As a parent, you want to do everything you can to watch your child grow and succeed. However, when you have certain limitations, it can be challenging to know which direction to take. For instance, while my son wanted to dabble in tennis, our location didn’t provide much in the way of training camps or available coaches.
Sure, while I have a history in sport (not tennis, but hockey), there are plenty of parents out there that decide to play a dual role in their child’s life: parent and coach – and while it’s not always ideal, sometimes, it’s the only option you have.
So, how does a parent become a tennis coach?
5 Tips to Help You Become the Tennis Coach Your Player Needs
Playing the dual role of a tennis coach and parent isn’t for everybody. I’d like to share with you what has worked for my son Cade and I the most. Again, while I have experience as a professional hockey player and coached hockey, I have had to learn how to play and how to coach the game of tennis.
Right now you might be asking, Chris how did you think you could even think about coaching tennis when you never played tennis?
It was actually hockey and coaches I know who have coached in the NHL with little to no experience playing the game at the NHL level. Some of the greatest coaches of all-time fall into this category. Scotty Bowman, Ken Hitchcock, Bob Hartley and current Tampa Bay Lightning coach, John Cooper.
Now, I am not saying I am at their level in tennis, not even close. But it did make me realize that they had to start somewhere, so why can’t I do the same in tennis.
I believe these tips can easily apply to those with little to no tennis experience.
1. You Have to Find Joy in The Game
Probably one of the best pieces of advice I can give to parents looking to take on this dual role is that you must find a certain level of joy in the game. If you don’t enjoy it, you won’t enjoy mentoring your budding tennis player.
It’s vital to understand that your children will pick up on any positive or negative energy that you are putting out. From both body language and verbal queues, you want to make sure that you show your child that the game is something you enjoy, and as their “coach,” you want them to enjoy it as well.
2. Have a Good Attitude
When I say, “have a good attitude,” I really mean that you must watch how you are treating your child. When people take on the coaching role, it is easy to get lost in the leadership role. We want them to get better and to succeed, and while we believe we are applying “tough love” to our children to help them out, it doesn’t have the same outcomes as it would coming from a professional coach.
Here’s why – we are their parent’s first.
A coach is someone who mentors and guides, and our children recognize them as those leadership figures. As a parent who is balancing these dual roles, you always have to make sure you are their parent before you are their coach.
Yes, there is some grey area, and while you do want to have some level of authority as their “coach,” you can’t let go of the parent-first mentality. Take, for example, Peter Smith and his son Tanner.
Peter Smith is a USC Tennis Coach, and his son is a USC student and tennis player. They are known as one heck of a tennis duo, and here’s what Tanner has to say about his father playing the dual role of coach and parent in his life:
“He’s an intense partner, and he’s a strict dad. But as a coach, he’s very laid back.”
Tanner went on to say that they “have so much fun on the court,” and that their “practices are a blast.”
3. Practice Makes Perfect – For You and Your Child
We’ve all heard the saying practice makes perfect. While we as parents spend plenty of time spewing that saying to our budding tennis players, if you choose to take on the role of coach with little knowledge on the sport, you must practice what you preach.
You can not expect your child to become disciplined in their training if you aren’t taking the time to not only learn the game but practice alongside them. Sure, the skillsets you learn are great, but it helps show your children that there are no obstacles that they can’t overcome.
Be the example you want them to learn from.
There are plenty of ways to help coach your child, even if you don’t have the professional skillsets a coach may have. For example:
- Construct your practices in a manner that involves hand feeding and live ball feeding.
- Practice different patterns and footwork with them.
- Partner up with local parents in similar situations, giving your children some active sparring partners. If you have no children that play in your area, as we did, try to find some adults who are keen to hit.
- Enroll them in as many tournaments as possible to give them real-world experience. There is nothing like “play”.
- Take a tennis coaching course. If you live in Canada, Tennis Canada has one of the best coaching certifications I have ever seen.
This video is an example of a hand-feeding drill that allows your player to work on different heights of short balls.
4. Video Your Sessions
One of the best ways I was able to help not only my son learn – but myself as well – was by videoing our practice sessions. This is a practice that is often used by professional coaches in every sport because it allows players the opportunity to see themselves and adjust as needed.
Cade has seen hundreds if not thousands of tennis matches and he knows what he thinks a good tennis player should look like. When he sees himself on camera, he can then compare what he sees to that visual he wants to attain. Because let’s be honest, if he had to watch what I was doing, he would be in big trouble.
5. Work Alongside Other Tennis Coaches
Finally, even if you are taking on the dual duties as parent and coach to your child, you should never say no to the opportunity to work with other coaches should they present themselves.
In our case, while we didn’t live close to any tennis coaches, Cade has had ample opportunity to work with some exceptional coaches over the years and he will continue to work with them over the next couple of years. Pictured above, is Cade with his coach Pierre from Moncton, NB. Cade has worked with Pierre for 3 years and because of Pierre, Cade was able to take his game to new levels. Not because Pierre is a great coach, which he is, but he believes in Cade. We are all very grateful for the impact Pierre has had on Cade in tennis and in life.
I knew working with other coaches would provide an excellent resource for him to learn from, all while getting additional opinions from professionals. And not always having to listen to his father.
If the opportunity presents itself, even for one practice, take it and allow your child the experience. Remember, you can learn from them as well!
Being Present as a Parent Means Everything to Your Child
I get it – not everyone can balance the dual duties of being a parent and a coach. It’s not for everyone. However, when done right, it can present you with an amazing opportunity to not only spend time with your child but learn alongside them.
Have you ever played the dual role of parent and coach? Do you have any additional tips you’d like to share?