Megan Moulton-Levy blog: Technology and tennis

March 23, 2017 11:50 AM

Megan Moulton-Levy competed on the WTA Tour in both singles and doubles, advancing to the round of 32 at all four Grand Slam tournaments and reaching a career-high ranking of No. 50 in the world in doubles in July 2013. Moulton-Levy was a four-year standout at the College of William & Mary from 2004-08, where she earned All-America honors six times and reached the 2006 NCAA singles semifinals and the 2007 NCAA doubles final. A two-time recipient of the National ITA/Arthur Ashe Jr. Award for Leadership and Sportsmanship, Moulton-Levy currently serves as a senior coach at the JTCC in College Park, Md. For the last several weeks, she has been writing a blog on focusing on her coaching career. In her final blog, she talks about the impact today's technology has on kids.

By Megan Moulton-Levy

As I have previously mentioned, I am new to the coaching field and do not have much room to talk about what has changed since I first started in this position a little over a year ago. Having said that, there are a few things about our society and culture as a whole that has impacted this generation of kids that I coach. One of the most glaringly obvious impacts on these kids has been technology. Some argue it has been for the better, while others say it has contributed to the demise of our society. As a millennial, I see both sides.

First, let's look at how technology has made a positive impact on tennis. Take the company PlaySight. It is a sports technology company that has made analytics more accessible to the general public. At JTCC, we have four of their kiosks in our indoor facility. PlaySight can track and monitor serve speed, ball placement, movement and entire matches. As a coach, it takes a lot of the guessing work out of the equation. It is easy to build a picture of a player's strengths and create a plan around highlighting those strengths based on the information provided by the machine. It is also easy to target areas of their game that need improvement.

From the player's perspective, PlaySight gives them an opportunity to take ownership over their game. If they take the time to dissect the information from an objective standpoint, it can increase the speed of their development. Moreover, there is tangible value in being able to watch and analyze yourself playing a match. Often times with juniors, they either have tennis dysmorphia, where they think they played a lot worse than they actually did, or they have an over-inflated view of their performance. Either way, watching matches from an unbiased viewpoint with all emotions removed can be a very helpful tool.

Many coaches would probably agree that the distraction of cell phones and social media was not a factor when we were growing up. But we are now dealing with a generation of kids who give and receive information differently. There needs to be a healthy balance between pushing them past their sometimes short attention spans and accommodating their learning style. One mistake I have made over the past year is talking too much. These kids spend a lot of time engrossed in social media, watching videos, FaceTiming friends, texting, etc. These are all things that are visually stimulating their brains.

With that being said, I have to ask myself one question - why do I talk so much?!?!  If we are working with predominately visual learners, then what we are saying could be going in one ear and out the other. Getting to know our player's learning style is something we may take for granted as coaches, but it is important to take the time to understand what works best for them, and it may not be doing so much talking!  

As a coach and mentor, I feel it is important to connect with these kids on a deeper level than just tennis. In order to do so, I firmly believe in no cell phones during practice, and when traveling with players, I have a no-cell-phone rule at dinner. One of my favorite moments was within the first six weeks of working at JTCC. Vesa Ponkka asked me to take four teenage boys to El Salvador for an ITF tournament. I did not know the boys at all and was extremely nervous, due to the fact that it was my first trip with juniors. I have never been one to shy away from situations that make me uncomfortable, so I said yes and off I went to a new country with boys whom I had barely even said hello.

Being irritated by not seeing anyone look up from their phone on the first night at dinner, I decided on the second night to make a rule of no phones after the bread arrived at the table. The evening started off with awkward silence, but by the end of the night, we were having a full-blown rap battle. The next night came, and the boys had prepared lyrics to ensure their rap-battle victory. By putting down the phones and engaging with each other, we had a blast and created memories that will last a lifetime.