Coaching the Person Not the Talent


As long as there has been sport, there has been coaching. Coaching is an occupation that requires several specific qualities that continue to evolve as sport and in this particular case, tennis, continue to change year after year. A great coach must be passionate, direct, knowledgeable, sincere, disciplined, motivational and most importantly trustworthy.

Often times in the tennis world and in other sports, coaches get caught up in teaching the “talent” instead of the human being. It’s so easy for many coaches to focus on the technique of forehands and backhands or to explain in great detail about the consequences of certain shot selections on the court, yet one of the most overlooked areas is coaching the person. Helping someone develop a solid work ethic, self confidence, and self belief can all be achieved through teaching the game across all sports. Without these specific qualities, athletes can’t perform under the high stress and high pressure environment that they face in modern sports today. From the moment a youngster starts up in a sport, there’s a battle to see who’s the best on the block or in school or in the city and the pressure only becomes tougher on the athlete as the stage becomes larger. Competition is everywhere and the athlete must possess the ability to handle it.

As a coach, there are moments in which part of the art is about stroking a student’s ego or at certain times helping a student focus on reality in good ways and bad. In other situations, sometimes coaches have to deal with specific deep questions about the inner drive and focus on a goal. And it goes even deeper when the student asks why and how they got to the position they’re in. Look back into history and you’ll notice one very consistent quality that all great athletes possess, curiosity. It is curiosity in great athletes that fuels their desire to push and break the limits and boundaries of world records, grand slam titles, and history. It is that same curiosity that empowers a young child to pick up a tennis racquet for the first time and in the teen aged athlete it is that curiosity of how far they can go in their sport that separates them from their competition.

It’s the job of the coach to help cultivate and inspire that curiosity, yet many times we only see one aspect or one style of the game that is being taught. Each person has a different way of being coached and there’s never just one set way of becoming a great tennis player. There are several pieces to building and developing a talented tennis player/athlete and one of the most overlooked pieces is working with the human being. Without working on the person, an athlete’s talent will never realize its full potential. In sports, when an athlete’s foundation is solid AND they possess extraordinary talent, we call them champions.

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