Q&A with Coach Roy Coopersmith
Over the next several months, I will be doing Q&As with tennis coaches from around the globe. I hope you will find these articles useful as you navigate the world of junior tennis. For me, it’s helpful to hear how other coaches do things and what their philosophies are regarding competing, training, parental involvement, college, the pro tour, etc. Each coach is so different and has a different set of experiences to share with our children and with us.
Today, I’m so pleased to introduce Roy Coopersmith. Roy played tennis in junior college – spots 1, 2, and 3. He played professionally while stationed in Europe in the Army, having two very impressive wins over the number 25 and 38 ranked ATP players. He was also on the All Army team for 7 years, winning the interservice tournament. Roy was ranked #1 in the Middle States USTA section in singles and doubles 35-and-overs and ranked 21 nationally after playing only 3 tournaments. He has coached many top WTA players, including Christina Singer (who lost 6-3 in the 3rd set in the Wimbledon quarterfinals to Chris Evert), former world #1 Jelena Jankovic, and Jamea Jackson, as well as many ATP players ranked 100-200. Roy also coached ATP player Phillip Kohlschreiber when he was in the juniors. He gave up coaching on the WTA and ATP tours to settle down as the Tennis Director at Pine Bluff Country Club in Arkansas. He now coaches his daughter, a top USTA junior, as well as other aspiring young players. A big thank you to Roy for taking the time to share his thoughts with ParentingAces!
PA: How do you think junior tennis training and development in the US compares to that in other countries where you’ve coached?
RC: The major difference between USA and Europe and Asia where I have lived (Spain, Germany, Croatia,Turkey, India, Vietnam, Philippines) is college scholarships are secondary to trying to become a pro player. Training in Europe is much more demanding and much more physical.
PA: What are some of the worst parental behavior faux-pas you’ve seen and where were they?
RC: The worst? In Asia I saw a boy beaten with a belt and in the head with a belt buckle [see photo below]. My friend had to pull one dad away from beating his son with wire while I was coaching in India. In the USA it’s more just parents showing displeasure when their child loses or plays badly. I have seen a few fisticuffs here though. I saw a dad take his son to the doctor and the doctor told the dad the 14 year old boy shouldn’t play tennis for 4 weeks. So the dad made the doctor give the boy 2 cortisone shots just to play an adult tournament. Needless to say, this put the boy out for more than 4 weeks.
PA: What is your biggest challenge being both Dad and Coach to your daughter?
RC: Hmmm . . . Biggest challenge? I guess making sure I get back in time to pick up Niki when her match finishes and still ask the right coaching questions about her game and her thoughts on how she played and what happened. This is because I let her play her match all by herself and leave the facility. Niki and I discussed how she likes me to observe, and we decided best to let her play free without judgement – meaning her coach is not watching and neither is her dad, so she doesn’t have to worry about what either of them is thinking when she is playing. Then I revert to Dad role and drop tennis talk and go get a Sonic shake. Niki loves the whipped cream on the top. At home I “try” never to talk tennis with Niki unless we study it on the computer. My wife, a former top 100 WTA player, has to remember Niki has one coach and my wife’s role is as a sparring partner for Niki only. We prefer she only reminds Niki what I have said. Too many voices can confuse a player, so we try to keep it to only my voice. Although our son who is 4 and loves tennis will yell out coaching tips as well!
PA: If there is one thing you want tennis parents to know, what is it?
RC: I want to educate the parents of kids I coach about technique and tactics. I tell them what to look for and what to tell their child if a tournament match goes 3 sets because they are allowed to coach during the break. I explain that I cannot nor will I be at all their child’s matches but they probably will. This being said, I do request parents not to coach their child while their child is on court with me. They parrot my coaching phrases without a clue as to why or when I use them. So best to let the coach coach, and I will allow the parent to parent.
Again, a big thank you to Roy! If you have questions you’d like to ask, please put them in the Comments box below – I will be happy to forward them to him.