How to become a better coach
Marcin Bieniek examines the key factors that will help develop our coaching skills.
Most coaches want to develop their skills. We do our best on the court, learn from other coaches, read books and articles, watch videos etc. As coaches, we take care of our players, plan every practice, think about short and long-term goals, create new drills, explain tactics etc. We do everything to create an appropriate environment which will allow our players to be motivated to improve. However, what about us? Do we take care of ourselves in the same way as we take care of future stars? Becoming a really skilled coach is a long and complex process but what should we take into consideration?
We set goals and measure the progress of our players and in the same way, we should set and measure our own goals. The best way is to write down our short and long-term goals but how do we decide on our goals? Firstly, we can evaluate ourselves by focusing on our strengths and weaknesses and we can consider questions like: "What can I do better" or "How can I improve as a coach"?
An alternative approach is to ask other coaches/players to evaluate your coaching skills. You may need to create a questionnaire to help them focus on your "What to coach" skills and your "How to coach" skills. Once we have identified some goals to help us develop as a coach then we can consider our short or long-term goals. A short-term goal could be to observe the tennis stroke several times before providing feedback and a long-term goal could be to involve the player in the planning process.
The use of open questions about your coaching knowledge and coaching skills can help you identify goals. The kind of question you could consider is: What would I like to improve? Do you need to consider - How will I do this? When do I want to achieve it by? What obstacles might I face and how can I overcome them? What resources and help will I need? Having decided on a goal you then need to review progress on a regular basis - daily, weekly or monthly. Once a goal is achieved then you can repeat the process.
My golden rule about learning is: it doesn't matter if you read a book, take part in a conference, search the web or talk to another coach, try to pick up at least one new idea each time.
If you are a good player, you improve by correcting small details e.g. on the forehand this might be a small adjustment of the racquet angle. The same approach applies to develop your coaching skills. If you are new to coaching tennis you may read books about coaching and tennis and in the process take many notes. Year by year, book by book, you will find you take fewer notes because of the knowledge you have gained over the years. I really encourage every coach to learn something new every day and it does not matter if you have 2 or 20 years of experience. Even one small idea could be the start of a new drill/methodology/approach. The better you are as a coach, then the better your players will be.
Your level of motivation is a really important factor in coaching. When we first start coaching we are very motivated to develop our skills but over time some coaches are still eager to work on the court and develop new skills whilst others are there only for the money. You have to find what it is that motivates you to coach and then spend as many hours you can in that environment. If you are losing motivation then change it because when you are not motivated it has a negative impact on you and the players you work with. Remember, coaching is a really responsible job and you can either bring a smile on a player's face or you can close the gate to their tennis world forever.
When challenging goals are broken down into realistic steps and then systemically achieved motivation, commitment and self-confidence will grow, not only for you but also the players you coach.
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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. He has a coaching tennis forum at http://2beacoach.forums-free.com
The following Sports Coach pages provide additional information on this topic: