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CTM - the “Congruent Tennis Model” through an Advanced Tennis Foundation

Updated: Aug 10, 2021

It was not my intention to unify tennis methods, but after a certain point, things did seem to naturally start falling into place. It is also my nature that things should fit - gaps and conflicts should be kept to a minimum. With constant questioning of why tennis instruction lacked the congruence we normally expect in other disciplines the better context for answers became available over time. Many tennis instructional paradigms and concepts currently don't reconcile well with how the game is played by the world’s best competitors. Much of the instruction doesn’t even match well with other elements of published instruction. There are often contradictions, such as how can every short ball be attackable; when often short balls are the most commonly hit winners (other than aces). Did you know the ace count tends to bloat up the “Winners” category, leading many to believe more winners were hit during the points? Other things, such as how “Depth, depth and more depth is the answer” doesn’t fit well with how most winners are shorter balls that go out the side of the court. Some coaches encourage lifting and even jumping during strokes, while others coach players to stay down and avoid lifting up. Do the best players step forward to add power to their shots or do they step forward to improve their contact point? Do they use that lead foot to block and shift their momentum up or to gain forward “weight into the ball”? Should you get your racket back early or keep both hands on the racket longer in front of your torso? These are the contradictions that often make tennis instruction more difficult to learn.

‘Match level technique’ of the best players throughout history has often differed greatly from their coaching advice as John Carpenter illustrated extensively in his book about the history of tennis instruction. Also, notice how some coaches evaluate every forehand through the lens of a specific forehand ‘style’. Some coaches go to the other extreme of classifying over 30 types of forehands. It’s clear to me that every forehand doesn’t need full extension or max shoulder turn, but there are well known coaches who confuse these ‘aspects of magnitude’ with true ‘core fundamentals’. Again, these inconsistencies in approach further demonstrate gaps and conflict in how tennis is taught and perceived.

Do the major tennis organizations recognize input from the thousands of coaches in their membership or do they reserve all recognition and influence for the special few? Do better understandings and paradigms come from experience in the trenches with a broad base of athletic backgrounds or do they come from those with a narrow focus by those who best peddle influence? Does it make sense to compare each new theory to other accepted models to see how they match up? Do they provide further insight regarding other surrounding issues? Are they put forth in a simple, understandable manner? Is it possible that a rejected older idea might have application when new facts are discovered?

I strongly believe that when you are on the right track technically that the strategy, tactics and stroke mechanics will tend to sync up and compliment each other, even going so far as to illuminate one another and provide a deeper insight about the game. Many people in tennis speak of Myths, but in CTM we refer to them mostly as partial truths that need more explanation or context. One of my favorite joys of working with CTM and the Advanced Tennis Foundation is the predictable comments from coaches and players alike. The most common ones that immediately come to mind are comments about how “things are really coming together for me now, after seeing this” or “how did I miss seeing this all these years?” For many, having the improved CTM & ATF paradigms is key to seeing the game in a more accurate and integrated way that seamlessly connects technique with strategy and tactics. We show how the different shapes of shot flight paths exploit the Smart Target Hitting Lanes. While no model is perfect (the map is not the territory), with ATF and CTM we seek to continually offer the highest resolution congruent tennis concepts where the instruction blends and even highlights other aspects of the game.

While CTM is something I’ve worked on for years, the Advanced Tennis Foundation (ATF) is an additional concept that comes from a brilliant coach and notable author, David Smith. Dave’s contributions to the game have been both deep and broad. He is that rare instructor who has brought many players into the game as a Developmental Coach, and also coached many High Performance players. He has worked in private practice, but he also worked for years in the school systems. In his writings, he covered the concept of an “Advanced Tennis Foundation” that John Carpenter and I agreed was simple and brilliant (two of my favorite things for tennis). The central idea behind ATF tennis is that a coach should start all players with an ‘advanced foundation’ for every aspect of their tennis game. We strongly agreed with Dave's perspective. Players should learn strokes, stances and tactics that would provide a strong foundation to their play no matter how far they travel in this wonderful game. ATF is another important way to bring congruence to tennis instruction and to avoid teaching things like the “pancake serve” which bake in poor habits that need to be changed later in order for the players to advance their skills. Dave found we had so much in common with how we viewed this guiding principle that he trusted John and me to share his Advanced Tennis Foundation concept with Congruent Tennis to develop it into an open source platform for all interested coaches to further develop as an inclusive community. We are so proud to collaborate with Dave as a teammate and advisor as we continue our work to discover, share, and establish the most proven core fundamentals of tennis instruction. We seek to do this using the help and contributions from all interested coaches. We are excited to field new ideas from any of you who are willing to share, and then put the ideas to the rigorous test on the forums and on the courts. We are on a path to encourage more coaches to get involved in sharing their wealth of knowledge and recognize them for their efforts. The Congruent Tennis Organization has launched for this purpose.

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