How to find the right tennis coach, for you or for your child, It’s a really important question and often something only few really spend time on trying to answer. I think it is important to realise that there is no ‘perfect’ tennis coach. They simply don’t exist, but there are many great coaches and there are many coaches that struggle to meet what I feel are the minimum standards of a coach.
There are two types of coaches. One of them is a Coach and the other is a Trainer/facilitator. Both have their places on the tennis court but in this article we are focusing on the role of the coach.
The role of the COACH: A person who guides, supports, mentors and advances a students skills. Attempts to understand what that player needs and creates a process to meet those needs. It involves skill development, mindset, movement, training programs, tournament planning, friendship, care, trust and communication. The coaches goal is to take a student from point A and progress forward towards point B. Along the way the target of A and B change and the process should alter as the relationship grows and develops but the goal is to keep moving forward.
Trainers and facilitators: This is a really important aspect of coaching but it is not coaching. Most ‘coaches’ in my opinion fall into this category. Good trainers and facilitators excel at drills, creating a positive environment and in general create sessions that are fun, challenging and motivating. Important aspect of a player’s development and I think is a really important part of coaching. Bad trainers and facilitators are to be avoided. Low energy, lacking motivation and offering not much in the way of guidance. Run!
Why are trainers not coaches?
The number one reason is there is no active input for the student to move forward. To (no matter what age or standard) create growth a trainer/facilitator normally has success in the short term with their players. Quick improvement because their sessions involve a lot of hitting and a lot of energy and good trainers create a fun environment. All positive things and of course there will be improvement. A few months later, when the amount of balls hit per session plateaus, the repetition of the same sessions no longer motivates and the lack of deliberate practise will become a hurdle. The student will continue to make the same mistakes no matter how hard they try. Effort and energy is not going to bring about long term growth if there is no attempt to learn and develop, review and then add more learning and developing. The feedback loop is critical for constant growth.
What can we do as coaches, parents and students?
Ask questions? No matter where you sit, coach, student or parent you need to start by asking yourself some questions. Are my sessions enjoyable? Do I feel like the sessions are working towards something? Do I have a sense of where I am (or my child) is going?
Is there any attempt for the coach to talk about growth and development, or if you are a coach do you have a plan for your students?
From these questions, review the answers and see what areas appear to be disconnected. Then it is time to ask the questions of the other key people.
If you are the coach, this needs to come from you. If you realise that you are a good solid trainer/facilitator and happy with that, perfect. If you want to become a stronger coach and be more impactful on your students’ development then it’s time to change. It needs to come from you.
If you haven’t already, parents and students need to then ask the coach the following questions: What’s the plan? Where are our goals moving forward? What do you think we can do as a team (because it is a team) to move closer towards the goal?
Open communication and honesty between all team members is crucial for making this work. When you want to be or create the best player and person possible it always stems from growth and development. The optimal coach will be a combination of both ‘Trainer’ and ‘Coach’. You must guide, learn, develop and progress forward and you must provide an environment that is engaging, fun and motivating for the player.