Choosing A Coach, Part 3

And, now, the final installment (at least, for now!) . . .

Today’s post includes advice directly from the horse’s . . . er, coach’s . . . mouth.  I am lucky to have access to some brilliant tennis minds who are willing to share their expertise.  My best advice to you other tennis parents?  Take advantage of this free advice!  🙂

1. Look for a coach who is willing to lead by example – good energy; punctual; in shape; looking to improve him/herself on a daily basis; maybe has an “academic” interest in tennis.

2. Coaches who are “fresh off the tour” are probably best suited for players who can actually play tennis (age 14/15+). They might not have the patience to deal with the monotonous exercise of teaching a player the fundamentals.

3. Look for coaches who associate tennis with positive experiences (tennis is more than just about tennis…it’s about a way of life).

4. If anybody says that they have a “secret” method or a quick way to get results/rankings…avoid them like the plague. Hard work is the only short-cut. Anybody who sells you a different story or “patented” method is full of poo.

5. Determine whether you’re looking for an instructor or a “developer”. An instructor tends to teach the same lesson over and over (Forehand, Backhand, Volleys and Serves). A developer focuses each workout on a particular aspect of the player’s game…regardless of immediate past results or future events. A developer follows a specific road-map for each student…he doesn’t “wing” it or set the teaching on autopilot.

6. Be wary of coaches who maintain too much control. Some pros are afraid that they will lose a meal ticket so they try to hold on to a player by disparaging other pros or confusing you with technical talk. Before the kids learn the basics, it’s good to stick with one pro (or a couple of pros that teach exactly the same thing). However, after the player’s strokes have gelled, it’s OK to get input from different pros – at that point, the various coaches will be providing similar information but with a different viewpoint.  Nevertheless, if the pros try to change the player’s game too much, everyone should have a “come to Jesus” talk about the player’s future and his/her game-style. Most “secure” pros have no problem with this.

7. Don’t learn to fly from someone who’s learned piloting from a book. For every level, you want a pro who’s been at that level. S/he is more likely to know the intricacies of what’s going on in the player’s head or on court.

A big thank you to coach Ini Ghirdimic for sharing his knowledge and expertise!  If you haven’t already, be sure to visit his website for some more fabulous insights.

Coach and former NCAA Doubles #2, Julius Robberts, has some additional advice to share:  “I do believe it takes a village of coaches to produce a great tennis player. As coaches we all have our strengths and weaknesses. Therefore, when looking for a coach you need to make sure that your coach is willing to teach within his/her knowledge base. In addition, your coach should be willing to collaborate with other coaches regarding their players’ development. This becomes particularly useful in a tennis academy setting where your child has access to numerous coaches and their expertise. Coaches who communicate or collaborate will most likely have more long term success with their players’ development.”  Julius’ advice seems to be right in line with #6 above.

Of course, when all is said and done, sometimes the stars have to align in order to find the perfect coaching situation for your child.  If you look at Richard Williams (father/coach of Venus and Serena) or Tony Nadal (uncle/coach of Rafael Nadal), they probably wouldn’t pass muster using the guidelines set forth in these three Choosing A Coach articles, but you can hardly argue with the fact that they’ve been successful coaches at the highest levels of the sport.

What I’m hoping is that you’ll use these articles as suggestions for how to go about choosing your child’s tennis coach and that you’ll find someone who is the right fit for you and your family.

Please use the Comments box below to share your own experiences in searching for a coach.  And please “share” the blog with your tennis-parent friends.  We can all learn from each other here!

4 Comments on “Choosing A Coach, Part 3”

  1. Regarding Williams/Nadal – I think that those coaches are “outliers” in that they operate from within the family unit so they have a different rapport/chemistry with the athlete. Some of the components mentioned are intended for parents who look to outsiders for assistance.

  2. In most other high skill level team sports you’ll find coaches who are designated as “specialists” in certain areas. Baseball, for example, has pitching coaches, batting coaches, base running coaches and so on. Why should it be any different in tennis?

    1. The only problem, Karl, is that it would be prohibitively expensive to have, for example, a Forehand coach, a Backhand coach, etc. As it stands now, my husband and I are paying academy fees, private lesson fees, fitness training fees, and – every now and then – physical therapy, doctors, medications, and nutritionist fees, too. We also have the option at our son’s academy of paying a footwork coach and a mental toughness coach though we opt out of those two things.

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