We believe a teaching and coaching approach has to have the aim to guide the development of individual skills through the creation of the best possible and useful learning conditions.
The traditional linear pedagogy starts from the technique a kind of blocked practice. The player has to learn standard movements to perform the strokes, according to prescriptive, one fits all, model, which is depending on the coach.
“The game based approach, proper of the non-linear pedagogy, is often mentioned, but actually the general habit, all over the world, is to go through a more classic, prescriptive and repetitive, one. Besides taking more time, the risk is to influence too much the style and develop "robotic/standard" players, who are mainly effective in standard situations".
The non-linear pedagogy allows to follow a teaching, tactically oriented, more realistic path. The duty of the coach is to propose situations, constraints led, that create the conditions to effectively develop individual player skills, without affecting the style, as far as it is effective.
Non-linear pedagogy is strictly linked with the Dynamic Systems motor learning Theory which states, particularly for open skills sports, as tennis, that there are too many variables to manage and coordinate and human beings responses to such external, variable situations, are the consequence of the integration of multiple interacting internal factors.
So there cannot be a ‘one size fits all' criteria led, teaching way.
To better understand
Example: it is clear that the forehand movement needed to play a short cross-court shot from inside the service box it is a way different than the movement needed to play a high deep top spin from 2 meters behind the baseline.
Linear vs non-linear pedagogy
“Adapt to the situation or one fits all? ”
With a linear pedagogy approach the coach demonstrates and prescribe a precise movement (ex. forehand) that has to be performed with very few degrees of freedom.
A start from technique teaching process.
With a non-linear pedagogy approach the coach demonstrates and/or gives tasks, one at the time, to solve a specific situation for a given shot (ex. forehand), he/she uses constraint/s to obtain a desired outcome. According to the way the player acts, progressive indications, by order of priority, can be provided to improve effectiveness and efficiency.
A start from tactics teaching process.
Non-linear pedagogy leads to maximise individual development, stimulates dexterity and self confidence, it facilitates the understanding of the game together with a problem solving attitude.
In short term and standard situations the difference is not very significative. In medium/long term, with the non-linear pedagogy approach, having more degrees of freedom and ways to solve different tasks, a player is much more able to find solutions according to the situations, with his own style, so he/she can more effectively express his potential, also under pressure!