As you can see I have had tremendous drive to succeed as a player and as a tennis coach as well.I still have otherwise I would not educate myself on daily basis.
During the time period I was with that player under 14 whom I brought from number 10 to number one in less than one year I realized that if I want to bring somebody to professional tennis I have to start to teach him/her from very beginning.Why is that? By coaching that player I saw that is almost impossible or impossible to correct the things he learned so far even at age of 13, 14 years old.
So, my goal was to start with someone from the very beginning so that I can teach him/her the way I think it should be taught.
Chance for that appeared in 1992 when father of four children (he actually has 7 but 4 in tennis) commissioned me to teach his children tennis.
This was the chance of lifetime for both of us, and I am going to explain why.
Why for me:
- the children were talented
- whole family was very ambitious, and serious about tennis
- they were wealthy enough to support so many children in so expensive sport as tennis
Why for them:
- I was very ambitious, and my goal was to bring someone to professional tennis
- I am trustworthy, sincere and I say exactly as I see the things which is not very common among tennis pros, and I was ready to sacrifice
- I had all the prerequisites for tthe job (very good tennis player, knowledgble coach)
It was excellent basis for start.The children were 9 year old, the oldest to 5 year old the youngest.Three of the children were girls with one being a boy.Two children were already playing tennis:9 year old girl, and 8 year old boy, and two girls 5 and 6 year old were not.Their father built a tennis court very near their house which was just for them.I was completely devoted to them.They were my life priority.
After a while when I got completely acquainted with children tennis and personality I proposed their father the strategy I deeply believed will bring them to high ranks of professional tennis.I will give main points of this strategy:
- the boy has no chance in professional tennis because he has no mental toughness (he was surrounded by 6 girls, and he has had special attention from his parents) so his treatment has to be adequate to his potential
- the oldest girl has talent but not enough for high rank of professional tennis.She already learned wrong forehand motion, and even she was very good in her age group I did not see that she has chance in high competitive professional tennis, but I said that I will teach her the best I can because through her tennis development we will learn all the tricks on the road to professional tennis which will then be used for two youngest girls
- two youngest girls were more talented than older girl (especially was talented 5 year old), they were very disciplined, a lot of things they learned from older brother , and sister through imitation (example:5 year old would move automatically to the middle of the court after she hit the ball)
All children were making very good progress:even the boy who was just not made for competitive tennis - it was too much pressure for him.Two older ones were winning their age tournaments and were in quarter final or better in 12 and under in european tournaments.The younger two were making progress as expected.I enjoyed very much doing what I was doing even I had no private life whatsoever.
I needed this family and this family needed me.I do not know;maybe they did not recognize it, maybe just played faul game.
After 2 and half years I have been coaching these children, I proposed that their father and I sign long term contract which will assure both of us some kind of security.I was writing different versions of contract, and their father would always find some remarcks.This was going for sometime, and he was actually stalling time, and having his own plans.I was so near sighted that I did not see what was going on because we were winning combination, and this is rare to find.There is saying,”Do not change winning tactics”, and he did because everything was going too well, and he concluded that the only reason for that are his very talented children.
After he fired me, he hired a person who played recreational tennis without any tennis coaching knowledge.The reason for that is that person had good drop shot.Drop shot is very effective in this age group, but looking long term drop shot is minor shot .After him, he hired every well known coach from Croatia, and many from Europe.
To cut long story short here what happened:
- a boy pretty soon quit tennis
- the father did not follow my proposed strategy rather he focused on the oldest girl who reached 143 WTA
- when he saw that this is her limit then he focused on the younger two, but it was too late so that the youngest who was the most talented reached 299 WTA
What a waste of money, time and energy
The lesson from this is that when the things are going well do not change.There is need for mutual trust and respect between parents and coach (including children).Tennis as a sport is difficult enough;do not go in unnecessary experiments.