Why Great Players Are Not (Necessarily) Great Coaches
In 1968 Oscar Wegner took a position at the Beverly Hills Tennis Club as Assistant Coach to Pancho Segura. Wegner had spent five years on the international tour playing and practicing with many of the greatest names in tennis, and when he made the transition to coaching the first thing he noticed was that tennis was not being taught the way it was played by the pros. When he asked Pancho why this was so, the masterful Segura had no answer and gave Oscar permission to find one with many of his celebrity clients. During this period Wegner tested and developed a revolutionary new way of teaching tennis that he would later name Modern Tennis Methodology (MTM). Over the next two decades Wegner worked successfully with countless players and coaches, building a strong and loyal following in The USA, Europe and South America with his “Play Like The Pros” approach to tennis.
In 1990 Wegner self-published his first tennis instruction book, “Tennis In 2 Hours”, which was panned in the December issue of Tennis Magazine in the USA: “Wegner advocates an outdated brand of tennis that over-relies on topspin for defensive rallies….Teaching ordinary folk to play like the pros is like teaching a baby to sprint before it can walk.” Little did the tennis world realize that the revolutionary method of instruction introduced by Wegner first to the Spanish Tennis Federation, next to Russian coaches, and then throughout the world via television and videos would evolve into the predominant style of virtually all professional players up to present time. Wegner’s work now spans a period of 45-plus years, and is as relevant today as it was back in the 1970’s, when the modern tennis revolution began.
Yet in today’s over-crowded arena of tennis teaching “experts”, Wegner’s contribution to the “modern” game has seemingly been largely forgotten. This amnesia persists in spite of the accolades delivered by so many over the years:
Tennis Television host Brad Holbrook dubbed Wegner the “Father of Modern Tennis”
Famed tennis commentator and historian Bud Collins wrote “I think you’ll find it worthwhile to dump the past and join Oscar in your tennis future. In listening to him I’ve unlearned a few things myself that I long considered gospel”
TennisOne declared that “A lot has been written about the modern forehand with its natural movements, open stance, windshield-wiper swing, and most importantly, tracking the ball and waiting before taking the racquet back. Much of this has been pioneered by Oscar Wegner, who has been teaching this method since 1968. Back then, this was very controversial, however, history has proved him right“
TurboTennis author Ron Waite opined, “I believe Oscar was the “forerunner” with respect to the modern game. His “unorthodox” doctrine has made him an outcast of sorts. But, his devotees will certainly support that he knows what he is doing. I am one. His unorthodox methods and techniques have in major measure become a new orthodoxy!”
What Makes Tennis Technique “Modern”?
Excerpts from master class on “Transitioning from Old School to Modern Technique” The Tennis Congress 2015, by former World #7 and Olympic Silver Medalist Tim Mayotte
Quite frankly, I find this Tennis Congress Faculty Member example of contemporary tennis “instruction” rather frightening. It is a complete misrepresentation of the term “modern tennis” and does NOT demonstrate the technique of today’s top players. Neither is it a sound way for players, whether children, juniors or adults, to be taught. Tennis has become infested with false and misleading data, unnecessarily complicated jargon and so-called scientific/technical procedures and practices that make tennis difficult and confusing for parents, players and coaches alike.
It may seem dangerous to challenge the likes of a “former World #7 and Olympic Silver Medalist”, but in the decade since I have been personally involved in tennis coaching I have seen an alarming shift in tennis instruction, making it more difficult than ever for the innocent and unsuspecting amateur player to obtain reliable and workable data. The above-named former pro openly accused Jose Higueras and Patrick McEnroe of “pervading arrogance” in administering the USTA Player Development Program when he exited the program as a National Coach, yet himself displays questionable technical merit in his pompous remark, “there’s a thousand crummy ways to hit a tennis ball – there’s one right way.”
To Play, Or Not To “Play Like The Pros”?
(“Play Like The Pros With Oscar Wegner” ESPN Int’l. 1990’s worldwide Tennis Tips )
In a 2014 online tennis blog article another Tennis Congress Faculty Member, Allistair McCaw, who advocates “Don’t train like the pros” wrote, “Most coaches like to argue the point that most of the best tennis players in the world stay open stance and I agree totally, however junior players are NOT the best players in the world, and are not yet fully physically and bio mechanically developed like the best tennis players in the world. Ever wondered why there’s more shoulder and hip injuries in junior players than ever before? – playing open stance, forcing shoulder and upper torso to do ‘the work’, instead of ‘total body’. It gets back to my point of some coaches watching professional players and trying to copy or imitate their techniques and training programs. Simply put, It is not realistic and conducive to a junior tennis player who is still growing and developing physically.”
Yet, according to the USTA, “Unfortunately, most tennis injuries are multifaceted so there are few easy answers to injury questions. There are no studies that statistically link open stance tennis strokes with higher rates of certain injuries at the hip joint.”
To this discussion Oscar Wegner added, ” The idea that open stance causes injuries is false. It is actually the most natural way to play, both for the forehand and the two-handed backhand. Stepping into the ball with the left foot (as promoted by this article on the forehand for a right hander) puts torque on the left knee and ankle, and causes injuries to those, including lower back pain. Especially for young kids the old way is not only injurious but also makes tennis difficult. Young kids want to play natural, efficiently, and with less stress on their body.”
In response one frustrated parent lamented, “Oh all this contention.. opinion … it’s enough to make any tennis Mom just quit and enjoy ‘recreational tennis’ with her child as a family! so confusing and so much contention with how to ‘build a tennis player’ USTA hindering players and all the money needed to get your child to succeed…. argggg. sorry but this is how I feel right now.”
Interestingly, two of today’s up-and-coming “online” tennis instructors have unwittingly (or so they claim) copied Wegner’s famous tag line of “Play Like The Pros”, using it unapologetically in their internet videos.
Believe It Or Not, Tennis Is Easy!
On yet another tennis blog a poster wrote, “I don’t know about you, but it upsets me every single time I even hear someone use the word “easy” with “tennis” in the same sentence…In the end, I would just like for people (worldwide) to understand that tennis is one of the most difficult sports to master and no, not just anyone can do what any of the pros can do.” Nevertheless, Wegner continues to advocate his long-standing assertion that “tennis is much easier than anyone thinks!” “Tennis”, Oscar says, “has a new future!”
Read his new book, “Believe It Or Not, Tennis Is Easy!”, watch his videos, and decide for yourself what makes tennis technique “modern”!