Tennisopolis : Tennis Social Network

Choosing a tennis coach can be perhaps the single most important choice you make if you are just beginning to take up tennis. Additionally, if you are an intermediate or advanced level player, choosing the right coach can be a difference maker in how you quickly you advance your skills.

There are many areas to consider before making the final choice of whom to work with. Most of them are not simply right or wrong, good or bad type of choices. Just variables to consider when making the choice.

*On-court demeanor
-If you are able, try to watch the coach in question when they teach. This will give you the most information in the shortest amount of time. Watch the body language, and watch for energy and enthusiasm. Is it there, or are they just "punching the clock"? Listen to the voice, and see if the coach communicates clearly what is wanted. You can also listen for how the coach uses words to praise or criticize the student. Is the coach positive, or is the coach negative with the words? It is also instructive to watch the students, and see how they react to the coach. Are they fully engaged in the lesson? A coach who can keep the energy high and keep the student(s) enthusiastic is probably going to do the same for you.

-While coaching certifications don't always tell the whole story, what they do tell you is that the coach in question has met a minimum standard of ability to teach tennis. The higher the rating, the more skilled that person will be in the art and science of coaching. As well, how many years have they been working on the court? Don't be afraid to inquire about these factors. If the coach is reticent about revealing such information, that person may not in fact have any "official" qualifications.
*Note:Not having any official certificates or licenses to coach does not mean the coach is a fraud. I know many, many coaches that are "unqualified" to teach tennis, and yet are very gifted coaches.

*What others say about him/her/local reputation
-Try to get a feel for what other people are saying about the coach in question. If many people sing that coach's praises, there's probably a good reason. If, on the other hand, you hear many complaints, that might be all you need to know before continuing your search elsewhere.

*How they answer your questions about taking lessons
-An experienced coach should be able to confidently answer any question you have about the tennis industry, and coaching specifically. Ideally, you need a coach who will be able to quickly identify what needs to be done with your game, and how best to solve that problem. If they seem unsure about themself, or how they coach tennis, it may not be worth your time and money.

-Simply put, if the coach's schedule is filled, and on-court time is near impossible to get, that coach may not be able to give you the attention and regular lesson time you may need. It's a great situation for the coach, but maybe not the best for you, depending upon how often you want to work with that coach.

*Lesson style
-Again, when you watch the coach at work, take note of how the lesson is run, both private and group. Does the coach get involved with the students, hitting with them and jumping into the drills, or does the coach stay on the side, just feeding balls when necessary? This may be a personal choice on your part, as to what you most need and are comfortable with. It is my personal opinion that feeding should take up only a small part of the overall lesson. A fed ball is not the same as a live ball, and students who are taught via the fed ball, often have a difficult time translating to a real situation.

-Most tennis coaches charge a fee that is within the range of other coaches in the area, or city. Where is your potential coach in this range? Is the hourly fee reasonable, too high, or even too low? At their rate, can you take regular lessons, where your skills will develop the fastest?

-How does the coach in question dress on court? Is the appearance clean and professional, or sloppy? An unprofessional appearance on court is often a sign that the coach does not care much about what he or she is doing for a living.

-How far away does the coach work? Can the coach possibly come to your area, or are they stationed at a club or resort? How does this distance and time work with your schedule?

*Link to other players/students and knowledge of local tennis scene
-This is an intangible. If you only need the coach to help you with your game, this won't mean much. But, if you also need the coach to be able to find new opponents for you, and to better integrate you into the local tennis scene, this will matter more.

Finally, the tennis lesson is about you and your tennis game. It is your time, energy and money. Don't be afraid to change coaches if you are not getting what you need. Choosing the right coach can make all the difference in how your skills develop, and the fun you can have while developing them. Happy hunting!

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Comment by Michael Maidens on November 10, 2009 at 1:30am
Hi John,
Nice article.. Few things I had not thought of in there...
The biggest thing that comes to mind also is that the coach needs to match your needs. For example I know some really great coaches who are fantastic with learners and kids. They make the game really enjoyable and fun learning environment. These coaches know their strengths and playing history and know they are better to hand over their more elite players.
When I talk about elite is, again, what do you want to get out of a coach. I know several coaches who have lived tennis played all the grand slams, played the best players in the world, travelled and had to fight and compete out on court to stay alive. These guys have such a depth of insight into the game that needs to be passed on to aspiring elite players - to give them the edge, like tools to succeed.
Again these coaches would not be very good with beginners...
The hard part about anything is that we 'dont know what we dont know' Therefore we dont even know what to look for in a coach - or said another way - we dont know the gold nuggets they have in their head from living the game etc..
Good coaches should be passoinate about the game and that should be contaigious! I also feel that if you want to win matches and tournaments it is good to have a coach who also 'plays' regularly.
FOR example... Lets say John always serves well in practice and double faults alot in matches.
Coach A (the non match player) will say it is a technical error. Lets give you a higher ball toss - therfore you are less likely to pull down on the ball in a match.
Coach B (the match player) will talk about confidence and trying to work out what point of a game or match it happens. They will talk about routines and confidence. In practice they will suggest playing those 'stressful' points in matches until you get comfortable with that situation. Hey if you can do it in practice then it is not a technical problem..
So - very much the coach needs to be inline with needs of the student..
Anyway food for thought :)

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