Selecting a tennis coach that fits you and your family is not an easy task.
Reasonably, many simply look for convenience.
“Oh, this coach is local, I’ll give them a call!”
I don’t think anyone can blame them.
Especially when the pressures of work, routines, errands, and family-life can make driving a few hours a week to find the “right” pro a huge bother.
But that does not take away from a truth we all must face – all tennis coaches are not the same, are not equal, and they never will be.
There are a lot of things to consider when it comes to selecting a tennis coach for your child, and a lot of it is not immediately obvious. Luckily, after you read this, you’ll know exactly what to look for to give your child the best opportunity possible!
We’re going to split this up into two groups. Starting and Competitive. If your child is actively participating in competitive tennis, their needs are vastly different than if they’re just starting out or simply doing it for fun.
It doesn’t matter when your child starts playing tennis, the first year is arguably the most critical part of their career.
Simple. If their experience is not positive, that is they are not enjoying themselves, they’re just not going to want to pick up a racquet again.
A lot of sports, including tennis, faces this difficulty. 90% of those that start playing as kids will quit by the time they finish high school.
But when you focus on enjoyment, fun, and achievement (because people have more fun as they succeed), you’ll have your kids playing the game longer.
Here are 5 key components for you to consider when choosing the right tennis coach for your beginner child:
Key 1 – Peers
The impact your child’s peers have on them is tremendous. Both good and bad. This impact is only magnified through sports.
Try to find a facility or coach that has kids already enrolled around your child’s age. Bonus points if you can actually find someone in the class that your child already knows.
Key 2 – Fun
Tennis needs to be fun. No question about it. When you’re checking out a group lesson, look closely at the kids’ faces. Are they smiling? Are they having a good time? Can you tell they’re happy to be there?
And listen. There should be talking and laughing and maybe even a little bit of chaos. If you see a line of unenthusiastic kids with sullen faces like they’re being punished, it’s because they are.
Key 3 – Creativity
Tennis is just not interesting to kids at first.
Look at the court. A few white lines across an open green space and on the other side, the exact same thing. It’s boring for kids at first.
The fun of tennis comes from being able to consistently move a ball around. But it takes kids a while before they develop this skill.
So, to make it fun and inviting, you need to find a facility or coach that is creative.
Fun, interesting games with lots of visuals can not only be interesting to the kids, but it can also be secretly teaching them core skills that will help them later on.
Key 4 – Cooperative Learning
We’ve all seen a tennis court where there are four kids in a line, waiting for their turn, with the coach on the other side of the net, yelling instructions, and sending balls over.
This is not the kind of coaching kids need.
Look for a coach that has those four students feeding balls to each other as the coach is interacting with the kids, freely, going from student to student to correct behavior and encourage them.
Now the kids are hitting much more often, it’s more fun, and it’s simply a more effective drill. Some line drills are fine, but if every single drill is like this, that’s a big concern.
Key 5 – Self-esteem
Self-esteem is a big factor if children continue playing a sport. Simply put, if they’re not gaining self-esteem by playing, then they are very likely to quit.
When you are picking a coach for your child, ask yourself, are they someone that can really help your child’s self-esteem? Are they aware of how important that is?
When you’re checking out a lesson, simply ask yourself if the kids are given a chance to succeed more than they fail. That will give you the answer if this coach could be right for you or not.
Once your child starts the competitive phase of junior tennis, you are among the elite number of parents that have to balance another set of considerations in selecting the right coach. This is a vastly more complex world than the beginner phase.
You have to definitely consider everything we already mentioned, but now you have 3 more imperative factors you need to consider.
Key 1 – Success Breeds Success
It may not be the first thing you think of when choosing a new coach, but you want to find one that has a track record of keeping students in their program for long periods of time.
This is actually harder than it sounds. Successful tennis coaches tend to get promoted into administrative positions, leaving less experienced coaches without a track record to handle the everyday minutiae.
This means you need to do more than just research a facility, but also the coaches themselves, to ensure you’ll find someone that will continue their education for years to come.
Key 2 – Mentor Program
I have seen how effective and underutilized mentor programs can be. The best junior programs have many levels of players and the mentor program allows the older, more talented players to spend some supervised time each week working with the younger players.
This creates an environment of high motivation, inspiration, and personal connections for the younger players while encouraging them to do the same once they are of age, continuing this power cycle of growth and cooperation.
Key 3 – Effort Over Results
Most younger players won’t make it to play at the high school level. And they are even less likely to play in college. Tennis is an important tool for children that promotes health, develops healthy competition, and forms interpersonal skills. For that alone, tennis is more than worth it for young children.
The best coaches understand this, and while still encouraging children to succeed, they recognize how important effort is.
The more that effort and attitude are rewards for your child, the stronger a foundation your child will form that can impact the rest of their life. If too much emphasis is placed on winning and losing, the more likely your child will have a negative experience.
Choosing a tennis coach should be a carefully considered task. It’s not like picking out a mechanic. It’s more like choosing a doctor. This person will have a huge impact on your child’s life. Hopefully, this post will help you make it less coincidental and a little more scientific.
A great starting point when determining the right coach is to first discover where your player is at.
You can do that by having them take their own personalized player growth assessment right here!
Kalindi Dinoffer is trained in multiple aspects of mindfulness in life and in sports, sharing on her blog MindfulKalindi.com. She is also certified to teach yoga, fitness, reiki, and MFR. Kalindi also serves as VP marketing at OnCourtOffCourt.com, a leading supplier of tennis, pickleball, fitness and yoga training aids and equipment and has been published in Tennis industry Magazine and Pickleball Magazine, and has conducted workshops at conferences around the world. In her spare time, Kalindi plays tennis, pickleball and table tennis and enjoys outdoor activities such as hiking and biking and cross country skiing in the winter.