| By Rishan Kuruppu

Over the past 12 years, I have been very interested in understanding performance differences in tennis coaches and their standards. Some are recreational coaches, some are assistants, some are head tennis pros … all the way to tennis directors and everything in between. I believe that my six habits below can serve and help every coach become better, regardless of their title. Let’s get started … your best is yet to come!

Habit 1: Punctuality
Do you want to grow your business, wow your clients, develop loyalty and build a solid reputation? If so, start by being six minutes early to every lesson or meeting scheduled. Being early is a sign of deep respect towards another person. Tennis professionals who understand punctuality start every encounter waiting for their clients, ready and excited to serve them. Develop the habit of being six minutes early and watch your relationships develop into a greater purpose and meaning.

Habit 2: Positivity
Start your lesson with a genuine smile and enthusiastic welcome. This sets a good tone and foundation for all things thereafter. Have you ever had a client get frustrated or discouraged during a lesson? Of course you have … it's normal. The best way to help them is by believing and reinforcing that what they want to understand will happen through a positive perspective of time. Use phrases such as: “Stick to it, you’re almost there” or “We are going to make this happen.” It is music to your clients ears to be the voice that strives to deliver a positive and enjoyable experience.

Habit 3: Consistent energy
Energy is the battery we run on as a tennis professional. Energy is trained and repeated and is put into practice naturally by choosing to do so. Everyone needs the right example, and who would that be during a lesson? You! Your movement, split-step, not allowing two bounces, keeping the ball in play and staying engaged to keep your players energy high is an amazing quality. By doing so you will create an atmosphere of action and inspiration for your players to become better. Always remember seeing is believing and if your 100 percent one day and 50 the next everyone notices. Develop this habit and feel proud of giving it 100 percent every hour.

Habit 4: Creativity
To be creative, you must have a yearning desire for self-improvement and learning. Tennis is a game of complexity and difficulty that is constantly challenging us to continue to evolve and help our clients. You will always find players of all ages and abilities, and it is imperative to be able to modify or expand your presentation to best suit the needs of your students. There are many ways of being more creative, for example: Technique-based, guiding for self-awareness, time-based, error-based, positional-based, number of shots and consequence scoring, just to name a few. The challenge for all professionals is how to become more creative in your process of drill selection without losing your core teaching philosophy and vision. Ask yourself before your next lesson: “How can I make this hour more purposeful?”

Habit 5: Language
Clarity and the understanding of information is the desired outcome we all seek to attain through effective language. A client may say, “I have been taking years of lessons about this same topic, but never heard it presented in such a way … it makes sense!” This is great feedback from a client because you are creating better understanding and clarity, which is the foundation that fuels their action. To become a better professional, one must improve their vocabulary and word selection, in addition to their inflection and the degree of high and low pitch emphasizing various points of importance. Lastly, rhythmic repetition, which is the art of using words of similar letters to best create visual patterns and cognitive associations. As a professional, if you can connect meaning to emotion and utilize the best use of language, you will soon be held to a greater standard.

Habit 6: Results
The name of the game is results! What saddens me the most is that very few professionals take full responsibility to find and create permanent solutions to deliver the results that can change a client’s life! Five years of lessons and the player is volleying the same incorrect way? To me, that is unacceptable! Professionals should have a vision of how they want their student to look and aim for incremental changes. Professionals should design a plan and set a realistic time frame to measure progress and change. By doing so, tennis professionals are far more passionate about their work and are clearly and exactly knowing of what we want from our players. Remember this “Small victories in each practice will lead to a tsunami of improvement.”

To become more successful and raise the standard as tennis professionals, we must look at our work and either be pleased or disappointed and seek change to ensure results.

Take the next step forward and develop yourself by being more mindful towards these six habits. Your confidence, career and contribution will leave an impression that will forever be remembered.