Decision Making Training
How to train the skills
You can accelerate your improvement in decision making by training these skills. Use the sequence below in structuring your training
- Set up controlled situations with plenty of time to execute the required skills - (Well structured drills)
- Gradually control the situation less by introducing more choices - (Open drills)
- As skills improve, gradually decrease the amount of time available to execute the skills
- Use the skills in low pressure practice rallies and games
- Your new skills will gradually become part of your competitive play.
Here are some practical ways to improve your decision making skills:Reading the cues
Start by observing matches and try to identify:
Now, try putting some of your knowledge into practice
- Rally tactics of the players
- The cues each player gives off during their shot
- Movement patterns of the players
- The outcome of each rally due to the factors above
Technical Decision Making
- Carefully watch your opponent hit the ball (as you're preparing for the next shot)
- Consciously think of the options that they have, just before and during the swing
- Begin the practice of narrowing down the shots you think they might play (eg very deep in the court, their only option might be to boast)
- Start preparing yourself earlier, to cover the options available
- This should be first used during practice routines, then practice matches
These skills will automaticaly flow into your competitive game.
Elements of technique which increase your range of shots and which you need to practice are
- Reading cues better will help you get to the ball earlier and so give more time for the decision making process - you will not be as rushed when playing your shot
- Aim to vary your range of shots, especially in situation where you tend to play that "favourite shot"
Tactical Decision Making
- Keep a comfortable distance away from the ball (approx 1 racket length)
- Play with an open faced racket
- Keeping more to the side of the ball when striking
- Start by practicing hitting alternate shots from the one position:
- Initially use two alternates (eg a drive or a boast from a simple half court ball) - Hit these two shots alternately
- Then hit either shot at random
- Have your training partner nominate which shot to hit
- Hit the best shot according to your opponents position on court
- Increase the complexity by including a third or fourth alternate
- Practice these scenarios at different points on the court
- Gradually incorporate these skills into your game at appropriate times
Read this article about learning to attack
Video chosing shots to keep the opponent guessing
Being able to play a variety of shots from the front of the court will keep the opponent guessing, particularly if the shot is disguised well.
A variety of returns from the front of the court which will keep the opponent off guard, particularly if the preparation for all shots is very similar and disguised.Kill from the front of the court
In this video there are at least three choices from this position, especially if the opponent is held behind. However, if the opponent tries to move around anticipating the kill into the nick it is easy to change the shot to either a cross court nick, or a cross court drive.
By taking up a stance that gives a good view of the court (not just the corner), it makes it easier to know where the opponent is moving.
Video Clips Front Court Holds
Front Court Holds
Often as players we look at the result of a player's shots, but fail to comprehend the processes taking place to bring about this outcome.
It is evident from these three video clips that an opponent's mind and body are continually being challenged to bring about the appropriate response from:
- the eyes (to see as many cues as possible)
- the mind (to react to the cues put forward by the opponent/player)
- body (to physically act according to the cues).
The sequence that each of these factors come into focus is evident when looking closely at each of these videos. Whilst they are the same footage, each video highlights a different aspect as explained above.
Video Return of Serve Decision Making
What is the best return of serve off a serve?
There is no quick answer to this question as the return will often depend on the type of serve that is coming, eg lob, power, angle, deep.
Firstly, it is best to train with a partner setting up specific serve situations and keep repeating the serve, and then realising which is the best return to attempt from that type of serve. What if we do not know what to do when the serve approaches:
- we either get scared to hit it (might miss it, or might hit the racket on the wall)
- are not sure whether to step in and take the ball before it hits the wall.
- wait so long that it is too late to hit the ball and let it drop (often letting it "die" in the back corner.)
Once you do specific return of serve practice you will start to recognise the cues early and start to move into position much earlier, eg the height of the serve, the angle of the serve, the speed the serve is coming.