Interview with Mili Veljkovic, tennis technique expert coach in Partizan Tennis Club. Part 3

Mili Veljkovic continues to answer my previous question:

It was not difficult to understand from those answers that as more experienced tennis players are – the tougher clients are and that they want:

  • to see first obvious results as soon as possible but the time that majority are ready to wait for the first obvious result is between 3 and 5 days only,
  • to know what will they learn, how fast and difficult it will be,
  • if they are a bit more shy or with weaker concentration – they prefer individual lessons but it costs more. Of course, as better player is – work must be individual,
  • if they like socializing and more fun – they are for group lessons and they know that as the bigger group is – shorter time with teacher!

As I learned what’s bothering the most of tennis fans I started to focus on how to accelerate the learning process or with other words – how to teach better and faster.
I realized that huge number of people get disappointed easy – in themselves or in their teacher – and they quite on tennis i.e. quite on lessons. We teachers and the whole tennis industry loose the same clients. Domino effect.

It was not difficult to figure out that I needed to make my client happy after one, two or three days maximum – if I don’t want to lose even those with the least patience. But what if that impatient person is not very talented? Percentage of very talented people is not that high, right? Just imagine how many people ready to pay well have left because of the reasons we just mentioned?

Let me come back on my post graduate studies. We were learning about learning process and the subject was physiology. Nothing special, every sport faculty has that. Inside that book, we had to read, was more complicated part – learning motor skills. The theme started to intrigue me more and more and thanking to internet I dive into new thing for me – neurophysiology of motor learning!

We all heard of techniques for faster reading, faster remembering numbers, words etc. Well, there are patterns how to achieve all of that using different techniques likey Silva method, Tony Buzan’s method, Loci method, Alexandar method, brain mapping etc. After reading countless number of researches in the field of cognitive and motor learning and after conducting my own researches inspired by mentioned studies – I finally came to my own “formula” how to create new “muscle memory”. The results were so incredible fast and with high quality, even with the people who have been playing for decades and who were consider “not very talented”, if you know what I mean.

In a last five years more than five or six hundred people (all levels, from many countries – majority form Serbia) have successfully passed my ‘treatments” – clinics and courses. Needless to say how much they increase their love toward tennis. That was my idea and wish – since I was teenage instructor.

The “secret” (I don’t like this word but it is kind of true of my technique) is in a synergy that is created when we combine number of exercises set up in very specific and precise order:

  • rules of bio-mechanics, neurophisiology and methodology create such a “fusion’ that learning process accelerates minimum 50 times faster than standard way of learning,
  • intervals between exercises are important as well as resting and sleeping,
  • type of tactile feedback is crucial for forming synapses but only if we obey the laws of bio-mechanics and methodology,
  • because of tactile feedback – I designed various teaching aids that prevent student in doing harmful incorrect repeating,
  • cognitive learning during very beginning is a must, as well.

This technique is applicable on all ground strokes and to fix someone’s forehand or backhand takes three days and three nights – maximum! Everything what was good (correct) in previous kinetic motion (chain) will stay when a person learns new stroke, and what was not “good” will be forgotten – but only if we carefully control the speed. If a person shows impatience and speeds up the movement – the old habit would prevail! Patience is our best friend!

Interview with Mili Veljkovic, tennis technique expert coach in Partizan Tennis Club. Part 2

Q.: You are tennis coach and the same time you are a Sports professor. What is your major in Science? How it helps you with your coaching work?

A.: Firstly, I am not university professor otherwise I would have to be doctor (PhD). But I am adviser to few sport university professors – that’s something means too.
Few years ago I took post graduated studies and I am doing researches and with that data I may one day go for PhD if I discover something more than I have so far, because what I did so far is maybe “a knock on the door for PhD theses” . Maybe … it is enough for tennis PhD, but not enough for sport science yet. Anyhow I promised to myself that I would go for the academic title after I receive some world tennis recognition – you see how modest I am.

One thing I am sure of – I would never be able to understand the essence of tennis i.e. sport the way I do without diving deep into scientific laws. Five years ago, my twenty years of international teaching made me grow up into experienced coach but the turning point and the “switch” that had happened to me, in the beginning of my post graduated studies in 2006, twenty years after my university graduation (Why so late? Why not and what is late for learning? OK, also the dean was my tennis student, he loved my way of teaching and he offered me half scholarship fee since I was in veteran national selection and people say that only Roger Federer plays more elegant than me … As if! : )

Anyhow, when we had to write an essay for the psychology class, we were supposed to choose a subject and to use any kind of survey’s methods. Since I was already experienced tennis pro who had thought thousands of people of all levels around the globe, I decided to use that and I picked the subject that was in my mind for many years:

Why people don’t – or don’t want to play nicer and why are tennis not more massive, since it is as popular and healthy as a recreation?

Of course, I asked only those people who were somehow involved with tennis and those who answered that they liked it but never tried. We contacted 300 people in seven countries where I coached (Serbia, US, Croatia, France, Greece, England, Swiss) and some of the main questions were:

  1. What made you stop play tennis?
  2. Why did you stop taking lessons?
  3. Why you never started with lessons since you play active recreational?
  4. So, you say you like it, but why you never started and tried to play tennis?

The answers were so educational, inspiring and intriguing that made me say hmmm : )
That was when it ‘hits” me for the first time while the most important facts are:

  • majority of tennis players are inpatient with seriously short “fuse” when they are working on their improvement (we all know – old habits are difficult to correct),
  • they don’t know how long it will take to fix mistakes and how much it will cost them – but they want to know,
  • they don’t know how will they look like when they finish with lessons and what is the first satisfactory goal supposed to look like – but they want to know,
  • after every played lesson they doubt more and more if they are capable of getting it,
  • if they have already changed few teacher – they expect disappointment and the next teacher one is getting less time to show some concrete results,
  • they expect that learning / correcting can take to long time and they are not sure whose fault is this – theirs or teachers,
  • what if they simply can’t do it – if they are no talented enough – the famous self esteem issue!

Interview with Mili Veljkovic, tennis technique expert coach in Partizan Tennis Club. Part 1

Here is a first part of an interview with Mili Veljkovic, tennis technique expert coach in Partizan Tennis Club (Belgrade), Split Method’s author, PTR professional.

Q.: When did you start to coach tennis and why? Did you attend special courses or college to become a tennis coach?

A.: It took me some time to respond because I was looking for accurate info regarding my coach’s history. It matters who teaches you, what was the ranking …and it was long time ago!

When I was 11.5 years old, my family moved from one part of Belgrade to the building across the street of Partizan’s sport center. Parents told me to choose what I want to train. All sports were there in front of me. I felt like a boy in a toy shop. Tennis attracted me as a magnet. I was just fast kid who didn’t know anything about any sport. Most of my schoolmates were into all other sports (Red Star was just 2 blocks away), but I remember watching some big guy in his 50s or 60s who was dancing on the court and beating much younger guy who was actually very good. That young guy was competition player and the older guy was Petko Milojkovic. I was fascinated with his grace in spite he was 100 kg. I became his pupil. He used to be top Yugoslav player but WWII stopped him. As a veteran player he was for many years top in Europe.

My next coach was Bane Vucetic, another top Yugoslav coach and amazing technician who, as a junior, used to beat Ilie Năstase.

Even Seles’s father used to bring Monica to Partizan for additional lessons while as I was as a sport college student assisting my coach. Technically I could say that Monica (she was about 8 years old) was on my lesson.

One summer Jelena Gencic, Yugoslav champion, also known as the first Novak Djokovic’s teacher, was coaching our junior team and in Split I joined their team to be coached from Niki Pilic (also Novak Djokovic’s coach)!

My point is – good coach inspires and means so much in developing kid’s personality.
I loved giving lessons and I started as a junior 17 years old even my coach forbid me because I played for the first Partizan’s team.

My first instructor’s certificate I got when I was 18 only. I became youngest coach with university (sport science) degree in Yugoslavia. I was considered as one of top talented junior players in Yugoslavia. Army was obligatory and then university for five years. So much about my professional career as a tennis player.


Interview with Oscar Wegner, creator of Modern Tennis Methodology

Here is an interview with Oscar Wegner. Oscar is a tennis coach and pre-open-era tour player, author and creator of Modern Tennis Methodology, a tennis-teaching system which he began developing in 1968.

First of all, I would like to thank you for your time and your desire to answer some questions for me.

Q.:  You have been in the tennis world for a very long time and have seen everything I can only imagine. What is the most memorable tennis match or event you have ever seen?

A.: There are actually two, Bjorn Borg-John McEnroe Wimbledon final and the Nadal-Federer Wimbledon final that finished into the night.

Q.: On your website I found “You too can learn to play like the pros with Oscar Wegner ‘s Modern Tennis Methodology”. Tell me briefly about the core of MTM? Does it mean that using your technology allows players to train without a tennis coach?

A.: Yes, once the players understand how the top pros play, they can copy them with great success. Even parents can transmit this to their kids, whether they are good players themselves or not.

Q.: Do you have any junior tennis players who you train right now? If yes, please tell me about their results and potential?

A.: I coach sporadically juniors that are with other coaches, and I also help the coaches themselves to understand MTM and apply it.

Q.: Many academies offer 25+ hours a week for juniors from 12 years old. In your opinion, how much should a junior tennis player train?

A.: It depends on their physique and desire, but for a dedicated junior 25 hours is not too much.

Q. American tennis has lost its dominance in the world. Why? What do you think must be done to improve the situation?

A.: Proper technical information is missing. There is too much false data out there, impeding real progress.

Q.: Your three advices to junior tennis players?

A.: Focus, be serene, apply yourself to the task.

Q.: Your three advices to junior tennis parents?

A.: Let the kid evolve into an independent thinker. Trust your kid to make decisions as to their own game.

Q.: Your three advices to junior tennis coaches?

A.: Guide without being authoritarian. Study Modern Tennis Methodology and apply it in its purest form.

Thank you for the interview Oscar. Good luck to you!

Interview with Johan Kriek, director and owner of Johan Kriek Tennis Academy

I continue to publish interviews with famous coaches and players. I hope, you like it. Here is my interview with Johan Kriek,  two-times Australian Open champion and former # 7 tennis player in the world.

Q.:  You have huge experience playing tennis on the professional level and working as a tennis coach. What are the differences between tennis in your time and now?

A.:  Many differences from when I played and the players of today. On the men’s side I have always said it will become a “big man”sports. The kids nowadays are way over 6 feet tall. Here and there a short guy below 6 feet that is doing great. Ferrer for example. The equipment has changed quite dramatically , especially in string technology. A kid who does not follow the latest and greatest technology stuff in rackets, strings may be cutting themselves short. I was lucky to have played with 4 different types of rackets, wood, metal, combination aluminium/composites, and lastly graphite. This makes me a pretty informed coach when it comes to the “old game” vs the “modern game”. Because of the ball being hit with more power and more spin (dipping the ball quicker, the serve and volley game is now just a “by product” of a certain situation during a point rather than a clean tactical decision. Unfortunately, I think the “attacking game” as it relates to serving and volleying is being neglected as a pure form of play, and should be implemented more by the top players, but I do not see it ever come back as a distinct characteristic of any future player like McEnroe, Edberg, Sampras etc. It is actually a situation that has evolved due to racket strings, racket speeds and the neglect of continuing teaching a very specialized way of playing, but sadly, most “younger “ guru coaches are now into powering serves and ground strokes with volleys an afterthought. Perplexed at this situation…

Q.: There are literally hundreds of tennis academies in the US. But only a few good world class juniors are developed in these academies. Why?

A.:  Because there are virtually NO former Grand Slam winners that even attempt to coach, they either are too rich, get involved with coaching a top end current player, or do not care or they just do not have the will to go into something that is actually very difficult to do well. Look around….is Agassi really doing it, Sampras, Courier, McEnroe..? Nobody is involved with daily coaching, every day! I think I may be the only one in the US doing it 5 days or more every week spending time every day with every kid and going to junior events! It will take a few years to build an 8 year old or so to go somewhere, but that is what it takes. It is a slow long process and there are no short cuts. Academies are also typically focusing on the college route which is by far the most logical way to deal with the masses of kids wanting to play tennis. It is extremely rare to find that “talent” who shows up at an academy and goes “all the way”. Very rare…Also, the Europeans, especially the Eastern block has been dominant the past few years across the board. The Americans do not have a lock on talent, but we have lost a bit of ground in terms of desire. The Americans in my opinion will not outwork and outhustle a kid who is from a country where it is almost a “life and death” situation to get out of there via tennis! I can only sum it up in one word…” HUNGER”!

Q.: How much should a junior tennis player train?

A.:  Difficult answer because it is different for each kid. Also depends on how old they are. An 8 year old does not need to play more than 2-3 hours a day. They are not grown ups yet! But, a kid who is 12-16 and is really pro material, maybe 4 hours a day should be good in terms of adding all the components etc. plus fitness. But it will vary a great deal. Some kids are just work horses because they have that “hunger”…

Q.: What do you think about the situation with development of world class tennis players in the US? Can the USTA program produce the next Sampras and Agassi?

A.:  I think the USTA should stick to developing the sport of tennis at the grass roots level, help super coaches with money and other support to “vet out” talents, instead of this “watered down” approach of working with “academies” like mine…the USTA is actually in competition, yes COMPETITION with private academies like mine. I get a kid to a certain level, the USTA will “reach out” and cherry pick…..happened to me before. Is Bollettieri working with the USTA…NO! Everybody dances around this issue because the USTA is massively big and powerful, but I will call a ‘spade a spade’…the USTA has many of my tennis friends working for them as coaches. But the USTA development of tennis talent in the US has been a failure for a long time considering the amount of money that is spent every year. It is mind boggling.

Q.: Your three advices to junior tennis players?

A.: Lots I can say here…but you want 3. I suggest to a junior, find somebody who knows coaching, ask around, check references, experience etc. before deciding to get coached by that person. Also, try out many different rackets and string tensions, better yet, call a person by the name of Tim Strawn who is the top man of the US racket stringers association and get as much information out of him about rackets, strings etc. Tim is a friend of mine and knows this technology business frontwards and backwards. It makes a HUGE difference if your equipment is the right stuff! Lastly, be realistic about your tennis. Get an education via tennis but do not set yourself up for “mental anguish” by shooting to become a pro when you cannot beat people in your own town or city or even in the state! Be realistic!

Q.: Your three advices to junior tennis parents?

A.: Be supportive, NEVER show negative emotion, bite your tongue no matter what! Never scream at your kid for missing a shot, never castigate the child after a match…ask instead where they want to go eat. Pick a different day to go over ANYTHING negative about the match they have lost. Doing it on the same day is a “loss”- period. This topic is so vast and so many pitfalls here, hard to just do a few points…but see Very informative.

Q.: Your three advices to junior tennis coaches?

A.: Every kid is different so treat them as a smart coach would! Push the ones that are in need of pushing, keep it real, DON”T coach every kid to play like you as you played. Every kid is different. Focus a lot on mental training, it is as important as training the strokes and maybe more. I always said a great tennis coach in the juniors needs many degrees, especially a PHD in parenting skills….plus some!

Thank you for the interview Johan. Good luck to you and your tennis players!