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Creating a High Intensity Training Environment

High intensity Training Tip
By: John Shepherd


When coaching groups of players the physical intensity of some players will be higher than others within the group. As a young coach I would often spend a disproportionate amount of time trying to encourage the players who were not bringing much energy to the group. Sometimes my persistence worked, but many times it just drained me of energy, energy that should have been used to help the players that were there to improve.  


sprint training


I decided to focus more of my time on the hardest working players. I would applaud their great footwork or focus. This feedback would often be communicated loudly from the other end of the court, clearly heard by every player. This approach helped, as the hardest working players felt rewarded and the lower energy players began to raise their effort. However, this did not happen with every  player and more often than not the increase in energy would be temporary. I therefore needed an alternative approach. I noticed that the energy of the players were nearly always high at the beginning of the session during the speed drills. But as soon as the players began to warm up their strokes, the overall intensity from the group would visibly drop. It is in the first few moments after the players walk on court with their rackets that appear to 'set the tone'.



In response, I have got the players to perform a very simple drill the moment they begin hitting balls. The drill can be seen in the following video (iphone users - find  link at the end of this article). It shows two players performing a double split step between shots. In order to get 2 split steps in prior to each shot, the player must increase the their movement intensity. This is particularly effective when players are only using half the court and not forced out of their comfort zone.



I stole this simple exercise from coach Peter McCraw who I had seen use it to get his players to move quicker to the ball. An additional benefit of this drill is that the double step somehow forces the player to get into a lower and wider athletic position, prior to moving to the ball.


When using this drill, as soon as the desired intensity has been met, players can then move and prepare for each shot with a conventional single split step. It can be reintroduced for squad members that may not be maintaining the initial high intensity.


To view video using youtube -


I'm sure this drill does not suit every coaches teaching style. But if it can help raise the work rate of just one of your players then maybe it is worth having a go in your next session. I look forward to hearing your feedback on this article.



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