Lone Coach needs help

ryushen21

Legend
Hey Everyone,

I took over as the head coach at a small high school last year and am currently working on building the program up. But I'm definitely hitting some struggles this year since I am the only tennis coach and have no assistant to help me out.

The issue I'm running into is that I have two groups of players: one that is developed enough to be able to practice independently but still needs and wants feedback to develop further and another that is still very new to the game and needs constant attention and feedback. If I set up the more experienced players to do a drill or do match play, I'm not able to watch them and provide feedback because I have to focus on working with the new players. And if I work with the experienced players, the new players are developing bad habits that I then have to go back and try to correct.

I'm pulled in both directions and feel like I'm struggling to meet the needs of both groups of players. I can't clone myself and I'm still a few players short of what my AD has told me I need to have in order for him to consider giving me an assistant.

Has anyone else been in this kind of situation and can provide me with some guidance?
 

Purestriker

Semi-Pro
Hey Everyone,

I took over as the head coach at a small high school last year and am currently working on building the program up. But I'm definitely hitting some struggles this year since I am the only tennis coach and have no assistant to help me out.

The issue I'm running into is that I have two groups of players: one that is developed enough to be able to practice independently but still needs and wants feedback to develop further and another that is still very new to the game and needs constant attention and feedback. If I set up the more experienced players to do a drill or do match play, I'm not able to watch them and provide feedback because I have to focus on working with the new players. And if I work with the experienced players, the new players are developing bad habits that I then have to go back and try to correct.

I'm pulled in both directions and feel like I'm struggling to meet the needs of both groups of players. I can't clone myself and I'm still a few players short of what my AD has told me I need to have in order for him to consider giving me an assistant.

Has anyone else been in this kind of situation and can provide me with some guidance?
No and that is a very tough situation. However, I would invest in your top performers (spend more time with them) and have the beginners do some homework (get lessons).
 

ryushen21

Legend
No and that is a very tough situation. However, I would invest in your top performers (spend more time with them) and have the beginners do some homework (get lessons).
That was the situation that I ran into last year. I focused more on my varsity players because the reality is they are the ones that have the higher stakes. But then I ended up having a few players choose not to play this year because they felt they didn't get enough instruction to improve.

It's a real rock and a hard place.
 

sureshs

Bionic Poster
No and that is a very tough situation. However, I would invest in your top performers (spend more time with them) and have the beginners do some homework (get lessons).
Is it ethical for a public school coach to explicitly ask students to take private lessons?
 

heninfan99

Talk Tennis Guru
Hey Everyone,

I took over as the head coach at a small high school last year and am currently working on building the program up. But I'm definitely hitting some struggles this year since I am the only tennis coach and have no assistant to help me out.

The issue I'm running into is that I have two groups of players: one that is developed enough to be able to practice independently but still needs and wants feedback to develop further and another that is still very new to the game and needs constant attention and feedback. If I set up the more experienced players to do a drill or do match play, I'm not able to watch them and provide feedback because I have to focus on working with the new players. And if I work with the experienced players, the new players are developing bad habits that I then have to go back and try to correct.

I'm pulled in both directions and feel like I'm struggling to meet the needs of both groups of players. I can't clone myself and I'm still a few players short of what my AD has told me I need to have in order for him to consider giving me an assistant.

Has anyone else been in this kind of situation and can provide me with some guidance?
Did you get any certifications like PTR??? This should be covered in the curriculum.
 

Injured Again

Hall of Fame
Try to find a friend who may be willing to help out. I don't think it's possible formone person to give enough attention to that many players.

There are some long time coaches here who have given lots of their time to high school athletes. The first one who comes to mind is @SteveI who can give you advice as he did for me.
 

ryushen21

Legend
Try to find a friend who may be willing to help out. I don't think it's possible formone person to give enough attention to that many players.

There are some long time coaches here who have given lots of their time to high school athletes. The first one who comes to mind is @SteveI who can give you advice as he did for me.
There are some hoops to jump through with that. But it may be a good option.
 
Is it ethical for a public school coach to explicitly ask students to take private lessons?
Yes, as long he is not making money with them.

The way to go would be to tell them they are currently not quite good enough and would need some lessons to improve their game to a point where they can compete at that level
 

LOBALOT

Hall of Fame
I really think your situation is not unique. Most high school teams are a mix of tennis players and athletes that pick up a racquet during the season and play. You as a coach will take your team as far as you can develop those athletes into doubles players and they will require a majority of your time.

Your singles players and most likely your most senior singles player is the team captain. Have him/her play a role and coordinating the singles players in match play during practices. Start practice with a discussion with the singles players about the objectives for practice have them focus on that objective during the hitting session (i.e. coming in finishing points, shot patterns, etc.). At the end of the practice have a wrap up and ask them the lesson's learned, areas of improvement, next steps, etc. If they have questions during the session to discuss it with the team captain.

Meanwhile, you work with the dubs players on things they need help with... perhaps serving, ground strokes, volleys (very important), positioning/moving together/teamwork (very important), more basic tennis strokes, etc.

Start each practice with a discussion with the entire team on an objective/goal for each practice and wrap practice up with accomplishments, logistics for the next match, etc. I would also stress to the team that there are umpteen of them and one of you. Any goofing off will not be tolerated in order make practice as efficient as possible for everyone.

It would be great if you had an assistant coach but not every school can afford one.
 

eah123

Semi-Pro
I'm not a school coach, but my dream would be to become one if given the opportunity. So I've put some thought into your questions before on what to do if I were a HS tennis coach.

As already suggested, I would definitely try to recruit some assistant coaches from the community to help out as volunteers. When I attended HS, I was on the wrestling team. I'm fairly certain that the assistant coaches were not paid, but they clearly had a passion for the sport and enjoyed being a part of the team.

Next, if you have some strong players, it would be good to make them Captains, and let them know that Captains are expected to help run practices - basically act as assistant coaches.

Third, I would divide the players into "singles" and "doubles" players, as the skill set is very different.

I'm a strong believe that singles players need to have good strokes, and have good foot speed, but don't really need to have much strategic knowledge. Consistency is key in singles. These kids will be the more experienced players who started young and have had private coaching. Kids who are new to the sport should not be allowed in this group.

Doubles players will be everyone else, and perhaps a few experienced kids who prefer doubles, and the rest being the kids who have less experience but are hopefully athletic. Good doubles players need to know proper positioning, movement, and where to hit to, but can survive with poorer strokes as long as they are in the right place to get to the ball. This is where I would focus the majority of my coaching as the greatest opportunity for improvement.

I would have the singles players group work with the assistant coach(es) and/or captains, and basically do match play during the practice. Ask each kid to keep track of what they need help with individually, and find some time either before or after the main practice to address it.

For the doubles players, I would spend time teaching/drilling the Dynamite Doubles system (covered in the book by Helle Sparre).
 

Injured Again

Hall of Fame
There are some hoops to jump through with that. But it may be a good option.
Absolutely. I was going to be a volunteer coach the year that Covid hit. You have to pass a background check among other things. I also was a junior USTA team coach for six or seven years from the time my son was 12 until he was 18. Some things that were very innocently done back then would be severely frowned upon or questioned today, like giving a carload of his female teammates a ride to away matches.

As far as the actual coaching, because this junior USTA team was composed of kids of members at our club and were probably in the junior tennis program, I worked primarily on using the strokes the kids had and to get them to think about game strategy, with a lesser focus on intent and intensity of footwork. The issue I found was that among the better players, even if they had what looked like easily fixable fundamental technique problems, they had played enough using those strokes that major fixes as often tended to result in a mix of old and new resulting in a worse outcome, as often as it helped. I'd work more with the lower level players to fix grip, preparation, footwork, and swing issues but only in very general ways and using the most conservative of stroke patterns.

It's a super worthwhile thing to give back. Best of luck.
 

nyta2

Professional
Hey Everyone,

I took over as the head coach at a small high school last year and am currently working on building the program up. But I'm definitely hitting some struggles this year since I am the only tennis coach and have no assistant to help me out.

The issue I'm running into is that I have two groups of players: one that is developed enough to be able to practice independently but still needs and wants feedback to develop further and another that is still very new to the game and needs constant attention and feedback. If I set up the more experienced players to do a drill or do match play, I'm not able to watch them and provide feedback because I have to focus on working with the new players. And if I work with the experienced players, the new players are developing bad habits that I then have to go back and try to correct.

I'm pulled in both directions and feel like I'm struggling to meet the needs of both groups of players. I can't clone myself and I'm still a few players short of what my AD has told me I need to have in order for him to consider giving me an assistant.

Has anyone else been in this kind of situation and can provide me with some guidance?
just brainstorming off the top of my head...
i would probably alternate my time with beginner/advanced... say 1h with beginner, and 1hr with advanced.
i would try to setup isolation drills/games that force them to focus on the thing you're focusing on (the game becomes self reinforcing). examples off the top of my head:
* for beginners, using a red ball, setup a game with cones on either side... (eg. center court, between baseline and service line). they drop feed to each other, and try to hit the cone... first to 3 wins. only critieria is that it must have topspin (opposing player to call it out)... test them to make sure they know what they are looking for (easy with a red ball)\
* for intermediate (eg. typically "adv" hs player is 3.5-4.)... just have them do a similar drill, say cc only, and see who can hit the cones, first to 5 wins... or make 2 teams compete against each other for "first to 10 in a row" wins
during your 1h with them you give them feedback... and keep it limited to 1-2 things max to focus on
make them all take notes, and record progress...
make them all own their own progress.

if you have to mix levels. make the goals different...
for a beginner, have them feed properly to adv, anywhere in the court (even outside the doubles alley), but make the adv hit a neutral ball back to only one side of the court.

or you just run it a big clinic... and feed out of the hopper... maybe feed to one side, then have another line on the other side... constantly switching and rotating.... and focus on 1 thing, and give them tips along the way, that they can follow up with you after practice.
 

Slicehand

Semi-Pro
Maybe put the new ones to play some game using only half the court, something like vollvey to volley and the ball cant bounce even once or go out of the service line, force them to use only continental, while they are doing this, they are getting used to have the raquet griped correctly and developing athleticism because they have to move so fast, they dont need to be watched a lot while doing that, in the meantime, you go with the more experienced ones and do some drills while correcting their texhnique and aproach, you can do different games with the new ones to teach them how to move all over the court and the grips they have to use, they need to build up a relationship with the raquet and the ball
 

badmice2

Semi-Pro
like group lessons, I dont think your goal is to help build foundations for your players - especially around techniques and stroke production. You will make corrections as needed, but your goal is to make sure the routine of fundamentals are adhere to - things like movement, awareness. I also think that your role as a coach is to make sure the players are ready for competition, this means focusing on strategy and execution based on player's ability (or partnership in dubs).

For the JV squad where they may need development, you can create drills and utilize players to hold each other accountable. As they say in PTR training it's a better hands off approach and promotes self learning and correction without needing your constant presence.

It's correct that PTR L1 and L2 does not cover team coaching, they do have some supplemental materials which does speak on the topic.
 

SystemicAnomaly

Talk Tennis Guru
Need to invest in the future -- to replace juniors and seniors who will move on in the next year or two.

Is it possible to have one or more of your varsity players or top JV players help to develop the JV team? For them, it can provide an opportunity to develop their own coaching skills -- if that is something they wish to persue.

Players who help to develop the lower level players will likely find that their own game & analyticals skills will benefit from the coaching experience.

This had been suggested to me back in the early/mid 1980s. I had been playing competitive badminton at a very high intermediate level and was hoping to find some high level coaching to get me up to a B level (2nd highest of five levels in CA). But such coaches were too expensive or did not speak English very well. And I was in my early thirties and most of the top coaches were interested in developing junior for the national team. One of the A players, who I knew quite well, suggested that I start coaching as a means to develop my own game. I discovered that this approach worked quite well. I also discovered the same thing when I started coaching more tennis later.
 

badmice2

Semi-Pro
like group lessons, I dont think your goal is to help build foundations for your players - especially around techniques and stroke production. You will make corrections as needed, but your goal is to make sure the routine of fundamentals are adhere to - things like movement, awareness. I also think that your role as a coach is to make sure the players are ready for competition, this means focusing on strategy and execution based on player's ability (or partnership in dubs).

For the JV squad where they may need development, you can create drills and utilize players to hold each other accountable. As they say in PTR training it's a better hands off approach and promotes self learning and correction without needing your constant presence.

It's correct that PTR L1 and L2 does not cover team coaching, they do have some supplemental materials which does speak on the topic.
within PTR, I know there's they offer Nick Bollettieri's Tennis in a Can workshop (at a discount) which covers team coach.

There's also free resource from USTA...
 

ryushen21

Legend
I set up a three-station rotation yesterday and it seemed to work pretty well. They were working on serves on one court, drop hitting groundstrokes on another, and the last court was hitting with the ball machine. It let me take a step back, observe, and provide feedback when needed. And, I got to see each group at each of the stations so the feedback was more targeted for specific activities. I'm going to do a similar setup today with targeting drills using cones.

Also, I'm going to invest in a tripod system so I can record video of the different drills and use that to show players what they're doing as I build them up to better awareness and self-correction.
 

Friedman Whip

Professional
I set up a three-station rotation yesterday and it seemed to work pretty well. They were working on serves on one court, drop hitting groundstrokes on another, and the last court was hitting with the ball machine. It let me take a step back, observe, and provide feedback when needed. And, I got to see each group at each of the stations so the feedback was more targeted for specific activities. I'm going to do a similar setup today with targeting drills using cones.

Also, I'm going to invest in a tripod system so I can record video of the different drills and use that to show players what they're doing as I build them up to better awareness and self-correction.
It sounds like you have made some huge steps toward getting your situation under control. For the last two seasons I have struggled with the same problem of how to try help out a whole bunch of players who all need help at the same time. My approach has been to initially spend more time with the weaker players up to speed asap so they might be able to do some work on their own. I'll say this has only been partially successful. In actuality I'd have to say hardly any of my players are capable of doing drills on their own. My kids drop hit balls for 10, 20, 30 minutes at a time? No way Jose.

And that brings up another question. I assume that you are talking about and after school session here that last say an hour or an hour and a half? And your kids are keeping focused and engaged throughout? I would say you should thank your lucky stars for the kids you have. And they cheerfully pick up all these balls that are scattered about? Wow. You don't need any advice from me. I need to come and observe how you do things at one of your practices.
 

ryushen21

Legend
It sounds like you have made some huge steps toward getting your situation under control. For the last two seasons I have struggled with the same problem of how to try help out a whole bunch of players who all need help at the same time. My approach has been to initially spend more time with the weaker players up to speed asap so they might be able to do some work on their own. I'll say this has only been partially successful. In actuality I'd have to say hardly any of my players are capable of doing drills on their own. My kids drop hit balls for 10, 20, 30 minutes at a time? No way Jose.

And that brings up another question. I assume that you are talking about and after school session here that last say an hour or an hour and a half? And your kids are keeping focused and engaged throughout? I would say you should thank your lucky stars for the kids you have. And they cheerfully pick up all these balls that are scattered about? Wow. You don't need any advice from me. I need to come and observe how you do things at one of your practices.
Yeah, it's a tough balancing act. What makes it harder is that if you focus on one group, the other feels neglected. So everyone has to get some attention and feedback at some point during practice.

Our practice runs for about an hour and a half each day once kids get changed out, stretched out, and then start on what we're practicing. They really do have a great attitude but the stations lasted about 8 minutes and they did two full rotations with water breaks built-in (48 minutes total). After that, we do some point-play-based games like king of the court or knockout so that they can try to apply concepts in as close to an actual game scenario as possible.

Are they always focused and engaged? Definitely not. Do they always have a good attitude? Does any teenager...

There is still a lot of room for improvement and that's what I'm working on. Making practice better so my players continue to grow and develop.
 

RVT

Rookie
The truth is, the Incredibly Annoying Poster isn't wrong. I think you have to have some realistic expectations as to what a high school tennis coach can actually accomplish, and what he can't accomplish.

In my own high school experience, we had 2 players that were solid D1 prospects, 2 guys good enough to play #2 dubs, and 4 or 5 guys who needed lots of feedback. I and the other good player on the team just practiced together and were completely ignored. It was assumed we'd train on our own to get better. And that's fine. There's simply no way a tennis coach can provide individual instruction for 9 kids. The coach worked a bit with the 2nd dubs team to try and help them out, since there was the most upside, and then he did some drills with the rest of the guys. He'd occasionally rotate in on of the 2nd tier guys to help lead a session w/the least experience kids, which maybe you could consider.

Bottom line though, no one is really going to improve much from the coaching they receive from a high school coach. So, what can you do? Keep things as organized as possible to maximize the time you have (both practice and match time), get the kids to the event safely, make sure they don't embarrass the school by acting like idiots (my own coach's toughest task). If you do that, you can consider yourself successful.
 

SteveI

Legend
Try to find a friend who may be willing to help out. I don't think it's possible for one person to give enough attention to that many players.

There are some long time coaches here who have given lots of their time to high school athletes. The first one who comes to mind is @SteveI who can give you advice as he did for me.
Hey IA:

Been away for sometime. I will send you an update soon. It is great fun to help as an assistant coach. Depending in what state you live and the school district you are trying to offer your help to, the hoops you need to jump through can be a bit much. NY State is one as one might guess is tough. I help both boys and girls teams in my home district as well as being paid at a D3 college now as an assistant. I did the head coaching gig for many years.. which is a ton of work if done right and limits your real "TENNIS" time. As an assistant you don't have the overhead of being the head coach and really can dig in for tennis. Love being an assistant... :cool:

I also pick up a few private students and stringing as a result. I do not offer those services as general rule but the parents and players find you if you have any skill as all. That is to say... I don't look for them.. they seem to find me..LOL.

You don't have to ride the bus, deal with parents/player behavior. As a non-paid assistant you don't get the massive check at the end of the season.. The money is a joke.. most of the guys in my age group helping out don't need the cash.. they need to stay engaged and love the game of tennis.

Regarding the money. One year.. I made $1,000 for a season. One year I made $4,000 before taxes.. and worked 450 hours for the entire year. I ran off season practices and a USTA JTT team to help my players get match play.

It is great fun if you can find a nice coach and program to work with. Drop me a PM if you want to chat off line.
 
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badmice2

Semi-Pro
Yeah, it's a tough balancing act. What makes it harder is that if you focus on one group, the other feels neglected. So everyone has to get some attention and feedback at some point during practice.

Our practice runs for about an hour and a half each day once kids get changed out, stretched out, and then start on what we're practicing. They really do have a great attitude but the stations lasted about 8 minutes and they did two full rotations with water breaks built-in (48 minutes total). After that, we do some point-play-based games like king of the court or knockout so that they can try to apply concepts in as close to an actual game scenario as possible.

Are they always focused and engaged? Definitely not. Do they always have a good attitude? Does any teenager...

There is still a lot of room for improvement and that's what I'm working on. Making practice better so my players continue to grow and develop.
Great to hear things are going in the right direction. I would also suggest to have themes for your practices - i.e. having 3 separate stations with a common theme like balance, correct foot work, etc - something high level they can latch onto. You won't win the fine tuning battle with the station approach, and honestly that shouldnt be your goal with the JV squad. Your goal is to simply promote good habits.

As for the Varsity squad, you should give them tactical drills where they can practice on their own - something like working on serve +1 finishing, finishing at the net, etc. - again with ideas they can use in-match, and more importantly work on something which maybe out of their comfort zone. You should scan to ensure your players are making good attempts and help guide them into how to execute.

For doing video, you may need to get consent prior to doing them; I imagine there will be sensitivity with parents/school.
 
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