High-performance coaches should offer growth on and off the court
The ripple effects of COVID-19 have hit college tennis particularly hard, with athletic departments shuttering dozens of programs. These and future cuts potentially impact the willingness of high-performance juniors and their parents to continue investing in the work and expense required to attain college tennis scholarships, and this in turn threatens the job security of high-performance coaches.
One answer is for junior coaches to shift their emphasis from high-performance tennis coaching to high-performance person coaching. In that regard, coaches stand to benefit from observing and adopting the values of National Junior Tennis and Learning (NJTL) chapters.
NJTLs use tennis as a tool to facilitate the personal growth of their players. Many, if not most, NJTLs emphasize sportsmanship and other positive character traits that are of value beyond the tennis court and measure their effectiveness primarily by changed lives. In contrast, many high-performance tennis academies solely measure their success by player rankings and where their players play(ed) college tennis. By devoting time to character development and celebrating player successes both on- and off-court, innovative academies could strengthen their businesses.
Imagine two tennis academies: One touts an impressive record of developing players who have achieved tremendous on-court successes. The second also advertises significant on-court successes, but also shares testimonials of players who attribute their personal triumphs outside of tennis to life-skills learned in the academy tennis program. Which program would you choose for your child? Coaches and parents universally tell me they would choose the second program.
So, what are the implications? With a reduction in college tennis scholarship opportunities, it is very possible that there will be a shrinking demand for high-performance tennis coaches. By fully incorporating character development into their programs and celebrating successes of players on- and off-court related to their programs, innovative academies have the chance to continue thriving in this industry and gain an edge over competitors who focus exclusively on their players’ tennis accomplishments.
Kevin Theos is the Tennis Service Representative for Alabama in the USTA Southern Section.
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