For many parents today, selecting the right coach is a huge and crucial decision with numerous considerations. The real key component to ask is regarding the amount of ‘care’ that the coach offers your child. Care encompasses so many key factors such as creating a dynamic environment, technical knowledge, communicational skills and, of course, taking the time to develop a strong relationship. These qualities are of the utmost importance.
Many of the strongest players today are fortunate to have made the right choices and found a very good coach in the early development stages. We know that the trajectory of a player is often hindered or enhanced by the quality of the first coach, which is another reason this decision is so critical.
It is then no secret why many of the strongest players at local tournaments have a parent as a coach or at least as a support to the coach. Time spent on court with your coach is often difficult to find but is golden for the player. Parents who have the ability and time are able to develop terrific bonds and communication with their children whilst at the same time implementing years of understanding in the home environment into use. They often understand best how their child learns and can fast-track this learning by teaming up with the coach.
If you have the good fortune of knowing the sport as a parent, you can do so much that a coach often is unable to. However the issue arises then when a parent does not have this knowledge and experience or formal training. The steps to developing a player are complicated and as with most top chefs—timing and quantity of the ingredients is more important to the end goal than the content itself. In this case it is important to find a coach that is prepared to work with the parent and the player, creating that all essential triangle of success.
When you ask a player at the end of their days on court, many will recall clearly the first days with their coach who helped to develop and harness their passion for the game. The hours spent perfecting a child’s game is precious and many of the reasons why they continue to pursue the sport is because of those initial experiences.
This means that kids whose parents also coach them are very fortunate as they often have endless resources and access to their tennis encyclopedia whenever they wanted. Kids who are passionate about the game often want to constantly work at it and even at 10-years-old are aware that a parent as coach who can assist is a huge advantage.
Another major factor which drives players is the ability to play tennis constantly without time restrictions—which is a reason why finding a tennis club to become a member of will certainly always guide raw talent in the right pathway.
Other key considerations are that a development philosophy must include private instruction and practice opportunities with players of like-minded interest at clinics and competitions at the earliest stages to drive the need for continuous learning. Parents often play a critical role in the practice and competitive piece of their child’s tennis, as time spent with their child ultimately cements the bond and experiences.
Just look at some of the best players in the world and of all-time such as Coco Gauff, Martina Hingis, Jimmy Connors, Chris Evert, Roger Federer, Andy Murray, Andre Agassi, Steffi Graf, Rafael Nadal and the list goes on and on. The evidence shows that these players had advantage over their opponents because of their close relationship with their coaches and parents.
Of course, not every parent has the time or knowledge to dedicate this type of attention to their child’s tennis game. If you are looking for a coach to take your player through multiple stages of development, these criteria are essential:
++Passion: Your coach should have passion for tennis and love to inspire others to reach all levels of their potential.
++Knowledge, Experience and Current Qualifications: Your coach should have years of teaching experience in developing strong players at all stages of the developmental pathway. Being a certified, qualified and current member of a recognized association is also important as the game is always changing.
++Competition: Your coach should be a part of a larger organization or successful club. This allows your child to be a part of a competitive environment where coaches and players are all pushing each other to achieve their greatest potential.
++Positive role model: No matter how much of a good coach your prospect is, let's not lose perspective here. Our kids need to be around good people and adults that we as parents also trust.
++Motivation: Your child's coach should have no problem getting your player to go through any number of skill-building activities with passion and excitement. The key here is dynamic teaching systems and overall communication
Every child’s coach should have a clear pathway of progressions to guide your player. Tennis is a game that is played and developed all over the world and often coached differently at clubs in the same town. Trusting the process is a critical aspect to your child’s development. Children learn, progress and, most essentially, understand the game at different rates and times, which is why knowing your child is also essential. Factoring in the various learning styles and using different tools to assist the growth process is important for the coach and this will usually derive from a close relationship between the parents and coach.
The coach needs a clear philosophy and an understanding of the pathway ahead. If they display commitment to the process of your child’s development and future success, both on and off the court, you are in good hands.
Conrad Singh is the Chief Executive Officer of Tennis & Director of Coaching at Centercourt Club & Sports. He has held Head Coach and Director positions in Australia, England, Japan and China, and has been involved in professional tennis player development for well over two decades. Coach Adam Borr is a PTR Professional with decades in the industry and is the Orange Ball Lead Coach at Centercourt Tennis Academy. He has vast experience in developing the key skills for young players and has lived the pathway with his own children, helping to take them to the top of the game nationally.