Coach during the tournament
Every professional coach teaches young players to help them to improve during the tournaments. It doesn’t matter how well player is able to play during the practice session if he/she is not able to perform the same skills during the competition. Going on the tournament can be an exciting opportunity for the player to gain experience as also for the coach to see “what is going on” and to teach few more things. In my opinion, coaches have to coach more than just how to hit the ball and competition is a great environment to do that.
At the beginning, we have to face the truth and say that many players have to travel on the tournament on their own or with their parents. This situation permanently takes place on lower levels of the tennis performance and it is caused by various reasons. Sometimes coach has to stay in the club to coach other players during the weekend so it is impossible to attend the tournament. Other time parents don’t have money to pay additional fees for the hotel and food for the coach so they decide to go on their own. These and many other reasons we can point out from our experience but it is not the goal of this article. One thing is true for sure: if any coach doesn’t have a time to go to few tournaments during the year, he/she is not doing his/her job professionally. Tennis is a game so we can’t skip matches because of something. Can you imagine that FC Barcelona plays a match without a coach? Of course not, it is hilarious. I can tell from my experience that I was making mistake by not going to the tournament because of practicing with other players. After few years, I have changed this approach and my players were more successful because of my knowledge from the tournament. Firstly, I was able to see the difference between the practice and the pressure environment so I could make some adjustments in teaching. Secondly, I was up to date with competitors so I have a clue how the best in the country play. Additionally, I have a lot of time between the matches to teach many things that I am not able to do during the 2 hours period of time on the tennis court. This is exactly what I value the most of the tournament’s memories and I would like to share it with you. Here are the areas that are waiting for the coach to take an action during the tournament:
Many players come to the courts, socialize and play a match without any preparation. In my opinion, coach’s responsibility is to teach specific routines during the tournament and keep an eye on the player to guarantee its execution. Before the match, player should prepare tactically, physically and mentally to the incoming battle. Proper warm up based on jump rope, dynamic stretching and running is a necessity to prepare the body for the match. Visualization and positive thinking are great tools to achieve winning mindset before stepping on the court. Preparing the strategy and setting some performance goals should be priorities before every match. After the battle, player should jog to lower the heart’s rate down, stretch statically, take a shower and analyze the match. As you can see, there are many things to supervise and that’s why coach’s availability during the tournament is a great opportunity to correct players if they are not following the proper way.
Tournament is a great experience for any player. Matches, friends and fun can make you forget why you have arrived here. In my opinion, coaches should let players to socialize and do funny activities but recovery has to be made as a priority. Before the match, players can’t play different games with friends and spend hours on the sun because it will have an negative effect on the performance on the court. After the match, it is also crucial to spend some time resting (reading the book, listening to the music) to recover physically and mentally. From my experience I can say that many players mistakenly think that sleeping during the night is enough to recover from the tough match. Coach has to control all these factors and teach players how to be responsible for own actions.
You are taking player to the restaurant on the tournament. You make the order for yourself and you let player to order. Then you are stunned. Yes, you have heard well – French fries, Burger and Coke. This scenario is commonly known with young players who have never traveled with the coach. Why is it happening? There are two reasons of this answer. First option is that players just like this food and parents let them eat it so they don’t see anything wrong in eating unhealthy. Second option is that players eat healthy all the time with the parents so the only opportunity to eat “tasty” food is when parents are not available. We have to remember that many times players are not guilty of this action because they don’t know what are the benefits of the healthy food for the athlete. Coach and parents should discuss with the player how the body works and why we should take care of the eating habits. During the tournament, coach is a great opportunity to take the upper hand and control what players order and when they eat it. Pre and post-match meals should be included in this “tournament teaching” to make players more aware of living the professional life.
I know that some coaches probably know this all stuff but they just “can’t” leave the club so I am not trying to persuade anyone. It is your job and you are responsible for development of your players. If you are a former player and your coach didn’t have a time to travel with you on the tournament, ask yourself: Did I like it? Could my coach help me more during the tournament? I believe I don’t have to say anything more. We, as coaches, are really busy and I understand that but one weekend per month or two will not make a big difference in our schedule and family budget.
About the Author
Marcin Bieniek is a tennis coach from Poland and a former professional player (Polish National Juniors Team). He is a certificated tennis coach by the Polish Tennis Coaching Association and the Professional Tennis Registry. Marcin has worked with many of the top 20 Polish Juniors and the top 150 players in the world.