Are you Teaching to Play or Teaching to Hit?

A common coaching mistake is to confuse technical training with coaching tennis. Technical training focuses on improving the form of the swing (Close the racket, shorten the backswing, wrist back, etc.) while coaching tennis is a much more holistic approach that focuses on helping players win more matches.

There are many reasons players take tennis lessons. Some want to improve, some want to exercise, some want to play points, and some are looking to socialize. However, as coaches, it is important to keep in mind that most people prefer winning over losing and that players who realize they are constantly improving their match play performance will remain motivated and will continue to play and take lessons. While players who feel stuck are likely to play less or totally quit. Therefore, if you want to succeed as a coach, teach to play!

Here are some of the things that coaches who teach how to play do:

They teach beginners to serve and rally with each other right away so that they can start playing with other players as soon as possible.

They rally with their students, feeding only rarely or in very specific circumstances.

They offer lots of opportunities to learn in group settings rather than private lessons.

They correct other sources of mistakes besides a faulty swing path focusing on fundamentals: Balance, rhythm, focus, footwork, relaxed intensity, etc.

They help students make the connection between the swing the students are practicing and how to apply it during point play.

They teach all the strokes and stroke variations (different heights, lengths, spins, speeds) so that players feel comfortable anywhere on the court.

They help their students learn to adapt to different types of balls by exposing them to a variety of spins, speeds, heights, and directions.

They teach their students the tactical fundamentals of the game in singles and doubles by exposing their students to all the situations they will face during match play.

They teach their students to anticipate by explaining what players should expect in different situations.

They work on specialty shots and uncommon situations such as drop shots, serve and volley, return and volley, defensive lobs, and swinging volleys, etc.

Coaches often play points with their students or promote point play in group lessons to help players perform better during match play.

They understand the mental aspect of the game and give their students the tools to play consistently under pressure.

They encourage their students to play matches with players of all levels, especially against players whose playing style bothers them, to help them figure out how to succeed against uncomfortable playing styles.

They teach their students how to handle difficult situations such as windy conditions, uncomfortable opponents, bad bounces, bad calls, etc.

In other words, teach how to play the game better, not just how to hit the ball better. Teach to Play!