My kids started their tennis lessons more than three years ago when they were around the age of 7. As beginners, I had tried playing some tennis with them i.e. basically tossing the ball around for them to catch. However, given time commitments, I decided to send them to group tennis lessons organised by the local tennis body in Singapore. Having been with the group lessons for a few years now, I had the opportunity to observe what kind of attributes a good coach would require:
I found that the most critical element that a good tennis coach would need is ample patience. This is important as most beginners may not know how to hit the tennis ball as not everyone is blessed with sound ball sense. Some are just not able to co-ordinate themselves that well. Therefore, the tennis coach must be able to discern amongst the students who are more naturally inclined towards ball games versus those who are not so naturally gifted. Having sorted this out, the good coach would know how to impart patience when coaching different types of students. For younger kids, patience is especially more critical. I have seen coaches showing a ‘black’ face after each coaching session due to frustration in not seeing their younger charges being able to hit the ball. Such expressions of mild anger must not be shown.
2. Technical Skills
This is always a given. To be a good coach, one has to have a certain level of tennis skills. This can be picked up through the coach’s years of playing as a junior player. Also, a good coach would take courses and improve himself as well constantly. In Singapore, a qualified coach should have at least a STA level 1 coaching certification. Therefore, always ask your coach’s qualifications. Do not be shy to do so since you are paying for his services.
3. Coaching Experience
Nothing beats experience. It cannot be bought or taught in school. Therefore, a good coach would usually be in the business of coaching for at least 10 years or more. These are what you would call ‘seasoned’ coaches. They would be coaching the schools’ tennis teams, some also coach the youth elite squads or various kids’ group lessons by STA. Again, do ask your coach for his coaching experience.
4. Communication Skills
This is very important as a coach with good communication skills is able to impart his technical know-how to his charges effectively and efficiently. This will allow the students to improve much faster. Therefore, always talk to your coach to see if you are able to understand or comprehend what he wishes you to do.
5. Keen eye
A good tennis coach must also have a keen eye in order to be able to spot problems in his students strokes and therefore, able to correct or tweak such minute changes to the strokes. A keen eye, in my opinion, is like a sixth sense. Good coaches would somehow be able to see things that someone else may not see. They are also able to communicate recommended changes to the students easily and simply.
6. Positive, firm and encouraging
I find that a good coach also has to consistently be positive and firm with his charges. This will make sure that the students heed his teaching and improve as a result of that. Being firm can be a ‘pain’ at times and some parents or even adults may not be able to take the ‘toughness’ of coaching. Nevertheless, the coach also needs to be encouraging all the time. Nothing beats a positive word. It is the antidote for our soul.
Well, I sincerely hope you can use the above as a checklist when sounding out or reviewing your would be tennis coach. Happy playing!