Articles

  • Story about Nikola Pilic An extremely small number of top tennis players continue coaching careers and achieve even better results. Especially if both succeeds each other and last more than half a century -than it deserves our attention and respect.  
  • Being a good tennis parent Tennis parents play a vital role in the development of their children as it relates to participation in sports,particularly in tennis.  
  • Being a good tennis coach… It’s a privilege to be a coach – to have an opportunity to guide young people in their tennis career. There are many factors which distinguish a good tennis coach from the others.  
  • Interview with Nikola Milojevic # 1 ITF junior player It is not often in the world of tennis that two players from the same country, at the same time are the best on the ATP and the ITF juniors list.  
  • Interview with Jelena Gencic Identifying a future champion in any sport is a multistage process. It is truly remarkable to be able to recognize special talent from a large group of beginners in a particular sport.  
  • Size Does(not) Matter In the era of modern tennis there is a noticeable presence of tall players in both men and women's divisions. One might theorize that the height of a player could quite possibly be a contributing factor in predicting the future success of the player.  
  • Interview with tennis coach Del Little It was once said that humility suits well only to those who would have a reason to be immodest. So such can be said for tennis coach Del Little and it will not be further from the truth.  
  • Consistent work brings success In working with young tennis players some issues often remain unanswered, and the main reason is mostly due to neglecting the effect of developmental characteristics of the youth in development.  
  • The transition from junior into professional tennis Anyone can say that "wants to become the best player in the world", but few of those are willing to sacrifice and "pay the price" and that is indeed true.  
  • Interview with Robert Lansdorp If you can value a coach by the achievements of his players than you can consider Mr. Robert Lansdorp as one of the most important and most influential tennis coaches from the beginning of Open era till today. He is unique because he coached four players from their earliest junior days up till their top rankings: Tracey Austin, Lindsey Davenport, Pete Sampras, and Maria Sharapova.  

Being a good tennis coach…

It’s a privilege to be a coach – to have an opportunity to guide young people in their tennis career. There are many factors which distinguish a good tennis coach from the others.

I would point out the following: (1) commitment to a coaching philosophy, (2) good communication skills, (3) good technical know-how, (4) good leadership skills and vision, and (5) the ability to work with parents as well as kids.

Being a good coach will depend first of all on their coaching philosophy more than any other factor. By coaching philosophy we mean …”the beliefs and principles that guide the action we take”. The key to develop a philosophy of coaching is getting to know ourselves. Coaching tennis is a helping profession with many difficult decisions and ethical dilemmas . Having a teaching philosophy will remove uncertainty about discipline, style of play, short and long term objectives. Many great coaches discovered early in their career their coaching philosophy and stuck with their concepts regardless of whether others agree with their particular coaching ideas.

Summarizing the statement about the coaching philosophy from the participants of three different High performance coaching program events (Carson, Minneapolis, Key Biscayne) noticable is a wide range of different “beliefs and principles” . More than 60 top coaches in our country gave different statements from…. respect, athlete first, having fun followed by empathy, strong work ethic completed with holistic approach to the game. Just a few of them have the same “driving force” which they classified as : passion and love for tennis, knowledge, and discipline. There are many successful coaches with many diverse coaching philosophies, and one is not better than the other-just different. In spite of such diversity among coaching philosophies, Rainer Martens said that we can classify all of coaching styles into three categories: command style - where coach makes all the decisions and the player is just listening and doing what coach says, submissive style - where coach makes as few decisions as possible, due to lack lack of tennis knowledge or playing skills. Such coaches are often referred to us as “baby sitters” , and cooperative style - where coach and player communicate well making decisions together, discussing technical details suitable game style for the players and making tournament plan together as well. This coaching style is the most difficult one and requires great communication skills.

First of all, a good tennis coach should be a good listener. Being able to listen is a big part of balanced communication between two parties: coach –student or coach-parents. Even famous Dale Carnegie in his work always emphasized the importance of proper listening skills to be able to “influence people and win the friends”. The best way of listening by dr. Thomas Gordon is active listening, where we participate actively in the communication process by paraphrasing what we think that student said. Listening carefully and with great interest we can find out many important things about the student’s personal life or his latest tournament experience, which will make our coaching more efficient. The other part of proper communication, speaking, would be giving information and right feedback to our students. Joe Dinoffer suggests to coaches to “speak less and communicate more” demanding that average attention span of tennis student was to listen 30-40 words which is equal 10-15 seconds of time. Dinoffer reports that children even have a shorter attention span. That’s why coach’s message to others should be direct, complete and specific, clear and constant. Tennis coaches should focus on one thing at a time, and if possible always say things in a supportive not in a negative way. For example – instead of “don’t stay straight”! say - “bend your knees”! , instead of “don’t miss” say “make it in”!

But no matter how great our philosophy and our communication skills are there is no substitute for knowing well the technical and tactical part of the game we coach. The most common way tennis coaches acquire knowledge is by playing tennis themselves, but just that most likely will not give them all the knowledge they need. Good tennis coaches should simply be a student of the tennis game and consider learning as a permanent process and as a life long journey. They should join one of national tennis associations (USPTA,PTR)which offer courses, publications and conferences that all provide great opportunities for learning more about the game of tennis. Today like never before many valuable books or tennis videos (DVDs, You Tube videos or USTA video library) are available so coaches can read them, view them and learn from them. Not to forget that the Tennis Channel is great source of information about the game. Attending clinics and seminars and communicating with other coaches is irreplaceable part of the coaching journey.

Good coach needs to consider what kind of player student wants to be - is he/she a recreational player who just wants to get a little better, or a serious player who wants to compete at a high level? An experienced coach has to understand that recreational tennis puts more emphasis on fun, learning and participation. On the other side we have the competitive tennis game where the emphasis is on participation by the best where performance and winning play a big role. Sometimes problems could arise when coach with competitive intentions find himself in recreational tennis asking from players for too much, or when coach with recreational intentions work with competitive players giving them not adequate preparation for the competition. To avoid those problems, a good tennis coach must ensure that his coaching objectives are appropriate with the level of game he is coaching.

There are some qualities which distinguish good coaches from great coaches. Great tennis coaches are leaders who provide direction. They can use their great motivational skills to help players who have the ability and potential (but not the motivation) to develop into excellent athletes and most importantly they set the goals by having a vision of the future. For them just winning is not the first and only goal, for them that’s more how to develop a player through different stages and make progression in the steps that lead to winning. Great coaches are able to create the vision and often they have a clear picture in which way a player’s technical and tactical skills should be developed. They can analyze very well and then predict changes in the game. Their vision comes from intelligence and intelligence comes from preparation, from knowing the tennis game, knowing their players and their opponents as well. For example just to mention how great was the vision of coach Tony Nadal to put tennis racquet into left hand of his little nephew Rafael who was naturally right handed, and with that “historical” change maybe helped him to become one of greatest of all time. How brave was the idea from coach Pete Fisher to change Sampras’s two handed to one-handed backhand when he was already a solid junior player, helping young Pete with that change to become one of greatest serve and volley players ever. How constructive was a pioneer idea from coach Nick Bollettieri, to create his tennis academy and later prove that that kind of organized life for the large group of young players will one day produce numerous tennis champions, and 10 number one players in the world. How fantastic was late Serbian coach, Jelena Gencic, whose sharp eye recognized rare talents of Monica Seles, Goran Ivanisevic, and Novak Djokovic, who she trained from their early age, molding them into Grand Slam winners and the great champions.

At the same time we shouldn’t forget and underestimate parents role in creating clear vision for their kids’ tennis career. With their strong determination and in spite of a lack of knowledge , many parents-coaches had a vision which way to proceed, what “door to knock on” and what tennis coach or academy to choose for their kid’s further tennis development. Without this quality among parents many great tennis career would have gone some different way. Imagine Richard Williams not having the vision of his little girls being no. 1 and 2 in the world of women’s tennis, we would be missing one of the most succesfull sibling career in the sport. Not to forget, Yuri Sharapov who took his 8 year old Masha, separating her from mom Yelena for the next two years and landing in Florida with only $700 in his pocket, and seeing his daughter ten years later lifting the Wimbledon trophy. Since that moment of history Maria Sharapova has become the highest paid female athlete ever. These are just a few examples. Similar stories, where parents are involved we can find in many other more or less successful tennis player’s careers.

In conclusion, to be a good tennis coach we should develop own coaching philosophy, and have great communication skills. Talking about communication, tennis coaches should always have on their mind that their relationship with their player’s parents (with or without game knowledge) is almost as important as the relationship they have with the players themselves. Proper coach-parent communication is absolutely a must for player’s well being. The coach from his side should keep parents informed about player’s game improvement and help them to understand the game of tennis better. Parents from their side should respect the coach’s position and should not interfere with the coaching unless there is a reasonable cause for them to do that. We (coaches) should also do anything to permanently build our knowledge about the game, and to be a student of the game. To be a leader in a coaching role first of all we need to have right direction, using our great motivational skills whenever needed. Also, what some of luckiest and most gifted coaches posses, is the rare talent to have the vision of developing a young tennis players, helping them to set up and reach their highest personal goals.

Written by Sveto Matovic