Traits of Great Coaches


Today’s Guest Post is the first in a series written by Aleksey Zharinov (click here to listen to our podcast episode).

“Everyone needs a coach. It doesn’t matter if you are basketball player, a tennis player, a gymnast or a bridge player.”

– Bill Gates

EXTENSIVE knowledge of technique (tehnika)

Being a good coach consists of many factors: extensive knowledge of technique, precise error detection and effective methods of fixing it, constant feedback, ability to transfer knowledge to a student, ability to structure practice with the most benefit to the student, motivation and support, creating a fun atmosphere without losing the effectiveness of training, knowledge of tactics and strategies, knowledge of off-court training, knowledge of tennis psychology, knowledge of recovery process, good people skills, etc. I guarantee you there are very few people who possess all of these, but that’s what you should be looking for as a parent. The more of these factors the coach possesses the higher his/her value goes and, consequently, the more benefit he/she will bring to your young Roger or Serena. Let’s start by looking at these factors one by one keeping in mind that we are talking about coaching for world-class level.

“I rely more on technique than physique, but being physical is always a help to me.”

­– Rafael Nadal

This is by far one of the most important aspects that you should be looking for in a coach. Tehnika is what Russians call it. After all, the coach is presumably there to teach your kid how to hit the ball correctly. Right? The problem is a lot of coaches don’t know enough about it and actually make it worse for the student by either directly teaching them wrong form (happens all the time!) or letting them develop bad habits on their own, which are, as I discussed earlier, very hard to break. How can they help develop a great swing if they don’t know what it is supposed to be like?  There are certain principles that have to be followed in order to produce a great swing; there is virtually no room for creativity or interpretation here. Starting with a grip and ending with the end of the swing, it’s the coach’s job to oversee and enforce correct stroke production and to vehemently stay on top of correcting the wrong or inefficient ones.

If possible, look at the coach’s clients and see if they have proper form or if he/she is adamant on producing it in them. That’s the fastest way to see if the coach is doing a good job. It follows then that you yourself will have to know enough about tehnika to be able to tell if it’s good or not Leaving your kid without knowing the history or the quality of the work that the coach is doing is just unwise. Testimonials or past clients are also important if the coach has them. But you will have to look for specific comments related to the technical side and not generic, “He/she helped my game,” kind of stuff. After all, you do it when you shop on Amazon or look for a restaurant on Yelp, so you might as well do your due diligence when it comes to your kid. 

Also, talk to them directly and see what they put their emphasis on. Tehnika should be right near the top of that list. Then, if all that checks out, do a trial lesson and see if he/she teaches the proper technique and does it thoroughly and consistently. 

Finally, have your child watch a lot of tennis on TV or YouTube. I found that to be an extremely important tool because kids will learn tehnika, playing patterns, the right choices for different kinds of situations as well as footwork patterns, some of which are very hard to replicate in practice. Stay tuned for more traits of great coaches and remember: 

Raising a world-class tennis player requires a world-class tennis parent!

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