The 4-D System: See What Happened (in detail)
I have heard from a host of players who have learned the 4-D System for how to spend the time between points: they are playing better and better both because their choices are more directed and because their shot execution has improved. To review or refresh, here are the four steps (in order):
1) See What Happened
2) Make a Plan
3) Relax; and
4) Remind Yourself to Witness Contact
The entire System rests on getting out of the gate with Step 1. Without an accurate assessment of What Happened, any player will be hard pressed to make the incremental adjustments necessary to pull out a close match.
When I am teaching Step 1, there is always a balance between me saying What Happened and asking the students to figure it out for themselves. Increasingly of late, I have opted for the first option because students often err when making their assessments. Interestingly, those students who see the least well often think of themselves as master tacticians.
(In the last month, I’ve made a new FB friend, Roy Coopersmith, who has a strong history of coaching some of the best players on the planet. Currently, he’s putting his efforts into developing his son and his daughter. Roy was lamenting last month that many tennis coaches think of themselves as “knowing it all” and are not open to new suggestions/paradigms. He compared these coaches to Donald Trump whom he said suffers from the Dunning-Kruger Effect.)
I was unacquainted with this term and here is what I found (excerpted from their original paper explaining the D-K Effect) when I looked it up:
People tend to hold overly favorable views of their abilities in many social and intellectual domains. This overestimation occurs, in part, because people who are unskilled in these domains suffer a dual burden: Not only do these people reach erroneous conclusions and make unfortunate choices, but their incompetence robs them of the metacognitive ability to realize it. Several analyses linked this miscalibration to deficits in metacognitive skill, or the ability to distinguish accuracy from error. Paradoxically, improving the skills of participants, and thus increasing their metacognitive competence, helped them recognize the limitations of their abilities (bold print mine).
A clear example in tennis is choosing low percentage shots far too often. If a player is not capable of recognizing her error, then a remedy is not forthcoming.
My point here is NOT to say that some players are not very good and they don’t recognize it. My point is that, in tennis, a 2 or 3% change in the number of points won can change the outcome of a match. IF I can teach my students to see What Happened using my framework and not theirs, they will improve WITHOUT CHANGING ANY STROKE TECHNIQUES because they will assess and reset like a pro!
Practically, what I am doing is a brain transplant ... it's painless, most often fun, and it works!
This is why my commentary in practices tries to allow very little room for their self-assessment. This is simply because this skill is not well-developed and allowing them to repeatedly self-assess is like flying to Paris by way of Tokyo. They will eventually get there … but …
Here’s another example of what I mean:
Lower-rated players tend to blame themselves for every lost point. So, when they play a well-constructed point and their opponent either hits an even better shot (or gets lucky!), they almost always have a reason why they lost that involves them having done something wrong. Helping them to learn how to see and process this type of point directly leads to less self-blame, more positive attitude on the court, more fun … and yes, victory!
Now, to be sure, this process might seem dictatorial. And it is at the start. However, as my students progress in their What Happened skills, I ask them to self-assess more and more with no clues from me. Invariably, over the course of a season, this skill set keeps growing … and that 2-3% difference starts to show itself in the won-loss record!