As previously mentioned, I love looking across a variety of sports at what the best do and how they do it and seeing what we can learn from them.
I recently came across the following article about the Barcelona forward and arguably the best player in the world, Lionel Messi.
It is a very interesting article with some real ‘take-home’ points. Essentially, the suggestion from the article is that the brilliance of Lionel Messi lies in his simplicity and his rationality. One quote from the article states:
Messi’s game is often, and I mean: very, very often, spectacular, but at the same time, the following statement holds true: it’s never more spectacular than it needs to be. When Messi goes for the spectacular, it’s always as a means to an end, never as an end in itself.
Basically, Messi will look to take the most appropriate action for the good of the team, and this will, more often than not, be the ‘simplest’ option, the 5yd pass to a team-mate and move into space, rather than trying to take on 4 players with skills and tricks. As another line from the article says,
If you see him scoring some wonder goal after dribbling past six players, I basically guarantee you that doing so was the best option available to him.
Reading the article got me thinking about a couple of things, namely how this relates to tennis but also how this relates to coaching.
Firstly, in terms of tennis, one can certainly draw parallels between Messi and the No 1 male player, Novak Djokovic. There is no denying Djokovic’s abilities, but again, he rarely does the spectacular and this is in no way a criticism, the opposite in fact. It is his relentless execution of the basics that wears his opponents down. When he has to pull something special out of the bag, he can and will, but only when it is apparently the last option available to him.
As a further addition to the above, and without knowing either of them, it does appear that both Messi and Djokovic have a phenomenally professional attitude towards training and practice, dedicating hours of deliberate practice to hone their skills and reinforce the basics of their respective sports. Perhaps it is only through this dedication that the ‘simple’ option becomes routine and the spectacular option possible….
When thinking about the comparison to coaching, as an S&C Coach, in my opinion the same sort of thing can be considered. By this I mean it is vital for the S&C Coach to ensure that both they and also the athletes they work with, nail the basics before moving on to anything more ‘spectacular’! The basics of any programme will stand the test of time and only in being able to relentlessly carry out the basics, can the body be expected to have the foundation to carry out things beyond that.
I have spoken before about training ‘Tennis-specific positions’ here
However, implied within that blog is the fact that the basic, more traditional exercises are carried out and form the foundation of the programme, with the more specific exercises coming in to supplement. You have to be able to carry out a ‘lunge’ before you move to a ‘tennis lunge’!
So as coaches, it can be tempting to leap aboard the latest fad doing the rounds, and that may be appropriate to do. But always remember the basics!