Whether it be tennis, fitness, football or any other sports we all remember those hard tennis coaches that worked us to the bone. Everyone that is 30 or older, will have stories to tell about some of the hard and intense tennis fitness training we were put through in our youth.
By today's standards it could even be classified as a little brutal, but we talk to the kids we train about how different it was back in our day and how tough and challenging the kids tennis training was.
Fast forward to today and those hard tennis fitness training days are hardly recognizable.
I remember a drill that a coach used to put us through growing up. He used to stand at the net with his basket of balls and have us stand on the service line at the other end with our rackets up looking to defend for our lives.
What would soon follow was ten tenaciously struck balls hit at us with the purpose of teaching you to hold your ground and defend yourself at the net, the coach felt he was the victor if he could sneak the ball through a gap and make contact with the ball on the skin. I remember this drill like it was yesterday, by today's standards it would present many difficulties with insurance and so forth but in all honesty, I am thankful for that drill as I can count on my hands how many times I have been hit throughout my years playing tennis.
I remember state squad tennis fitness training sessions where guys would get full body cramps and dust themselves off knowing that hard work was essential and be back on the court the following day. I miss those days.
Yes the sporting industry is ever changing and like all coaches, I move with the times but I can see an underlying problem coming through in junior sports, they don’t know what it is to work hard anymore!
What follows from this is kids turning into adults that don’t know how to work hard, don’t know how to be on time and don’t know even how to apply themselves to the job in most cases. I am almost 100% sure all tennis coaches would agree that it’s getting harder to push and motivate kids.
So who is to blame? Could we as coaches be dropping our standards? So what can we do?
I believe we need to start with us coaches first and reestablish some principles worth working hard for!
Here are 8 tips of many I can imagine and look forward to hearing the thoughts of other coaches and parents out there.
1. Keep kids accountable – let’s make sure they are on time for lessons or give notice for cancellations and hold them accountable when they are not.
2. Limit sitting down whilst training – I know from working on building sites it’s never a good look to be sitting around, train them to push through laziness and create a standard.
3. Have a behavior guide and keep them accountable – remember we are teaching them to be men and women, help them learn to behave like it. Set out what you and the group feel is acceptable behavior and keep it.
4. Results - Place work ethic, standards, and process above results!
5. Reward character excellence and hard work over winning- Create an environment of being rewarded for effort and hard work!
6. Tell them the truth - Tell them what they need to hear not always what they want to hear!
7. Always encourage kids to keep aiming higher - coaches please let's make sure we are examples first of all.
8. Please, tennis coaches, have a lesson plan - too often I am in venues or helping out other coaches and they have no plan! Don’t expect our kids to get motivated and work hard when we are too lazy to plan and work ourselves.
It’s never too late to influence the next generation and we are privileged to have the opportunity, let's not waste it.
Justin Megraw Director of No1 Tennis TA Level 2 Coach with 18 years experience. Personal Trainer Level 4 Former Touring Pro