Torquay, Australia, 7 May 2020 | Leigh Rogers

Social distancing rules have reminded Victorian coach Olivia Rich that player development is more than just hitting balls.

Rich, who operates ORTENNIS in Torquay, ran 71 classes a week in term one. However, with the COVID-19 pandemic restricting on-court opportunities this term, she has had to adapt her classes into live online sessions.

“During this time off court, we can provide mental, physical, tactical and technical online learning,” Rich explained.

“You can continue to develop all-rounded players through video analysis, technical breakdown and studying the game. Another benefit of embracing online learning during this time is being able to continue engaging with your players and maintaining a healthy player-coach relationship.”

Rich is staying connected with her tennis community through social media, as well as offering online ANZ Tennis Hot Shots lessons on ZOOM.  These classes, running from Monday to Thursday, feature drills that can be done at home. The interactive nature offers both physical and social benefits.

“The players miss each other, they miss school, and they miss normality. People are craving human interaction. My approach has been about giving resources and opportunities for those who love and miss their tennis,” she said.

There have been many challenges – from a lack of stable internet connection for some, to others struggling to adapt to a new learning environment.

“I have found no amount of changing the drill can keep some engaged,” she admitted.

The interactive nature of the online classes is pleasing many parents, who are grateful their children can still participate in tennis lessons remotely.

“Luis loves seeing her friends on the screen because she can’t see them at the moment,” Briony Lyle said her eight-year-old daughter. “Olivia has created a fun and encouraging program to keep kids engaged with tennis at this time.”

Pauline Levy agreed, explaining her 10-year-old son is enjoying the classes.

“Ed looks forward to his online tennis classes to see his coach and other familiar faces,” she said. “Although it is not the tennis he’s used to, the program helps maintain his skills. Olivia is always inspiring and so passionate about tennis. In the time of COVID-19 she amazes us with her creativity, adapting to tennis at home using whatever is around us, the backyard, driveway or garage.”

While admitting it has been a challenging time as a business owner, Rich is determined to stay positive.

“It has been very difficult for the past five weeks, but majority of organisations across the world are facing these same significant challenges,” she said. “I’m using this time off the court to reflect on my business, so when restrictions lift I can provide the best environment for players.”