Choosing a coach is a VERY important decision. The right coach can accelerate your learning and the wrong one can derail your game and set you back financially. Here are some things you should look for when choosing a coach and red flags you should avoid.
✅ Has a solid reputation. Ask around. Get a second and third opinion. The tennis world is small and Reputation is HUGE.
✅ Is a full time coach. You wouldn’t hire a part time accountant or chiropractor. A busy coach is a good sign. A coach with an entire schedule open may not be.
❌ Doesn’t offer package deals upfront. Offering a package deal isn’t always a bad sign, but using it as incentive to take more money upfront can be. While the deal may save you money in the short term, being locked into 5-10 sessions with a less than professional coach might mean you are throwing your money away.
✅ Is a current and ensured member with USPTA or PTR or another reputable organization (Find out what the leading organizations are in your country). Additionally, what status do they maintain with the association? A higher rating is a good indicator the coach cares enough about their career to invest in themselves, and in turn the information they can offer their students.
✅ Has been background checked. Most organizations or tennis centers require this to be employed as most coaches work with kids. With independent coaches you may need to ask them for this information.
✅ is experienced in coaching the appropriate level of the student. If you don’t know, ask. Good coaches won’t be put off by you asking their coaching background.
✅ is punctual. This ones obvious. You are paying for your coaches time. You should find another coach is your is regularly late to your lessons.
✅ Encourages players to play tennis outside of lessons. Doesn’t discourage taking lessons from other coaches. This can be a sign of an insecure coach.
✅ has an open mind to different playing styles. Tennis is not a game where one style fits all. Being able to adapt to each student is a key skill good coaches posses.
❌ Doesn’t think they know it all. The game changes. Coaches need to stay up to date and be open to re-education. No one knows it all!
✅ is a good communicator. Communication is everything in a player/coach relationship. You need to be able to digest your coaches information. Your coach must be skilled in finding your preferred way to receive that information.
❌ doesn’t give the same lesson all the time. A lack of creativity creates a bored student. Bored students don’t engage. Good coaches keep it fresh!
❌ Doesn’t badmouth other players or coaches. Coaches are in many ways teach more than tennis lessons. Their students learn from their work ethic and their attitude. Dis crediting other players or coaches shows low character.
✅ has a plan. Find a coach that actively plans your lessons. Nothing worse than a coach that has no plan and makes it up on the go. Creating a lesson plan takes very little time!
✅ gives you constructive criticism. No one wants to hear “great shot” after you’ve hit a less than average ball. It’s disingenuous. Praise should be fairly given.
✅ is open to discussion about your game. Ask your coach what direction you think your tennis needs to go. Ask what they think your strengths and weaknesses are. Your coach should be able to share this information with you whenever you ask.
✅ encourages you to ask questions. Many coaches have opinions and don’t like students asking why. “It’s my way or the highway”. Your coach should be able to answer why they want you to hit a certain way or use a certain strategy. Coaching is a two way street.
✅ has an appropriate playing level for the student. Your coach doesn’t have to have been an amazing player but a certain level of skill is required to workout higher level students. By the same token, just because you are a good player doesn’t mean you are a great coach. There are lots of good players around!
✅ is willing to share what they know. Coaches who are guarded and not willing to engage are not going to help you in the long run.
✅ The coach is process orientated. Helping someone to improve is a process. You should be wary of coaches that promise success right away. This is a red flag.
✅ is prepared for your lessons. This includes the equipment they use like balls and rackets to the clothing they wear on the court. If they are a professional, they should be 100% prepared for your session. No excuses.
❌ doesn’t waste your time during the lesson. Ball pick up, extended water breaks, bathroom visits, long winded explanations and drawn out warm ups are corners lazy coaches cut to shave time off your lesson. Be aware. You are paying for their time.
✅ Go and watch a lesson first hand. See for yourself if you like the coaches style, the way they work with their student and how they interact and communicate.
Take your time finding a coach, especially if you are looking for your kids or starting the sport from scratch. The right coach can really help the player accelerate their improvement. Sometimes the coach want might not be available. Ask them for their recommendation. Hopefully this list is useful to you In your search.
Good Luck with your tennis!
USPTA Elite Professional