Over the next several months, I plan to do 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.
For my first foray into the Q&A world, I’m so pleased to introduce Yvonne Gallop. She is a USPTA/USPTR certified high performance coach who works in the San Mateo, California, area. Yvonne competed on the women’s pro tour from 1975-1980 and currently competes on the senior tour. Her specialty is teaching proper bio-mechanics and technique to players ranging from beginners to pros. She taught at the Evert Academy in Florida before moving to Northern California. I had the pleasure of speaking with Yvonne at length about her coaching philosophy and her background – her immense passion for the sport of tennis shines through in everything she says and does! A big thank you to Yvonne for taking time out of her busy coaching and law school schedule to share her thoughts with ParentingAces!
PA: When you were playing tennis as a junior, what do you remember about your parent’s involvement? Did they take you to practices? Come watch your matches?
YG: As a junior, by the grace of God, my mother KNEW NOTHING!!!!! Of tennis that is. I was discovered by a college player who began perfecting and fine-tuning my strokes. My Mom would take me to tournaments but did not know enough to get involved. She watched many of my $7.50 an hour lessons from Andrea so only knew enough to say things like, “It didn’t seem like you were bending your legs very much,” or “You were not loading or preparing as Andrea had suggested.” That was about it. When it came to practice she NEVER watched. She dropped me off at the courts in Coral Gables and would pick me up at the end of the day. She would have to beg me and yell at me to get off the courts to go home. When she would take me to the courts, I would bring my lunch etc…and stay all day. I would hit with ANYBODY that was willing to hit with me. So obviously I had a love and passion for this game beyond ANY possible imagination!!!
PA: What is your philosophy on coaching junior players?
YG: My philosophy about teaching AND coaching are similar. First off, you can NOT coach what has NOT been taught. So I will give a child 150% of my time and energy but the child must match it. Now that does NOT mean I will not teach the child if they do not give the same thing. It just means that the relationship will be a bit different. I take the child OUT of the sight-line of the parent, and the child must look into my eyes and convince me how badly he/she wants to learn, otherwise he/she is only learning for Mommy and Daddy. Again the amount of energy I put out depends on this issue. When I get tunnel vision (which every pro in the world does, despite their denial), I give a few suggestions as to where to go to another pro, for that one particular thing (forehand, backhand slice, etc.). Usually I personally take my students (the tournament competitors) to my coach, Mary Hill, to insure that I am in fact on track with this player. She will teach and coach them for a 2 hour block while I video and take notes. So she is helping me to help them. I am always open to hearing other perspectives that I may have overlooked. The Pro should try to build an entire young man/woman, develop the whole person through tennis. Through tennis these kids learn life skills.
PA: What is one thing you would like today’s tennis parents to know?
YG: Keeping this simple – PARENTS STAY OUT OF IT!!!! The parents watch some lessons, some many hours and some very little, and all of a sudden think they know it all. It is always easier said than done so stay out of it … OUT OUT OUT. Stop babying the kid. Because of the parent, more often than not, these kids change teachers and coaches like they change their underwear. If the Pro really cares about the child you will know. Parents…. STOP buying into the pros telling you that your kid could play pro tennis! One out of every 5+ thousand make it. It is a grueling lifestyle. No one except those of us that have done and do it know that. Never sleeping in your own bed or eating your own foods. There is so much to be said about familiarity. Different courts every week etc. GIVE your child the Myers-Briggs Personality test! It will tell you what kind of a player they could be as well as what type of passions they have. Buy the book called Please Understand Me. In my humble opinion, it will help for EVERYTHING!!! College tennis all the way……Unless they are No.1 in the WORLD in ITFs by the time they are in the 16s. At dinner one night I had a debate with [golfer] Lee Trevino as to which sport was the most difficult to play in the world! BARRING NONE … it is in fact tennis!!! Give your kid kudos for even trying to do this. If through all of the development the child turns out to have something special, which you will know by the time they are about 16-17, then great, they can start college and then the USTA will jump in. Let the children decide for themselves, but do NOT shut down their dream. If the kid wants to go pro, here is a suggestion – take that kid to one of the big academies for 2-3 weeks straight. Tell the Academy Director what the kid wants, and if you trust that person and they are willing to put the kid through the ringer, then the kid gets a real taste of what it is like.
Again, a big thank you to Yvonne! 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 her.