Is tennis your passion? Do you love being on the court all the time? If yes, a career as a tennis coach might be right for you! Coaching tennis is a gratifying job, giving you the chance to not only teach the game to young and adult players, but also to inspire, motivate, and even change lives.
So, what does it take to become a great tennis coach?
How to Become a Great Tennis Coach
Your experience and level of play will be an important factor in your tennis coaching career. Most tennis instructors have played tennis for many years, often since they were kids, and have also competed at a high level. However, some tennis coaches don’t have the same level of experience. If you aspire to become a “high performance” tennis coach, you’ll need to take into account your level of experience and play to determine if you have what it takes to coach “high performance” players. You don’t have to be a professional tennis player to become a great coach, but the more experience you have, the better your chances for success.
To become a college tennis coach, a bachelor’s degree, and in many cases, experience competing for a college team is often a prerequisite. Some college coaches begin their career as a graduate assistant, volunteer, or assistant coach to gain the knowledge necessary to coach a team. You can also apply for internships where available to gain more experience to further your career.
Get formal training
Even though going through formal training and certification is not always a pre-requisite to starting your tennis coaching career, many tennis clubs may require you to do this. Having training and certification also helps to show your potential clients that you’ve done your homework.
There are various tennis teaching and certifying organizations. Some of the major ones are the Professional Tennis Registry (PTR) and United States Professional Tennis Association (USPTA). After going through the provided education materials and passing their written and on-court tests, you can become a certified member of these organizations. Additional benefits of being an accredited member are liability insurance, discounts on equipment and services, continuing education opportunities, and job search.
Continue educating yourself
The tennis industry continues to evolve, including aspects like racket technology, court surfaces, software products, player technique, and style. With so many changes and advancements in the sport, it’s imperative for tennis coaches to continuously educate themselves and stay up-to-date with the state of the industry and tennis technology.
You should also consider implementing new cutting-edge technologies into your teaching. Sophisticated, smart equipment such as KITRIS-KIT, Dartfish, and PlaySight smart courts that are designed to transform matches and practices into fully interactive, shareable events. This equipment helps with measuring player performance and providing valuable analysis. You also have tennis ball machines (Lobster, Tennis Cube) to help practice tennis strokes through repetition, training aids (TopspinPro, ServeMaster, EyeCoach) to help players feel what coaches try to teach, and sensors that attach to rackets (Zepp, BabolatPLAY, Sony Smart Sensor) and smart garments (Ralph Lauren Polo Tech Shirt) that collect and record training data.
Tennis educational materials are widely available online, in books, as well as in the form of tennis coaching workshops. With access to phone apps, training software, and online teaching videos, you can conveniently find inexpensive (and sometimes free) instruction. A well-rounded education makes for a valuable, well-informed instructor.
Develop strong communication and listening skills
Communication is a vital skill for a tennis coach since you’re not only an instructor that teaches the basic rules of the sport but also a motivator and cheerleader (but maybe without the pom poms). You must be able to clearly communicate all the information you wish to convey to your players in a way that’s easily understood. Focus not only on the content of your message but also on how others can interpret the message.
For example, you could say “Tomorrow we’ll work on footwork,” but what you mean to say is “Tomorrow we’ll focus on the technical aspects of executing the footwork drills we did last week.” Your students, however, may interpret that message as tomorrow being a tough fitness day or might say to themselves, “Coach thinks I’m not quick enough.” You can see how such miscommunication can have an emotional impact on the student. Make sure you’re always clear on what your players are meant to achieve and how you intend to contribute to that process.
Both verbal and nonverbal communication is important when coaching tennis or any other sport. By the same token, your students also communicate verbally and nonverbally, and you can learn to be an effective listener and a better coach by observing those signs. Athletes often respond positively to coaches that observe and notice good performance and efforts and don’t respond well to those that criticize without guidance and instruct only after mistakes.
Have leadership, time management, and organizational skills
As a tennis coach, you’re a leader and authority figure, and most of your players will follow any developmental path you choose for them. Because of that, it’s important you lead them down a successful path. Having a bad attitude towards your organization, colleagues, umpires, as well as other players and coaches, can only lead to one thing – your players behaving the same way. Turning up late, failing to bring equipment, and being unenthusiastic about practice would also give your players a reason to feed off those negative actions. As a result, poor performance and attitude will be reflected on the court. As a tennis coach, you must set an example and strive to improve the drive of your athletes towards achieving their goals continuously.
Organizational and time management skills are also crucial for a tennis coach to guide the team through a season of practices and matches. Use practice plans and drills prepared in advance, as well as calendars on your phone and/or notebook to keep your schedule and players organized.
You’ve probably heard the phrase “You’ll catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.”
The same applies to coaching. When you’re a positive coach with a good attitude you’ll get better results from players and even attract more students to your program. One thing most tennis players have in common is that they need a good dose of positive energy from their tennis coach.
There’s no doubt that coaches need to be tough on players to prepare them for difficult on-court situations. However, it’s crucial to do this in a positive way to help students with their confidence, guide them through setbacks, and teach them how to become comfortable failing (when missing shots or losing matches, for example).
Practice makes perfect
It’s hard to imagine becoming good at anything without hard work and dedication. Aiming to do a little better every day will be the key to your success. So, get on the tennis court, use your passion to work on your coaching skills, and help develop the next generation of players and fans.
Start Your Tennis Coaching Career Today
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