One of the beautiful aspects of tennis is there is no right way to play it. One of the confounding things about tennis is there is no right way to play it. This pretty much goes for coaching too. Let’s put it this way. If there were an industry wide consensus about what was the best way to teach a student tennis, we coaches would all be doing it. They’re just isn’t. Different strokes for different folks.
That said, there are some pretty agreed upon industry standards that the best professionals adhere to. Many of them are chronicled here in Miami Teaching Professional Brian Lutz 13 Commandments. I particularly like numbers 9 and 13. Tennis pros, don’t be a cliche. Don’t sleep with your students, its just bad for business. Though I’m totally cool with you moving in with them, ya know, if the connection has hope.
And be wary the teaching professional that doesn’t like to play. If he doesn’t play, he doesn’t love the game. If he doesn’t love the game, he’s likely not loving being out there with you. So tread cautiously here.
Oh, and most importantly. Don’t be this guy. Your students catch you checking your watch, it just tells them you can’t wait to get out of there.
Thirteen (XIII) Commandments of a Tennis Coach
Understand your lesson plan inside and out and what goals you are trying to achieve. Don’t let students run the class. They are looking for leaders not enablers. If you don’t understand something don’t teach it until you have a comprehensive understanding of the instruction from concept to execution.
Assign a Student Captain to each class. This player should be the “Bell Cow” of the group. This person typically has extensive experience in your program and has bought into your process and will help new players assimilate to your lesson plan and class goals and assist the class operation and efficiencies.
One Minute Rule: Know your new students name within 1 minute of their arrival and shout out their name during warm ups with encouraging feedback to help support staff recite their name and so they know you are invested fully in their tennis game and have command of the lesson plan.
Don’t assume. Know your students by asking lots of questions. Find out what kind of learner your student is. Ask their profession, hobbies and what type of learning models resonates and motivates them including: Auditory, Visual or Kinesthetic. Communicate in ways that appeal to both the group and the individual and customize for effectiveness when necessary. Everyone’s different. Adapt your coaching when necessary.
Work with a clock to practice with purpose. Timing controls the pace and intensity of your session. Your lessons plan has a beginning, middle and end. Make sure you are on schedule and adapting you lesson plan to accommodate modifications. Always announce the start of a new drill and give a 2 minute warning when a drill is about to conclude so students understand the value in each moment they are on the court and develop the discipline of practice with purpose.
Have a contingency plan for your operations. Have two or three of everything you need. Supplies, class rosters (print out and digital), demo racquets, towels, water, bug spray, balls etc. Be the first to arrive and last to leave so surprises can be dealt with. Things won’t go always as planned. You ability to adapt will be tested. Be calm and lead.
Be professional. Dress like you are invested in your profession. Old t-shirts, tennis shoes or mix and match outfits reflect the value you bring to the marketplace. Let players know where to park for class, buy gear, how to eat, sleep, hydrate. Always add value it’s not just about technique or strategy.
Publish your lesson plan and summary of your process to add value add to the student experience. Communicate via blog, text, email and social media to keep your players thinking about their improvement and add value your tennis programs and differentiate your skills in your local market.
Casanova Syndrome. Understand the perception of tennis pro’s have a stereotype of flirtatious Casanova’s who get “hit on” by members of the opposite sex. While harmless flirting can be deemed a biological imperative, draw the line and let players know when you step between the lines it’s time to get to work on tennis.
Integrate progressive and modern teaching methods into your programs to teach players how to harness their potential. Be open minded and innovative. Understand there is no right or wrong way to teach tennis only more efficient and effective ways. No one knows it all.
Avoid the claim “World Class” in your marketing materials. Price your classes with margins that make sense for you to be in business. Pricing classes that are overly discounted or making claims out of line with the value you offer lack integrity and feed senseless ego. There are 7.4 billion people living on the planet and approximately a few hundred humans on earth who have a “World Class” tennis game. Be comfortable, confident and realistic in your claims in the marketplace.
Understand motives of industry pundits and celebrity figureheads who want you to do things to “grow the game” while well meaning might not fit with your individual business needs.. Your successful and professionally run business is your contribution to the industry.
Stay in shape and keep getting better! Play tennis at least 20 minutes session at work with a peer or friend. Stoke the passion that drove you to the love of the sport. Feed your soul by playing the game for yourself at least 2-3 times per week for at least 20 minutes minimum. Practice with purpose.