The British Academy
To improve the match play performance of the best young real tennis players in the country by bringing to bear the latest thinking and coaching in terms of tennis technique, tactics, sports psychology, biomechanics, and physical training.
To be a centre of excellence for the coaching and development of the best by applying to real tennis the same research, innovation and best practice that informs the coaching and development of elite players in the world’s major sports.
To provide a beacon of aspiration for all young players of real tennis.
The British Real Tennis Academy is the UK national coaching programme for the best young players in the country. It was launched by the Dedanists’ Society in 2005. The Society is the primary funder and runs the programme day-to-day. The T&RA is the other main supporter and funder.
During the 2017/18 season, we delivered coaching and support to 28 of the best young players in the country. We delivered eleven one-day workshops to small groups of players from the Development Squad and from the Senior, Ladies and Junior Academies. We organised and funded additional personal coaching, training, match video analysis and physiotherapy for individual players according to need and potential
In the men’s game, Academy alumni are currently positioned in the world rankings at numbers 1, 4, 5, 6, 7 and 10. In the women’s game all ladies ranked 1 to 6 in the world are current attendees of programmes or past Academy alumni. This includes the current world champion and the holders of all four national open singles titles. Our alumni have also been UK amateur champions, winners of all the age group championships from Under 14 to Under 24 and winners of many UK club tournaments. Academy players form the backbone of all UK national junior teams. Much to the envy of other sports, at 1st Team level these teams remain unbeaten in international competition since the Academy was founded eleven years ago.
Over the years, the Academy has continuously sought to innovate. Almost every year, we introduce a new approach or technique. At year end, we reference independent specialists in order to evaluate these initiatives, audit our achievements against those in others sports and check for best value.
We will continue to develop the Academy and to apply innovation in sports science that is relevant and affordable.
The contents of this page is downloadable as a PDF.
For coaching purposes, players are grouped into 4 separate development streams according to age and handicap. These streams are the Senior Academy, Development Squad, Junior Academy and Ladies Academy. Coaching is delivered primarily one-on-one (i.e. one player / one coach).
Core curriculum modules are:
1. Tennis technique & tactics
4. Physical training
2. Sports psychology
5. Review of player development plans & objectives
6. Other according to player need (e.g. nutrition, injury management)
Tennis coaching is delivered by leading UK coaches. All have achieved high standards of match play themselves and developed techniques for the coaching of elite players.
Academy sports psychologists have a minimum of a second degree and appropriate practical experience. Two of them specialise in working with under 18s in elite level sport.
Biomechanics and Physical Training
Academy trainers have both physical training and real tennis skills (single figure handicaps). They provide training specific to the demands of real tennis.
Management Review of Player Objectives and Development
We use a modified style of industry appraisal and counselling. We examine the aims and aspirations of players and consider what may be holding them back. Aspirations may be too high or too low. Applying 10 years of Academy experience, we encourage players to re-assess objectives and barriers and to re-set their personal development plans accordingly.
Ten years ago, players were not very knowledgeable about what foods to eat. The Academy runs occasional modules on diet and nutrition to change this. Players are now much more aware of “good’’ and “bad” foods and when to eat when competing in events and tournaments. We have even persuaded them how good nutritional food can taste.
Microtactics is the art and science of accurately assessing the risk and reward associated with playing different shots and deploying different tactics during a game and match - and then selecting the ‘best’ shot and tactics for each specific point. Microtactics helps players to win points and games by tailoring their shot selection and tactics to changing
circumstances within a match. This Academy module was originally developed by Graham Tomkinson and has now been adopted by real tennis professionals. Rob Fahey was a key adviser and has used microtactics in retaining his world title for some 20 years.
Video Analysis - Stroke & Match Play
The Academy uses video analysis to help players to improve both their stroke play technique and their match play performance.
Stroke Play Technique
The Academy uses video to show players their actual stroke play technique, as opposed to what they think it is, and to show what the coach recommends. Such videos are typically shot during coaching / practice sessions. This use of video is effective, low cost and widely used.
Match Play Performance
The videoing and analysis of entire matches is more resource and skill intensive - and more expensive. The Academy uses it sparingly and for players of high potential. Match video analysis captures all aspects of a player’s performance including stroke play and consistency, shot selection and execution, physical positioning, speed and strength over three and five sets, mental strength and control on low and high pressure points - and the tuning of strategy and tactics to changes in circumstances and opponent’s performance during the match.
The Ball Machine
A number of sports, such as cricket and lawn tennis, already use ball projection machines as an aid to coaching and practice. In the case of real tennis, the benefits are: (i) Coaches, relieved of the necessity of personally feeding balls, can cross to the player’s side of the net, intervene more directly and deliver better coaching as a result. (ii) Players can practice on their own. With this in mind, The Performance Brunel Ltd and the Dedanists invested in a ball machine. They bought a cricket bowling machine and Graham Tomkinson, working with the Engineering Faculty of Brunel University, converted it to real tennis. The machine projects real tennis balls very accurately from the far end of the court. It delivers speed, spin and swerve as requested. It is ‘ball friendly’, causing minimum wear and tear. The prototype is called DART (Development Aid for Real Tennis).
British Junior Championships 2020
Award of The Greenwood Trophy to member of the Dedanists Society High Performance Programme
It was announced on 14th October that Will Flynn from the Dedanists Society High Programme has been awarded The Greenwood Trophy 2020 for the most improved player in British Real Tennis .
He received the unanimous nomination based on his drop of handicap from 25 to 15 and his win in the British under 18 Open. Well-deserved and congratulations to him . The trophy will be presented to him in due course.
The T&RA have three annual tennis awards :
The Baerlein Cup awarded to the amateur who has shown most success – awarded to Tara Lumley – current World Doubles Champion
The Greenwood Trophy awarded to the most improved British player - awarded to Will Flynn – handicap improvement and U18 Open champion
The Warburg Salver is awarded to the best British professionals (mens or ladies) professional - awarded to Ben Taylor-Matthews - World Championship Challenge results and other results
These are all long standing awards with some previous Dedanists Society Academy programme attendees have been recognised in days gone by. All 3 of the above are current or ex Academy.
More information available from the T&RA. https://www.tennisandrackets.com/news/annual-rackets-awards-2019-20
Advanced Competitive Play Training September 16th, 2020
On September 16th , we held a training day for the top level (i.e. High Performance Group) members of the Academy Programme. It was held at Middlesex University and the day was run by Chris Bray and Graham Tomkinson. The following attended:
Ivo MacDonald (Guest)
Lea van der Zwalmen was in France and unable to travel to the UK and Robert Shenkman was not available. The day was titled Advanced Competitive Play and its content was specifically targeted at top players whose handicap was under 16. It was not a techniques workshop
As with all programmes, a significant level of pre event planning took place, this time between Chris Bray and Graham Tomkinson regarding its content but also particularly to make best use of Chris’ experience as he progressed up to No 2 position in World real tennis rankings.
We held face to face meetings and solicited input from the attendees on what they were looking for. This group were especially open about their strengths and weaknesses. Using these inputs Chris and Graham designed a day programme which met both their needs and the Dedanists Society. It was of course fully adherent with the latest Covid 19 guidelines. For example – a maximum of 6 people was present at any one time.
The programme was as follows:
Programme for the Day
Arrive between 10.15 – 10.30.
Normal tennis kit. Arrive in outside shoes and change into your court shoes once inside.
Hydration: We have drinks available all day but do bring your own water bottle as it could be hot on court. Note : Soft drinks are provided by the Dedanists Society to avoid any issues of hydration.
I’m sure we will go ‘off-piste’ from time to time but the general plan is as follows:
Arrival : Covid precautions etc.
Group discussion on match play, personal strategy, strengths and weaknesses.
On Court – Serving and return of serve
Mental Tennis –Truly prepare yourself to a winning game ( at all levels) !
On Court – Backhands and volleys
A new way of winning: You can’t lose!
Taking control in matches
Five elements of success
On Court – Short sessions on court to provide practical opportunities to test out other aspects of the days training
Opportunity to watch high quality videos of the players individually and as a group. –Roundup, conclusions & feedback
A great strength of this group was to provide constructive feedback on each other’s play.
This is the first time we have ever run such a session. It combined both the experiences of Chris Bray and the leading-edge approaches successfully used by other UK sports. All the attendees took copious notes from the day. The day focussed on how to make competitive progress in advanced level competitions rather than on tennis shot technique.
After the day, every one of the attendees wrote in with thank you notes, saying that it was refreshing to have such a different approach and how much they appreciated it. Due to the restrictions of Covid 19, this is probably the only such event being organised by the Dedanists Society before the end of this calendar year. There will be a techniques-based event arranged for the end of October for intermediate members of the Dedanists Society programme.
Thanks to Chris Bray and Middx University Real Tennis club. Chris and Graham put in a huge amount of planning effort before the event and this paid off. Chris was very open about how he felt both at times when he was winning and at times which when he was not and how he used these occasions to enhance his progress. Thanks also to Phyllis Slack for sorting out an excellent working lunch which enabled the day to proceed without a break etc .
Overall, it was an EXCELLENT day. We are discussing with the attendees whether they might benefit from a follow up session in due course.
Addition to the Dedanist Society Training Programme
Florent has very recently started playing real tennis and been working at the new Bordeaux court as an amateur. He has received some coaching from Chris Ronaldson there and been playing with some of the British players from the Dedanists Society Academy programme and achieving some excellent wins. He is 17 years old and is just starting an Engineering Course in Rouen. His background was as a very good level of lawn tennis in France. As there is no comparable real tennis performance skills development programme in France to enable him to hone his skills, Josh and I have offered to help in any way feasible in the UK, probably post skills – as we have done in the past with such overseas players as Camden Riviere, Matthieu Sarlangue, and Saskia Bollerman.
Florent recently played in the Bronze Racquet , see attached (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7L-Qe5xmHhU&list=PLChbMcJmdMO8bSTkoLNTY6E_6COKJxbpc&index=1) in Fontainebleau where he reached the final. He won this easily defeating a much more experienced opponent!!
Dedanists Society Performance Programme for 2020/2021.
We are pleased to announce that the following players have been selected and have accepted their invitation to be part of the Dedanists Society Performance Programme for the coming season:
Lea Van Der Zwalmen
Dedanists Society Performance Programme for 2019/2020.
We are pleased to announce that the at the Selection Meeting held on August 8th, 2019 the following, after nomination by their Club Professionals, were selected for the Dedanists Society Performance Programme for the coming season:
R Shenkman Manchester
L van Der Zwalmen Queens
W Flynn Seacourt
F Bristowe Wellington
L Gale Hyde
E Hyde Cambridge
B Yorston Oxford
Z Smart RTC
J Clifton MCC
H Lidington Seacourt
H Purton Queens
I McDonald Cambridge
C Elmitt RTC
J Medlow Seacourt
M Jones Seacourt/ Wellington
M Dyter Jesmond Dene
M Trueman Seacourt
B Vallat Queens
H Henman Radley
G Parsons RTC
J Rossiter Queens
T Hetherington Jesmond
Development Squad &Junior Academy Report 2019-20
A Dedanists’ Society report by Josh Farrall & Graham Tomkinson
To view the full Academy Report for 2019/20 please click on the button below.
Academy Report 2019-20
The British Real Tennis Academy is the UK national coaching programme for the best young players in the country. Each year, it typically selects 30 or so young players who are a mix of amateurs and professionals, men and women and from 13 to 24 years of age. Players are selected from across all clubs on the basis of match play results, commitment, potential and the recommendation of their club head professional. They are streamed into squads according to age and proficiency. Coaching to the Senior Squad, the lowest handicap players, is delivered via individual one-on-one sessions with coaches such as Rob Fahey and Ben Taylor-Matthews and with funding from the Academy. Coaching to all other Squads is delivered via a mix of group coaching days at Queen’s with tennis, physical and sports psychology coaches, match play days at Wellington with Dan Jones and individual sessions with tennis coaches such as Rob Fahey, Ben Taylor-Matthews, Ben Ronaldson and Bryn Sayers. The Society works with the Department of Sport Sciences at Brunel University to ensure that the design and content of Academy programmes include current research and best practice from the wider world of elite sport. The Dedanists’ Society funds and runs the Academy. It is also a primary sponsor of the World Under 18 and the British Girls Under 15 & 19 Junior Championships. It receives significant funding and support from the T&RA.
During 2018-19, the Academy delivered 18 group coaching days and a further 90 sessions of individual one-on-one coaching to 30 of the best young players in the country. These individual sessions included tennis coaching, match video analysis and sport psychology.
Programme Directors & Coaches
Programme Directors Graham Tomkinson, Stef King
Tennis Coaches Chris Bray, Chris Chapman, Rob & Claire Fahey, Dan Jones, Andrew Lyons, Ben Ronaldson, Bryn Sayers, Ben Taylor-Matthews.
Physical Training Andy Chinneck, Graham Smith
Sports Psychology Aura Goodman, Alex Lucas, Alison Maitland
Diet & Nutrition Tracy Parker
Microtactics Tennis coaches plus Graham Tomkinson.
Academy Chairman Josh Farrall
The handicaps of 50% of Academy players improved significantly over the last 12 months. An annual improvement of 7 points is a good performance for higher handicap players and an improvement of 4 points is good for those with lower handicaps. Handicap is not the only valid measure of a player’s performance but it is certainly clear and objective. Typically, the rate of a player’s handicap improvement is not constant. It varies from year to year depending upon practice, coaching and the adoption, or not, of fundamental changes in technique, fitness and mental strength. A player’s handicap may deteriorate in the short term while he or she is adopting new methods for longer term benefit.
We made a particular point this year of identifying those young players with the highest potential and funding as much private coaching for them as possible. We consider this to have been a success. We will continue to increase our support for the best of the best as much as we can.
We launched the Cadet Squad this year to bring players as young as 12 into the Academy. This too was a success and will continue.
The number of young professionals in the Academy, including trainees, fell from six to four - but it is encouraging that a number of Junior Squad players are interested in becoming professionals and certainly have the talent to do so.
The British Real Tennis Academy 2017-18 by Josh Farrall & Graham Tomkinson
The British Real Tennis Academy is the UK national coaching programme for the best young players in the country. Each year, it typically selects 30 or so young players who are a mix of amateurs and professionals, men and women and from 13 to 24 years of age. Players are selected from across all clubs on the basis of match play results, commitment, potential and the recommendation of their club head professional. They are streamed into squads according to age and proficiency. Coaching to the Senior Squad, the lowest handicap players, is delivered via individual one-on-one sessions with coaches such as Rob Fahey and Ben Taylor-Matthews and with funding from the Academy. Coaching to all other Squads is delivered via a mix of group coaching days at Queen’s with tennis, physical and sports psychology coaches, match play days at Wellington with Dan Jones and individual sessions with tennis coaches such as Rob Fahey, Ben Taylor-Matthews, Ben Ronaldson and Bryn Sayers. The Society works with the Department of Sport Sciences at Brunel University to ensure that the design and content of Academy programmes include current research and best practice from the wider world of elite sport. The Dedanists’ Society funds and runs the Academy with strong support from the T&RA.
During 2017-18, the Academy delivered 19 group coaching days and a further 60 sessions of individual one-on-one coaching to 34 of the best young players in the country. These individual sessions included tennis coaching, match video analysis and sport psychology.
The handicaps of a third of Academy players improved significantly over the last 12 months. An annual improvement of 7 points is a good performance for higher handicap players and an improvement of 4 points is good for those with lower handicaps. Handicap is not the only valid measure of a player’s performance but it is certainly clear and objective. Typically, the rate of a player’s handicap improvement is not constant. It varies from year to year depending upon practice, coaching and the adoption, or not, of fundamental changes in technique, fitness and mental strength. A player’s handicap may deteriorate in the short term while he or she is adopting new methods for longer term benefit.
The number of young professionals in the Academy, including trainees, rose from two to six.
• Senior Squad
The Senior Academy is typically for players of age 17 to 24 and handicaps up to 9 at season start. This year, it contained 4 players with handicaps of 2.5 to 5.3. Handicap improvements during the season were slight. Ed Kay, coached by Rob Fahey, won the British Amateur Singles. Robert Shenkman, coached by Rob Fahey and Ben Taylor-Matthews, won the British Under 24 Singles Open.
• Development Squad
The Development Squad is typically for players of age 17 to 24 and handicaps from 10 to 25 at season start. This year, the Squad contained six players and the majority achieved significant improvements in handicap. Aaron Flippence, coached by Rob Fahey and Ben Taylor-Matthews, achieved the biggest improvement. Ed Hyde won the British Under 21 Singles Open.
• Ladies Squad
The Ladies Squad is typically for players of age 17 to 24 and handicaps up to 45. This year, it contained 6 players and half achieved a significant improvement in handicap. The biggest improvements were made by Lea van der Zwalmen, supported by additional coaching from Ben Ronaldson, and by Jess Garside. The ladies appreciate and benefit from both open and ladies only coaching sessions. The Academy will optimise the mix according to player needs.
• Intermediate Squad
The Intermediate Squad is for players age 16 to 19 and year start handicaps of 26 to 40. This year, it contained 10 players of whom 2 were trainee professionals and 40% achieved significant improvements in handicap. The best of them will compete in the World Under 18 Singles Open at Seacourt in August 2018 and will be promoted to the Development Squad next season.
• Junior Squad
The Junior Squad is for players age 13 to 15 and year start handicaps of 41 to 55. This year, it contained 8 players of whom 37% achieved significant improvements in handicap. The best will compete in the World Under 18 Singles Open at Seacourt in August 2018 and have the opportunity to compete again in 2020.
Congratulations to Seacourt on being the home club and primary developer of 20% of the young players in the Academy.
Distribution of Academy Players by Club
Number of Academy Players Clubs
5 Queen’s *
3 Cambridge University, Jesmond, RTC.
1 Bristol, Moreton, Oxford University, Prested, Wellington.
* Many of the Queen’s players were first recruited and coached at a previous club.
The game is beholden to all clubs with the drive and capacity to recruit and develop the young players who represent the future of real tennis and from whom Academy players are selected.
• Programme Directors & Coaches
Programme Directors Graham Tomkinson, Stef King
Tennis Coaches Chris Bray, Chris Chapman, Rob Fahey, Dan Jones, Andrew Lyons, Ben Ronaldson, Bryn Sayers, Ben Taylor-Matthews.
Physical Training Andy Chinneck, Graham Smith
Sports Psychology Alex Lucas
Diet & Nutrition Tracy Parker
Microtactics Tennis coaches plus Graham Tomkinson.
Logistics & Personal Plans Josh Farrall