What does a good tennis coach need these days to stand out from other coaches? I have asked myself this question more and more in recent years. You often see coaches doing a tennis training without a plan and the training is more like occupational therapy. Such training is of course not very effective, because the players are not developed in a goal-oriented way. A good tennis coach, on the other hand, is characterized by many things nowadays. Are you looking for tennis training tips that will improve your personality as a tennis coach and level up your coaching? Then I have something for you – here are my 10 tennis coaching tips that will help you become a better tennis coach.
This is what you can expect from this blog post:
1. Prepare your training
2. Be a role model for your students
3. Structure your practice sessions
4. Be a person commanding respect
5. Introduce a lesson summary
6. Pay attention to safety on the tennis court
7. Define clear running paths and target areas in your drills
8. Maintain a good relationship with the parents in children’s training
9. Always have a backup plan
10. Don`t forget to educate yourself
Tip 1: Prepare your training
If you want your players to improve through your tennis training, you should prepare your training. There is nothing worse than doing a training session “on instinct” and only deciding on the court which exercises you want to do. This is neither fish nor fowl. A good trainer analyzes the group composition in advance, knows the strengths and weaknesses of his players, and focuses his training primarily on the players’ weaknesses. The goal is to improve the weaknesses, but also to build on and develop the strengths. Be sure to create a training plan for each of your groups and determine which areas you want to work on. It is best to identify a current state (status quo) and establish a target state.
An example of this might be:
1. Group XY is currently playing in the midfield and on orange stage. I would like to make the transition to the normal court and green stage with this group this season. To do this, I would like to work with the students primarily on ground strokes and better footwork so that they can deal with the higher ball contacts and the rest of the game. To do this, I have come up with the following exercises:
Week 3 – 5: Consolidate stroke patterns for baseline and net, focus on footwork when approaching the net.
Review your progress at the end of the season, and in the best case scenario, you will have achieved your goal. If not, set more intermediate steps to reach the goal in stages.
Tip 2: Be a role model for your students
Students come to your tennis training with a certain level of expectation. The coach is a role model and should exemplify this in every minute of training. This includes a few points:
3 tennis coaching tips for being a role model as a coach
1. A coach should be on time
The tennis coach is the first to arrive and the last to leave in every training session. Always remember your role model function as a coach! If the coach is late for practice, your students will notice and think that you are not taking the practice seriously enough. So you have little argument to expect your students to be on time. Here are some suggestions:
- The coach is at the court 20 minutes before the start of the training and prepares all the necessary materials needed for the training.
- The court is prepared before the students enter it. On clay courts, this mainly means watering the court and cleaning the lines.
- It is best if the coach has already prepared the first drill, so that it can start right away when the students enter the court.
2. The coach should be attentive
As a coach, you should devote yourself exclusively to your students during the entire training period. Even if the smartphone is now part of everyday life and training organization, it should be absolutely taboo during the tennis lesson. No phone calls, no WhatsApp – the smartphone is in flight mode, muted or at best switched off.
What would you think? You come to the court as a student and want to be developed. Out of 60 minutes of training time, the coach devotes 10 minutes of his attention to the smartphone. Would you think that this coach can help you develop? Would you think it’s fair to pay the full hourly price for your training session?
One must not forget the public image here either. Those who are not on the court at the moment are aware of the coach’s distraction and form their own opinion. In this case, you quickly get a bad reputation as a trainer.
Therefore: Keep your hands off your smartphone!
The same applies, of course, to conversations during training with other people, such as parents.
Tim’s father approaches the coach after the training session to talk to him about Tim’s development. However, the coach already has the next group on the court.
The father will certainly understand.
3. Maintain your external image
No, you don’t have to wear the latest outfits of the well-known sports brand. But imagine you are taking a tennis lesson with a coach who doesn’t care about his external image. What would you think? A well-groomed coach appearance includes not only the appropriate choice of outfit, but also things like a well-groomed body and, most importantly, your body language.
A positive body language, an upright gait (chest out) signals strength, will, commitment, motivation and much more. A coach who moves positively on the court, who speaks loudly, gives clear instructions, is much better received than an introverted guy who mumbles to himself. Now, if you are a more introverted person, that’s not a problem, because it can be learned and worked on.
For example, try the following: Stand in front of a mirror at home and practice speaking out loud. Think about a drill that you want to explain. Now say this drill aloud into the mirror. Try to look at yourself and finish explaining the drill. Take your father, mother or a friend and say the drill aloud in front of them and ask them if they understood everything. You will see, in a short time your body language and explanation in your tennis training will improve, and you will be perceived differently.
You must always remember: students, and especially children, look up to you. YOU are the role model. YOU may be the player your students want to be. So set a good example and show your professionalism in your representation as well.
Tip 3: Structure your practice sessions
This point is quite related to point 1, the preparation of your tennis training. But here I mean mainly the content IN your training session, HOW you convey it to your students. You should make sure that you are focused. Don’t work on too many things at once in one training session.
- 1st drill: forehand inside-out
- 2nd drill: backhand down the line
- 3rd drill: smash
In this case, you are working on too many things at once and the student will not be able to implement many of them. Rather work intensively, perhaps even over several weeks on ONE of the main points. This will improve your student’s skills much faster.
A good set-up would be:
Focus on Forehand Inside-Out
- 1st drill: 10 strokes forehand inside-out from the half court with orientation to the angle bisector.
- 2nd drill: 10 strokes forehand inside-out with approach to the net.
- 3rd drill: forehand inside-out in a match situation: player A plays backhand cross court, player B is supposed to play forehand inside-out on a ball that was not hit far enough cross court.
Keep doing this …
Structure your training sessions – this includes having the focus performed in a logical order. Set the focus already in the warm-up. If the focus of the lesson is on forehand inside-out, you could have the player practice the footwork needed to get back to the angle bisector with a in the warm-up.
Consolidate the technique before you try match situations and let the players play agains each other.
Then do technique acquisition first before having your students already practice match situations. Tennis is a repetitive sport and therefore the coach’s approach and the associated repetition of the situation is very important for a successful game. Only when the technique has been mastered, you should have match situations to practice using the technique.
Tip 4: Be a person commanding respect
Respect! It’s a word that gets thrown around a lot these days. If you live up to your role as a role model coach and act with vigor and determination, you will be respected by your students. In this case, you have already done many things right! Congratulations! But it is also important that you use the respect you have gained in training. Children in particular like to test the limits.
How far can I go until the coach gives me a warning?
An example: In the children’s group, the trainer asks the students Tim, Max, Sophia and Johanna to collect balls. Tim and Max don’t feel like it at all and prefer to shoot balls at each other, while Sophia and Johanna collect the balls.
The coach has to intervene and demand respect!
Engaging Tennis Coaching Tips: Students’ Interests Matter!
Fun should always be a strong point in training, but if you as a coach join in on every bit of fun the students have, you may no longer be perceived as a person commanding respect. You should always choose the right mix of buddy type and teacher. Be the coach, who never loses sight of the goal of improving the student. Therefore, talk to your students a lot. Ask them how they are doing outside of tennis or if they are satisfied with their development or whether they enjoy tennis. Very simple things that often have a big effect. In short: Take an interest in your students!
But in return, however, show the children who prefer to shoot balls at each other rather than collect balls, where the limits are. The training must never drift into a pure fun event, otherwise you will not achieve the set tennis-specific goals with your students. Therefore, develop the status of a respected person with a lot of authority, who is also always up for fun. Students will pay much more attention to you when you give instructions, and in return, they will value your opinion on off-court issues.
Tip 5: Introduce a lesson summary
The final stroke is done. The balls are collected, the students say goodbye to the coach and are picked up. The coach is already welcoming the next group. STOP! This is not how it should be! Here’s an important tip that will enormously improve the quality of your training.
What is your habit when the lesson is over? Have you ever done a summary with your students? If you were to ask your students after a week, “What did we do last lesson? What did we work on?”, how many students do you think can still remember the content of last week? Not many, I guarantee you. Unless you work with the summary technique. This means: the coach always ends the training with a lesson summary and explains once again which content was covered in the lesson.
Such a conclusion can be like this:
After this conclusion, the coach once again addresses the students separately.
“How did you like this approach?”
“Do you feel like you can implement this stroke in the game?”
“Where did you see difficulties?”
This is followed by a preview of the next lesson.
A handshake with each player follows, and only then you we move on to the next group.
Believe me, using this technique will improve your training many times and build up the team spirit!
Tip 6: Pay attention to safety on the tennis court
In every tennis lesson, safety on the tennis court must come first. Thank goodness I have never had a serious injury in 25 years of tennis training – lucky me! But I can also tell you about other cases where bad injuries occurred. Do you remember Tommy Haas’ performance at Wimbledon 2005 against Tipsarevic a few years ago?
Haas stepped on a ball during the warm-up and twisted his ankle. The same thing can happen to your students at any time. Therefore, as soon as a ball rolls into the court, it must be removed. If this happens during a rally, stop the rally immediately. Pay attention to safety distances when serving. Often, especially children in group training run too close to the person serving and get the racket on their nose. Make sure that children do not hit each other with balls.
Tip 7: Define clear running paths and target areas in your drills
The coach wants to practice the backhand down the line with a drill. The ball should be hit as close as possible to the line – a winner. Then the player should approach the net and finish with a volley.
In such a drill, it is extremely important to define clear paths and target areas. If the students have to play the ball into a specific area, it must be clearly marked. The best way to do this is with field markers and clearly identifiable targets (cones, peel-off mat, hoops, etc.). Even if it is always and again work for the coach: Never practice without target areas and running paths. By having a visual target, the player is much more focused on hitting as accurately as possible.
By specifying the running paths, e.g. following in the angle bisector, movement sequences are much more internalized and automated. In the example described above, it would be good if:
- The coach defines a backhand down the line target zone, preferably with cones and also the running path into the angle bisector, e.g. that the drill is completed with a split step at a marker in the angle bisector.
Tip 8: Maintain a good relationship with the parents in the children’s training
There are all kinds of parents. There are the parents who bring their children to the training and pick them up again at the street in front of the tennis court. Then the famous question is asked in the car, “Did you enjoy it?”. And depending on the child’s answer, that’s how the parents will form an opinion of you as a coach, without perhaps having ever watched a minute of your practice themselves.
But then there are the parents who not only bring the children to practice, but also observe the entire practice session themselves. These parents seem to have a special interest in the child’s development in tennis. There are also the parents who prefer to sit on the bench with the child and cheer him on, perhaps adding a few wise corrections to the training. But here you should clearly intervene: “Parents have to wait outside the court! You as a coach are not letting your competence be taken out of your hands.
Communicate with children’s parents
But of course the parents play an important role for the child. They are of utmost importance. They drive their children to training, they are the ones who pay you. Without the parents, nothing works. Therefore, you should always try to maintain a good relationship with the children’s parents. Be open! Explain your training goals to the parents – even if they don’t ask. Involve them! Give recommendations, e.g. for tournaments or things the kids should do outside of training. In a nutshell: Involve the parents! This will strengthen your position, especially in situations where you disagree with them, and that makes your life easier.
Tip 9: Always have a backup plan
Things often turn out differently than you think. You put a lot of effort into preparing the training for your group of four the day before. You have thought about drills, warm-up and everything else. But shortly before the training takes place, it happens: Cancellation! Two students cancel at short notice due to illness and suddenly all your preparations are in vain.
It is important to always have a backup plan. Before you now give the group of two an improvised training, you should be prepared for this situation. Since you have taken point 1 into account and know about the strengths and weaknesses of your students, you have already thought about some drills that can be performed regardless of the size of the group and still improve the weaknesses of your students.
By the way, the same applies to changes due to external influences. If your training cannot take place in the summer due to bad weather, you should not cancel your training, but work out an alternative program that can be carried out regardless of wind and weather (fitness training, stretching, coordination training).
Tip 10: Don`t forget to educate yourself
The profession of a coach is versatile and demanding. I am always looking for new ideas and suggestions for my tennis training. At the same time, it is also important for me to take part in further training courses offered by our tennis association. In Germany, a coach’s license is only valid for a limited period of time before it has to be renewed by further training courses. This system is very good, it forces the coach to deal with new and current topics again and again. You should think about taking advantage of one or the other course offer by your association, even if you are not required to renew your trainer’s license. You will get a lot of input for your training and you can exchange ideas with your fellow coaches.
And then there’s the internet. If you’re reading this blog post right now, I’m sure you’ve been looking for new input for your tennis training. So you’re a coach who really wants to give it your best shot. And that’s why you’re getting it right! You are looking for inspiration.
Additional tennis coaching tips: Develope your unique interpretation!
No, you don’t have to copy everything others do. Let yourself be inspired and develop your own unique interpretation of a drill. Adapt it to the abilities of the students in YOUR training. Take what you think is important and good, and discard what does not fit YOUR training. I have had very good experiences with this. To help you find the right and targeted inspirations for your training, I created this platform. So what are you waiting for? Go directly to the homepage and click through hundreds of sample drills. It will be worth it!
Now have fun implementing these tennis training tips. Do you have anything to add? Feel free to use the comment function below this post. Have fun practicing!