In the first part of Tennis World USA’s exclusive interview series with Stefan Ortega, Academia Sanchez Casal’s Academy Director, the coach spoke about how willingness to learn formed the core of enrolments at the academy.
In the second part of the interview, the conversation veered towards the Academy’s approach towards building a player’s career while focusing on four aspects. “The technical part, tactical part, the mental part, and the physical part – we think that all of them have to be integrated,” shared Ortega, speaking about these, which form the cornerstones of the academy’s foundation.
According to Ortega, while a player has more control when it comes to the development of techniques, coaches have to delve more to bring out the singularity in a player’s tactical growth. This, then, involves setting up of a game pattern for each player enrolled at the academy and which, in turn, depends on the latter two factors: understanding the player’s mentality and gauging the physical skills he has vis-à-vis the sport.
There are the usual mental-activity sessions that involve setting up of routines as a way of bettering their concentration, analytical and problem-solving skills. In addition to these, the academy has also made it a point to conduct specific tests: one, at the start of their training season and the other, at the end to see the player’s progress.
“We give them (the players) a test at the beginning of the season and then, we make them work through the year and then, at the end (of the year), we evaluate them again to see which aspects they have improved,” said Ortega.
Cultural Backgrounds as a means of integration Noting that the academy’s continued success in its 20-year-run was because of stressing on such a system of functioning, Ortega came up with an interesting analogy. “…Everybody has to be satellites around the sun.
The sun is the player and all of us, we are satellites and planets going around (the sun), trying to help,” he said. Adding that each player at the academy knew this and as such felt one was part of something bigger, Ortega continued, “We (the player and coaches) have the same interest which is trying to get the best out of everyone”.
And getting the “best out of everyone” meant not merely aiding a player to become the world no. 1 but bringing out the fullest extent of his potential on an individual basis. And, trying to get to know more about players’ mindsets – to be able to push them to their limits – at the academy, involves not only observing their aptitude to resolve problems but also getting to know more about their cultural uniqueness.
Ortega shared that as with the facet of adjusting the coaching methodology based on each player’s individual characteristics and socio-cultural antecedents, a deeper interaction as to from where a player hails culturally is needed in order to come up with mental exercises to improve the player’s capabilities.
Likewise, the coaches, too, have been able to give back in exchange as if gaining a better perspective about players’ geographic environs. “If we don’t take into consideration the different cultural backgrounds of where the players are coming from, we are not able to help them properly,” Ortega explained.
“This integration (of ideas) gives us some values that we also share with people coming from other countries. This cultural exchange makes everybody richer”. The Academia Sanchez Casal is yet to compromise on this principle with Ortega firmly putting forth that if players are unable to learn through such mutual sharing, they will not make a good fit at the Academy.
Opining that players leave the Academy more tolerant and open-minded, Ortega said, “(One has to) accept the differences between oneself and others because when one accepts differences, one is accepting oneself”. Image Credit: Academia Sanchez Casal