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18 April 2017

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Day 1 – Sat 4 Mar 17

After arriving at Orlando International airport, all personnel travelled to the Quality Inn, Orlando to comply with driving restrictions after such a long flight. The team settled in and went out to a nearby restaurant, before getting an early night in preparation for the week ahead.

Day 2 - Sun 5 Mar 17

After a drive from the Orlando Hotel to the IMG Academy, we collected our passes for the week and had a browse around the facilities. The squad all went to the courts for a light hit to shake off the jet-lag, before moving into the apartments and settling in, in preparation for the first day of training.

Day 3 - Mon 6 Mar 17

The first taste of IMG coaching was led by Coach Desmond, who put the RAF through their paces from the outset. The morning consisted of high tempo drills focusing on all aspects of the game - ground strokes, approaches, volleys, serves - all accompanied by constant squats and lunges to keep the tempo high throughout.

In the afternoon, we had a Mental Conditioning workshop led by Duncan Simpson, the Assistant Head of Mental Conditioning at the Academy. The session started with some commendable singing by Flt Lt Keeley, however the point of the task was to highlight emotions that can crop up throughout a competitive tennis match which can instantly affect the momentum of a match. Throughout the workshop there were several discussions about different methods individuals can practice to positively incorporate the mental side of the game, which will be an invaluable resource during our season, particularly for the Inter-Service competitions.

Our time was our own after the classroom session, with some of the squad opting to go and watch an ice hockey game (Tampa Bay Lightning against their rivals, the New York Rangers) - another sport which demonstrates the need for determination, focus and a desire to win.

Day 4 - Tue 7 Mar 17

The second day of training was led by Coach Georgie and his team who provided a tough session for the RAF Squad. Several short, sharp and quick feeding drills were designed to focus on improving ground stroke shape and spin, before moving on to the approach shot, controlling the short ball and the ‘finishing' volley. After a warm up of a few serves, tie breaks were played to again put into practice the skills learnt throughout the training session.

With a match against students from the IMG Academy on the horizon, the players chose to make use of the courts for some match play in the afternoon. The afternoon sessions were not only a good opportunity to practice the teaching points from the training but also served as a valuable opportunity to test out some potential doubles pairings for the upcoming season.

Day 5 - Wed 8 Mar 17

The third day of training was predominantly focused on improving consistency from the back of the court and the subsequent transition into the net to finish the point. Led by Coach Ricardo and his team, the squad were put through their paces yet again, incorporating cardio endurance into the drills. The session ended this time with some short sets of both singles and doubles. Moving away from drills and towards live ball play, this was a great opportunity for the squad to apply the mental conditioning techniques, and again get some match practice in ahead of the season.

Match against IMG Visiting Students

The RAF team played a mixture of singles and doubles matches against visiting school age students who had travelled from Tokyo and Osaka to visit the Academy for a couple of weeks of training. The team put up a tough fight in both doubles and singles matches, but the visiting students ultimately went away with a win over the RAF Team. Despite the score, it was good match practice against players outside of the RAF Squad, yet another opportunity for competitive match play.

Day 6 - Thu 9 Mar 17

The squad had another 3 hour coaching session with a mix of IMG coaches from earlier in the week and a few new faces. The mixture of coaches throughout the week was beneficial for the squad, with different coaches bringing a variety of knowledge and focus areas to the court. After the warm up and drills, the focus was on singles point development, building up to the culmination of how you should structure the points and move the ball around to your advantage; a tactic new to some and perfect preparation for the season ahead.

The team decided to focus on singles match play, practicing tips given during the coaching sessions whist two of the ladies had a private lesson with one of the coaches from earlier in the week, to develop some of the skills demonstrated in the group sessions. Some of the men’s squad were also fortunate to have a one to one coaching session for half an hour each with one of the coaches who had some spare time, focusing on a particular aspect of their game that they wanted to work on. This was a fantastic opportunity to individually focus on skills not covered in the group sessions or build on skills already covered.

Day 7 - Fri 10 Mar 17

This was the last 3 hour coaching session of our training camp with coaches we had previously been coached by during the week. After the warm up the drills focused on 3 key areas of serving - return of serve and volleys before playing points - all to music to make the session as fun as possible. The final hour saw the RAF join IMG’s visiting students and many other visiting players for a huge game of ‘King of the Court’, or ‘ Ring Ring’ as it was known as at IMG. Players were spread over four courts and competed in pairs to beat their rivals and gain promotion to the next court. This proved a great way to end the week with relaxed but competitive play after four days of hard work on the courts. To finish, we played our own game of doubles King of the Court, which was a fun way to finish the training week.

In the afternoon there was free time to pack for our departure in the morning and a final hit for those who wanted, or an opportunity to purchase some merchandise from the Academy Shop. The tour came to an end with a trip down to the beach in time for the sunset and a few team photos, followed by a squad meal to reflect on the trip and discuss plans for the upcoming tennis season.

Day 8 - Sat 11 Mar 17

Despite the exhausting week, everyone was feeling fresh Saturday morning, even finding time for an impromptu game of volleyball in the sunshine. There was an opportunity for everyone to spend their remaining dollars at a mall on the way back to the airport (including some new tennis kit!). The squad then departed Orlando International Airport on Sat evening.

Day 9 - Sun 12 Mar 17

The squad landed at LGW before departing the airport for various onward destinations.

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

Thanks and appreciation goes to:

Flt Lt Ali Johnson, ProjO

Cpl Holly Eccles, ProjO

IMG Tennis Academy

Our Sponsors BAE, Airbus Defence & Space, Jewers Doors and Idency

RAF Sports Lottery

CONCLUSION

The OV to the IMG Academy allowed all participants to develop both personally and physically through an intensive week of training. The OV provided the opportunity to benefit from a very high standard of tennis coaching from the IMG Academy staff, whilst also getting some crucial match practice in before the main competitive phase of the tennis season starts. The mental conditioning session was hugely beneficial, with plenty of opportunity to implement the key points into a match situation, whilst providing a number of areas for each individual to focus on for the season ahead. The visit was an excellent experience for members from both the mens and ladies squad ahead of the RAF Championships and Inter-Services competitions later in the season.

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