Create Consistent Coaching Foundations to Create Consistent Results
Coaching is a term which is used loosely in our society by people who feel the need to label themselves in a position of power. Being a coach is more than just standing in the front of a room barking instructions to a group of players or an individual athlete. As a coach, you are trusted by an athlete or team to lead and guide them in the right direction, to either be a successful entity or develop a group of young aspiring athletes.
No matter if you coach a sporting team, or if you run a business from an office, ensuring your environment is set up to create efficient productivity is paramount to the success of your team. Coaching environments are led by you, the head coach, and filter down to all assistants and employees. Team culture, coach passion, athlete enjoyment, environment boundaries and discipline, a variety of activities and a supportive coaching team, all set up an environment that enhances the chances of an athlete’s development.
In tennis, we are faced with a sport that is monotonous by nature. Day after day, hitting a tennis ball back and forth thousands of times can only be likened to a swimmer following a black line up and down a pool for hundreds of laps per day. Tennis can be quite unstimulating to train for, considering that in a training block you may spend up to 4-6 hours on the court per day, 2-4 hours working on your physicality and 1 hour spent on recovery of the body. Finding enjoyment in that day after day can be tough for a tennis player, so it comes down to how the coach can create a challenging but enjoyable training environment to keep his/her players stimulated in the activities.
Individual sports are both physically and mentally challenging and draining. Athletes need to be selfish by nature to get the best out of themselves, and the coaches need to be selfless, as there are countless hours put in on top of their job requirements to better the athlete. An example of a tour tennis coaching day at a Grand Slam event can be seen below:
Eg. A Day in the life of Marc Sophoulis (Australian Open 2015)
Saturday 12th January (Qualifying)
7.00 – Courtesy Car pick up from home to go to Melbourne Park
7:45 – Arrive Melbourne Park and go to locker room to prepare equipment for on court session
8:00 – Go to the Practice desk to arrange balls, courts and times
8:30 – Warm Up Player 1 (Off Court in the gym)
9:00 – Warm Up Player 1 (On court)
9:30 – Waiting in the warm up area for Player 1 to go on for match (pre match talk)
10:00 – Player 1 Match Starts (Begin stating match and keeping notes)
12:30 – Player 1 Match finished/Straight to court for Player 2 Match Warm up
13:00 – Player 2 finishes warm up and prepares for match / Straight to court with Player 3
13:30 – Practice session with Player 3 (main draw)/Straight to Player 2 match court
15:30 – Watch Player 2 Match
18:00 – Match finish, Cool Down and Debrief from match
19:00 – Schedule for next day comes out, book courts and hitting partners for following day
20:00 – Arrive home, study next opponents, dinner, bed
Coaching on the professional tennis tour takes a lot of knowledge, patience and above all mental resilience. There are constant setbacks for athletes, constant down times with minimal upside, loads of travelling, plenty of loneliness and minimal ‘up’ periods. Coaches are constantly trying to find the secret to success and the winning recipe for their athletes. But at the end of the day, it comes down to the pure consistency of what a coach can provide every day to ensure player development and success is achieved. Creating a successful relationship with your athletes is one of the major keys to developing a successful connection and best results. The greater the connections you have with your athletes, the better your athletes will handle your feedback. Relationships are the key performance indicator between coaches and players. Developing Trust, understanding each other on and off the court, and having the ability to speak honestly and openly form the major indictors of a great athlete/coach relationship. As a coach, you must:
Overall, in our current situation of an over-saturated coaching world, ensuring that you have set up a strong foundation of coaching principles to allow and foster success is a necessity to set you apart from the rest. When setting your coaching foundations, take into account the following foundations that create a successful coach and coaching program.
In a highly competitive sport like tennis, it’s the athlete who can bridge the gap between their best and worst performance levels which determines how successful they can be. Consistency in performance comes down to consistency in practice. Players need to understand that their practice levels will reflect upon their match levels. Ultimately, it’s the coach’s role to ensure that each practice session is consistent. Ticking all the boxes in your list of coaching foundations daily, will give you the opportunity to assist your athlete’s create consistent performance levels.
We are all amazed how players like Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic can sustain years of constant success. All four of these players have had long term coaching relationships, which provides consistency. They all train at the same consistency levels each day and have stable lives off the court. As a coach, it’s important to have a strong philosophy that grows The Person, The Athlete and then The Tennis Player. Having consistency in your Environment, in your Relationships with athletes and in your Philosophy of the game you coach is critical to consistent athlete performance. Be consistent daily to achieve consistent results.
(All words and images were supplied by Marc Sophoulis)