Making the tennis world less harsh!

Now settled in Minnesota, former India tennis player Harsh Mankad has ventured to empower players around the world and help them maximise their potential with a systematic approach. Together with Luke Wilcox, Harsh has founded Tenicity, a web platform that offers integrated services of training, performance and communication at an affordable cost.

Harsh Mankad... into high-tech coaching now.

Harsh Mankad, in his days on the circuit, had looked more like an intelligent student than a professional tennis player. Of course, he was champion class. He had great sports genes, too. Cricketing giant Vinoo Mankad was his grandfather, another good cricketer, Ashok Mankad, his father and national women’s tennis champion Nirupama, his mother.

The tennis that Harsh played was classical as he hit the ball on the rise and relied more on intelligent placement and timing rather than brute power. The ever so gentle character would flare up only when teased about the lack of power in his game and would counter by saying that it was just one style of play.

The then Davis Cup captain, Ramesh Krishnan, was able to see the virtues in Harsh’s game and opted for him ahead of Rohan Bopanna many a time. And Harsh played some of the World Group matches against tennis giants like Lleyton Hewitt, Andy Roddick and Mikael Tillstrom. He may not have won many games against the best in the business, but Harsh, who went on to play NCAA in the US, maximised his abilities to win a Challenger singles title in Manchester.

Mankad attended the coaches’ workshop in Pune during India’s Davis Cup tie against New Zealand, and made a presentation.

 

He flourished as a doubles player in the latter part of his career, winning seven Challenger and 13 Futures titles. He had many partners, too, such as Aisam-Ul-Haq Qureshi of Pakistan, Treat Huey of the Philippines, Ashutosh Singh, Vishaal Uppal, Mustafa Ghouse, Yuki Bhambri and Purav Raja.

Married to Anjali and settled with her and two children in Minnesota, the 37-year-old Harsh has ventured to empower players around the world and help them maximise their potential with a systematic approach. Together with Luke Wilcox, Harsh has founded Tenicity, a web platform that offers integrated services of training, performance and communication at an affordable cost.

“Tenicity is a platform that connects everyone on the team and brings them working together for a common vision. It brings a process-driven and systematic approach, which I have seen the best players in the world follow. It personally worked for me. What I was able to accomplish in tennis with the challenges I faced from a resource and support standpoint, was pretty remarkable. Any player using Tenicity and putting in the work, will only gain because having clear goals, following a plan, reflecting and learning are strategies that can only help in their performances and progress,” says Harsh, who recently toured India and visited Chandigarh, Gujarat and Maharashtra, spreading knowledge.

He also attended the coaches’ workshop in Pune during India’s Davis Cup tie against New Zealand, and made a presentation.

“Most certified coaches understand the need for clear communication amongst everyone in the team. They have learned about having a plan, assessing progress and implementing a robust feedback loop. While it is valuable to learn such things in theory, many have not been able to implement it in their coaching due to various reasons. Now, there is a tangible platform that they can use from any device at any time to put the theories into practice and enhance the development of their players,” he said.

In terms of training, his platform offers customised protocols for coaches and players, based on the age of the player, ability level and competitive goals. The resources include lessons, videos, skill tests and practice scheduling. Drill, technique and strategy videos also cater to the various demands, while the analytical tools help in assessing performance and progress. It brings everyone — the player, coach, parents, trainer, nutritionist and mental coach — on one page and keeps everyone aware of everything that is being done to reach a common goal of player development.

Harsh has also played Davis Cup for India. Here members of the Indian Davis Cup squad, Prakash Amritraj, Leander Paes, Mahesh Bhupathi and Harsh with then Prime Minister, Dr. Manmohan Singh, AITA (All India Tennis Association) President, Yashwant Sinha (left) and AITA Life President, R. K. Khanna, at the Draw Ceremony for the India-China Davis Cup tie in New Delhi on March 3, 2005.   -  S. Subramanium

 

“Being able to connect an entire team on a single platform creates better and more seamless communication. It gets people working together and understand each other. When that happens, it leads to a systematic approach, as opposed to the coach trying to do one thing, the player another, and the parent a third thing,” explained Harsh.

The progress has been interesting for a start, as programmes of all sizes “recognise the need for better communication, deeper collaboration, and an ability to manage the development and performance of the players systematically. We have academies in three continents adopting our platform and have also rolled out a Division-1 college programme in the US.”

What is offered to the players and team apart from an app and a central platform to put all their data and instructions to derive the analysis and charts?

“It is like a family. Quite often, I become an extension of their team, brainstorming ideas to help them enhance their programmes in so many critical ways. I help them set up the site to fit their needs and often share my knowledge with developing training curriculum and periodic assessments. We also provide analytics on user engagement which helps them understand whether their stakeholders are engaging with their programme to the extent they would like to see,” explained Harsh.

What happens to a young player who may not have much data to feed into the system?

"If they focus on the process, which is what Tenicity is supporting, they will gain a tremendous amount because too many players are too focused on the end result. I have created a platform that has a “process focus” and by using it, it will shift their mindset to a more process-oriented approach, which I believe is the recipe for maximising one’s potential. There is a tremendous amount that a young player can gain by using the tools we have created on the platform. I would invite them to start a trial account. For players who do not want to put in the work, we are not for them. Nobody I know, maximised their potential by not putting in some hard work,” remarked Harsh.

How does a professional tennis player gain from the system, as he and his team may already be looking at all areas that require attention?

“You can say that they look at all the areas. However, how well do they organise and manage their learning? We see professionals all the time playing too much, getting injured, trying to do it all by themselves without the right team. They are just as prone to making mistakes and poor decisions as a junior player. We can help professionals create a well-aligned team around them and stay focused on their key objectives. The tennis season is the longest of any sport and it is so easy to get side-tracked based on a few poor results, or due to exhaustion. Tenicity is an invaluable resource for someone who is travelling the world and needs to bring organisation and planning around their development and performance. As a player who did not have a travelling coach, Tenicity would have been a huge help for me, to gain the support of a remote team,” Harsh argued.

Harsh Mankad has also appeared in plenty of Futures tournaments.   -  R. Ragu

 

If a big coaching centre adopts the system, how do all the players gain from the system if they have access to it?

“The system empowers players to learn from each other as much as they learn from the coaches. Tenicity can be used effectively to provide a channel for the players to have their voice heard and take ownership of their own learning and development. This is a big idea emerging in the world of education and in sport. We have been lagging behind. How many sports programmes in India have a process to hear feedback from their players? How many are doing a great job with managing player-feedback from matches? It is so crucial that these aspects are managed well because what happens in large programmes of 100 plus players is that many players fall through the cracks. The traditional model is to focus on the most talented, but we all know that champions often were not the best juniors. So our system supports every player to receive a plan and the personalised guidance that they need to maximise their potential,” he emphasised.

On the platform, will not all the users be exposed to each other in terms of their data, strengths, weaknesses etc.?

“We have a system in place to manage what information is shared between users. For example, players do not see each other’s game, assessment and goals. That is only between the coaches and the players,” he clarified.

What future does Harsh visualise for his system?

“Tenicity is going to be invaluable and a necessity in the future for programmes that want to be able to communicate with their stakeholders efficiently. Those who want to provide a degree of customisation to the player and parent in terms of their development plan and progress. The desire to help develop players systematically and in a way that maximises their potential. Many programmes have opened their doors to hundreds of players without a technology platform like Tenicity from a player development standpoint to support such scale and we have seen the dismal results. I have personally met many players and parents who were moving along aimlessly. The frustration and pain they felt inspired me to create Tenicity to support a much-needed change in how we manage the development of players,” he stressed.

Having travelled extensively and interacted with hundreds of players and their teams, Harsh was clear that the idea would continue to grow, adding tremendous value towards player development by stressing on the process and team approach.

At a time when the cost of developing a tennis player has become so high, Harsh could possibly provide a simpler way for a player to realise his or her potential.

For every champion who emerges from the ranks, hundreds and thousands are lost along the way. Such an alarming trend could be arrested with a simple and affordable system in place, for a better success rate in guiding talent.

“The concept of Tenicity came into being in mid-2013. It is now 3 1/2 years that I have been developing the technology and services to holistically meet the needs of developing players. We are enabling sport programmes to communicate, collaborate and use high quality tools designed specifically for player development in a way that is innovative and exciting,” Harsh signs off.

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