There are 71 registered Tennis Australia tennis coaches in a 15km radius of Adelaide’s CBD. There are many more that aren’t registered with Tennis Australia. So…there are so many around, but how do you choose the right tennis coach?
To ensure that you as a parent won’t waste valuable development time for your child, and money, there are some important aspects that you need to consider before choosing your child’s tennis coach. Below I have listed what I believe are the most important aspects when choosing a tennis coach. I will then go into more depth on each point.
What parents should look for when choosing a tennis coach for their child:
- What are their qualifications and are they recommended?
- Do they continue to engage in professional development?
- How much experience has the coach had in coaching, especially the level your child is at?
- Technical knowledge – analysis and correction
- Do they follow a long-term athlete development plan, or are they a “results” coach?
- Will the coach care about my child?
- They keep sessions fun, engaged and challenging
- Do they communicate well with you, the parent?
1. Qualifications and Recommendations (Word of Mouth)
Does the prospective coach have a recognised coaching qualification? When becoming a tennis coach one of the first things to do is go through the Tennis Australia Coaching courses to become qualified, insured, first aid certified and child screened.
Word of mouth is one of the best ways to get some feedback on your prospective tennis coach. If the coach has a track record in developing players, clubs and programs it’s highly likely they are able to positively impact your child’s tennis development. This is at all levels of tennis;
- The coaches enables development of fundamental and perceptual motor skills at a beginner level (ANZ Tennis Hot Shots)
- Impacting junior players to progress into local junior club competition
- A child who is progressing through the various tournament levels (Junior Development Series, white, silver, gold and platinum Junior Tours)
Recommendations, social proof and results of other kids are a good start in selecting a coach.
After a tennis coach has achieved their qualifications, Tennis Australia offers plenty of professional development opportunities. This is very important for coaches to continue to grow professionally. A tennis coach’s willingness to stay abreast with the latest coaching techniques ensures that your child receives the highest quality tennis coaching.
Would you want your child coached by someone who hasn’t participated in any professional development for 10 or more years!
3. How much experience has the coach had coaching?
Does the coach have previous experience as a tennis coach? Also, does the coach offer a wide range of program for all ages and abilities, from beginners through to high performance?
Experience in coaching at your child’s level is important when selecting your coach. Education is only the first step in gaining experience in tennis coaching.
- How long has the coach been coaching the programs and level your child is currently at?
- Does the coach have the experience and expertise to continue to develop your child through the development pathway and journey your child is on?
4. Technical knowledge – analysis & correction
For parents, without a tennis background, how do you asses the coaches technical knowledge, ability to analyse and develop you child’s game? First you must look at the type of coach they are… are they the dictator, the babysitter or the teacher?
- Has the coach undertaken the right education process, and do they value ongoing professional development?
- Does the coach ask the right questions so your child develops the ability to problem solve and have an understanding of the “why?” as opposed to being told
- Does the coach use video analysis (such as the Technique App), visual aids such as pictures and comparisons to help your child learn?
There is no one absolute way of teaching tennis, but there are key fundamental principals that need to be taken into account by the coach for all players of all levels.
- What is your coach’s philosophy and are they strong in imparting their development plan for each individual as they progress?
- Is the coach passionate about teaching tennis and is all about the individual needs of the child?
5. Do they follow a long-term athlete development plan, or are they a “results” coach?
When you were a child, what was your experience with sport? When you participated in PE classes, team sports or swimming lessons – was it fun? Did you learn skills? And did it make you want to keep playing?
If designed properly, children’s sport can be fun. It can also provide exciting challenges and substantial skill development.If we make it fun, challenging and instructive, we can expect two results:
- More of our children will stay physically active with tennis throughout their lifetime.
- More of our children will reach the top ranks of amateur and professional competition if they choose the path for elite training.
The goal of tennis coaches should be to focus on the best interests of kids, and not on the goals of themselves or parents who simply want to win at all costs.
6. Will the coach care about my child?
The coach/player relationship is crucial when selecting your child’s tennis coach. The student has to feel comfortable, welcomed and safe to interact with the coach and other students. A great way to know if your child is in the right environment is to have a free trial session or watch a couple of lessons being delivered at the club. You can also speak with other parents at the club while you watch.
7. Are the sessions fun, engaging and challenging?
This is something you will observe at the venue. How do the tennis coaches interact with the children before their lesson? Are the children engaged in their activities/tasks on the tennis court to continue stimulation through fun? The child will always learn and develop faster if they are enjoying their time on the tennis court. This is another aspect where word of mouth and testimonials play an informative role.
8. Do they communicate well with you, the parent?
Communication often is what sets coaches apart in all sports, at all levels. The key things, as parents you should be looking for in effective communication towards your child are;
- Clarity (understand the purpose of the message)
- The communication is timely
- Has a positive approach, not judgmental
- The communicator has an understanding of the receiver
- Feedback (send & receive – two way dialogue)
The other aspect of communication with your coach is communication to you, as the parent. This needs to be open, honest and realistic.