

Last week we looked at creating a positive learning environment and how players learn a new skill, this week we turn our attention to the stages of learning and the optimum coaching behaviours needed at each stage.

Stages of Learning

The purpose of coaching is to bring a permanent improvement in a players performance. That permanent improvement will only take place if the player has learnt techniques and developed them into skills by practising them within the context of the game.


Firstly some considerations for the coach…
  • Players differ in respect of their previous learning so all come at different stages.
  • All players learn at different rates and all move through the stages at different times.
  • The motivation of players to learn is different at different times and this affects their learning rate.

Three Stages of Learning

There are 3 stages to go through in learning any skill, not just tennis skills.

Stage 1: Cognitive or beginner stage

This stage is where the player tries to understand what to do
THE PLAYER - Typical examples of what a player is doing at this stage:
  • Trying the whole action but looks awkward.
  • Developing a general shape.
  • Making lots of errors.
  • Asking lots of questions to understand the task
  • Needs time to think between attempts.
  • Makes rapid improvement.
THE COACH - What should the coach be doing at this stage ?
  1. Lots of demonstrations.
  2. Positive feedback on good actions.
  3. Ignoring mistakes
  4. Answering briefly.
  5. Feeding to allow thinking time.
  6. Keeping feeding similar to limit decision making
  7. Being positive and encouraging.

Stage 2 Associative or improver stage        

This stage is where the player is practising the action.
THE PLAYER - Typical examples of what a player is doing at this stage:
  • Improving the shape of the action
  • Making fewer mistakes
  • Giving feedback to the coach
  • Developing the action as an open skill for tennis
  • Can lose confidence as rate of improvement not as great as 1 st stage.
THE COACH - What should the coach be doing at this stage ?
  1. Reducing demonstrations
  2. Giving positive feedback
  3. Questioning to check understanding
  4. Making feeding more game realistic
  5. Checking for small errors

Stage 3 The autonomous or skilled performer stage  

This is the stage where the player is maintaining the action

THE PLAYER - Typical examples of what a player is doing at this stage:
  • The action is automatic
  • Action is fluent and mistakes are few
  • Player is confident in the skill
  • There is more feedback from the player
  • Player can self correct
THE COACH - What should the coach be doing at this stage ?
  1. Feeding is game related although blocked feeding ( the same ballrepeated) may be used to groove the action.
  2. Feedback is encouraging but mistakes are discussed
  3. Player is encouraged to assess own performance
  4. Demonstrations by the coach are reduced but “expert ” demos by pro players on video etc may be used.
All players go through these stages when learning a new skill, it is vital that a coach understands the stages and can satisfy the demands of each player in whatever stage they are in.



Series Navigation<< Principles of Teaching & Learning Part 3 of 4

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