Coach/Player Relationship

The coach/player relationship in tennis is unique to sports. When you play for a team, the coach is king, and he lays down the ground rules and players abide by them, or they are booted from the practice and/or the team. In an individual sport, the dynamics can be quite different. It is often the parents or even the kid dictating the format of the lesson or coaching. Imagine a parent trying to “help” in a basketball practice by yelling at his kid or going on the court to coach. This would happen exactly once, and both parent and child would be forever evicted from the building/team/school etc. In tennis it is the biggest development problem in our sport. Direct parental involvement during the private coaching sessions undermines the whole value of the player/coach relationship. Typically a new tennis parent comes into the sport healthily in that he/she lets the coach do his job. As time goes on, the parent starts feeling like he is more knowledgeable, and then he can’t resist trying to use his new-found knowledge. A little information is a dangerous thing! Why did you hire an expert if you want to be the coach? Your coach has a lifetime of experience and knowledge, and yet you are trying to “help” at lessons and only hindering the process. Let coaches coach! Be the manager. The parental role in a kid’s success is huge. Kids go to Ivy League schools because their parents help manage their academic careers, but they don’t teach the classes! I have taught for 25 years, and I have taught with and without direct parental involvement during the lessons, and my advice is kick the parent out. If they want to watch some of the lesson from afar, then that is fine, but the less they are involved during lesson time the better for the player/coach relationship to reach a deep level where trust can be built, and the hard lessons can be learnt.