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Winning formula: Eyeing the future


Originally published on: 30/03/12 10:56

“Was it a big miss or a little miss?” Mark Winship asks fair-haired youngster Anna Chesca after watching her send a menacing forehand millimeters long during their one-on-one coaching session. “Little,” she replies, sheepishly.

“What do footballers do if they miss a shot in front of goal?” Winship continues. “Do they bury their head in their hands and say ‘I’m not shooting again today?’”

“No,” pipes Chesca more confidently. “They have another go.” And with that she crashes a beefy left-handed forehand back into court before advancing to the net to polish off a volley.

At just 10 years old, Chesca’s remarkably accomplished technique belies her tiny frame. She is one of a number of bright young British players undertaking the My Tennis programme in Loughborough and this session alone illustrates the International High Performance Centre’s nurturing culture.

Director of My Tennis and an LTA Master Performance Coach, Winship, is playing out point scenarios with Chesca, beginning each rally with a feed to his pupil’s specification. Such is the inclination of the youngster to improve and develop her skills while under the cosh that at ‘match point’ down, rather than request a simple ball that might allow her to get back on level terms with her coach, she confidently instructs her mentor to feed a deep backhand that puts her under pressure. It’s a mentality more associated with Rafael Nadal than a 10-year-old girl, but it is one, says Chesca’s Romanian father Boris, that Winship and the My Tennis programme have brought out in his daughter to great effect.

“Everyone will tell you that Mark is a great coach,” he says. “Tennis-wise, he is knowledgeable, passionate and very committed, but what matters most is that he has managed to develop a nice relationship with Anna. He’s managed to keep her interested, focused, very competitive and, most importantly, happy on court.”

Happy faces are in abundance around the My Tennis facility and it is evident that much has gone into creating a player-centric environment that develops young individuals with international aspirations and potential. You could hardly find a better location for the academy than the campus of Loughborough University, world renowned for its sporting excellence, and, on top of the high quality coaching and great facilities, the tennis package is bolstered by an on-site strength and conditioning team who, Winship is happy to say, maintain the welfare of players all day, every day.

“Obviously we have young players that are committing to intensive training schedules so having physical trainers here to monitor athlete welfare, conduct rigorous physical testing, as well as muscular-skeletal and dynamic screening, enables us to fully individualise player goals,” he explains. “Every player within the My Tennis schools programme – so that’s ages 10-16 – receives an individual personal physical training programme. Physical testing takes place three times a year and we weigh and measure our athletes weekly. All that data is then collated to identify key areas for development for each player, or even flag up potential injury risks or limiting factors that could affect them in future.”

This is a snippet of the article “Winning Formula” which features in the January 2012 edition of tennishead magazine. To read the piece in its entirety, click here to buy the magazine or subscribe at


Tim Farthing, Tennishead Editorial Director & Owner, has been a huge tennis fan his whole life. He's a tennis journalist and entrepreneur as well as playing tennis to a national standard. He also helps manage his local club and volunteers for his local tennis organisation. He's a specialist in content about the administration of professional tennis and tennis coaching for all levels.