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View Full Version : The real value of coaches and lessons


KenC
11-24-2009, 11:21 PM
I see a lot of posts here downplaying the need for coaches and lessons. I fully understand if there are some who are totally anti-authoritarian and prefer to do their own path at any cost. But there are many people, myself included, who have realized the benefits of lessons with qualified coaches. But, many people don't fully understand how to benefit from them. Here are a few pointers I have learned:

1. Use the coach for instruction, not as a sparring partner. A good coach will show you good form, but it is a waste of his time and your money to keep him occupied with your practice. A lesson should be followed up with a lot of independent practice with a ball machine, a wall, or an sparring partner who understands that you are trying to improve some element of your game.

2. Don't keep a rigid time schedule for lessons. I take a lesson and then go out and do independent practice until I got it down, or I run into difficulties, and then I call for another lesson. On the subsequent lesson, I let the coach see my improvement and have him see if there are any minor problems to correct. Then I move on to the next weakness in my game. So, you may find that you are taking lessons twice a month, or twice a week depending on how much independent practice you put in and how fast you want to advance.

3. Coaches are great for setting up combinations of play. Serve and volley, approach shots and net play, hitting a ball wide, then following up with a drop shot to the open court (a la Djokovic). Against a real opponent this is more difficult to learn properly, but a good lesson with a coach who feeds easy balls and helps you establish the footwork and everything else involved is very helpful. Then go out and practice against real opponents.

4. Strategy against different player types. Hate those pushers? Ask the coach to help you with techniques that frustrate those pushers. Its the same with how to react against moonballers. He can also help you react to better players, for example, how to keep better players from advancing to the net, or how to play against crushing baseliners.

5. Use the coach's knowledge of many different local players to suggest sparring partners for practice and good opponents for matches. For example, you want to improve your passing shots so he can suggest a few sessions with someone he knows who loves to rush the net. Or if you want to improve your return of serve, he can suggest someone with a great serve.

6. You do not have to marry your coach. If a coach can't help you with any of the above, then find a better coach for that task. There is nothing wrong with using the services of more than one coach as well. One coach may be a great coach for baseline play, another for net play. Another may be a specialist in serves.

In the end, a good coach and lessons are there only to help us advance more quickly, and safely, than we can on our own. They are just a tool that we have to learn how to use effectively and efficiently.

LeeD
11-25-2009, 07:48 AM
"a tool to learn"
So, are you a teacher, an engineer, a lawyer, or a doctor ?

KenC
11-25-2009, 10:26 AM
"a tool to learn"
So, are you a teacher, an engineer, a lawyer, or a doctor ?

Maybe "resource" is a better word choice!

Steady Eddy
11-25-2009, 11:55 AM
You're right but shouldn't the pro be taking the initiative in showing the player how to get the most out of the relationship? I'm mean, THEY'RE supposed to be the expert. Often I've taken lessons and the pro is passive, just rallying with me and waiting for me to probe to find out how to improve my game.

Alot of pros are just content to hit with you for a half hour and say, "get your racquet back", or "keep your eye on the ball". I'm afraid that alot of pros (and students) simply assume than anyone who is a great player will be at least a good teacher, but that's not so.

KenC
11-25-2009, 09:48 PM
You're right but shouldn't the pro be taking the initiative in showing the player how to get the most out of the relationship? I'm mean, THEY'RE supposed to be the expert. Often I've taken lessons and the pro is passive, just rallying with me and waiting for me to probe to find out how to improve my game.

Alot of pros are just content to hit with you for a half hour and say, "get your racquet back", or "keep your eye on the ball". I'm afraid that alot of pros (and students) simply assume than anyone who is a great player will be at least a good teacher, but that's not so.

I think we don't have to revere coaches and we should be much more vocal when we don't feel we are getting our money's worth. I know that there are a lot of "coaches" out there giving "lessons" that really don't care. Those coaches don't deserve our money.

With my current coach I outlined my goals before we even started. I told him I haven't played seriously for the last 25 years but had great coaching when I was a teenager. His job is to help me get my form, footwork and accuracy back. I demonstrated to him that I was serious and he is serious with his lessons. I feel I get my money's worth. If I didn't, well, you can't swing a dead cat without hitting a tennis coach these days. I'd move on.

Bottom line is, we have to make sure our coaches earn our money. Those that don't should look for other means of employment.

Ripper014
11-25-2009, 10:09 PM
I think we don't have to revere coaches and we should be much more vocal when we don't feel we are getting our money's worth. I know that there are a lot of "coaches" out there giving "lessons" that really don't care. Those coaches don't deserve our money.

With my current coach I outlined my goals before we even started. I told him I haven't played seriously for the last 25 years but had great coaching when I was a teenager. His job is to help me get my form, footwork and accuracy back. I demonstrated to him that I was serious and he is serious with his lessons. I feel I get my money's worth. If I didn't, well, you can't swing a dead cat without hitting a tennis coach these days. I'd move on.

Bottom line is, we have to make sure our coaches earn our money. Those that don't should look for other means of employment.

I think you went about it the right way by setting goals. It is hard to provide lessons to a given person because expectations are different from person to person. It could be a specific issue such as their backhand and it depends on the level of expectation. Do you want to be able to play with your husband/wife or are you serious and want play tournies and leagues.

Then you need to access their physical abilities... do they match the players expectations... so much to consider.

But a good instructor should as out front what their students expectations are... and what exactly it is they want to achieve from their lessons.

And your coach can only take you so far... at some point you will probably need to move on to someone else.

JISTUINS
11-26-2009, 05:54 PM
I would also add, especially here for high school tennis for juniors, that since tennis is largely mental, the coach for juniors/high schools needs to be a large part of mental "manipulation" (I can't find the right word... support? motivator? counselor? drill sargeant? first aid doctor/rehabilitator?). Knowing one's players and knowing their mental rhythms are key to finally psyche the player for their best performance which ay require a well-planned strategy leading up to tournaments (ie. really tough two weeks prior, really encouraging one week prior, depending on what works for your kids). And sometimes, their are external factors (ie. family related problems) that might need to be solved or talked out for heightened on-court concentration. Well, I guess, to sum up, I would add "mental muse" to the original list.

KenC
11-26-2009, 09:48 PM
You're absolutely right. Team coaches are often another breed from the typical "lessons" coach. My HS coach was amazing in his ability to train and motivate. I highly suggest to all young players to try out for their HS team, especially if it has a good coach.