Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Excel at Exceeding Expectations

Just came across these great resolutions from a tennis pro in England. Seeing as how I'm writing this in mid-May, one might argue it's a little late for resolutions. But one might also argue it's never too late for excellence. In fact, one of the presentations at the 2012 PTR Symposium was entitled Developing A World Class Teaching Staff. Great info for us coaches, great tips for parents shopping for tennis instruction for their kids. There are the obvious ones - be on time, dress appropriately, positive attitude. Here are some highlights from both lists with my own spin on what I am trying to accomplish every time I step out on the court with my students.

Variety - make it fun - keep them guessing. Sure, I will repeat some of my (or their) favorite activities from time to time. But I save those for special occasions when rewards are in order. Some coaches may argue they run the same drills time after time because their students have not mastered them yet. But too much repetition can also be the sign of a lazy/bored/burned out coach. Yeah, I went there.
Organization - some coaches are so experienced, they have hundreds of drills buzzing around in their heads and can make their selections like John Belushi in the cafeteria scene from Animal House. Alas, I do not yet have that skill. I rarely walk on the court without my handy Lesson Structure form, direct from the PTR Junior Development workbook. I also keep them filed by student/class as a handy reference of how far each of my students has progressed and what activities we have already done (see Variety, above).
Respect - my students and their parents are my customers and as such deserve my complete attention when we are together. Long way of saying no casual cell phone usage on my court, by me or anyone else. IMO this is right up there with yawning in someone's face. Always disappointed how often I see pros checking their phones during ball pickup,  water breaks, while their kids are running laps or lines (see lazy/bored/burned out above), etc. Once even saw a pro talking on the phone with one hand while hitting with a student with the other. Don't be that pro!
Productive - I aim to incorporate match play or something related to it in at least some part of each lesson. After all, that's why my students are there: to learn to PLAY TENNIS, not to learn how to practice. Too often students take weeks or even months of clinics and have never once played out an actual point, or learned how to keep score. If there's not a ball cart in the middle of the court across the net, they are completely disoriented. IMO this is a big red flag. Parents, do not be alarmed if your players are not spending the entire session standing in lines hitting balls. In fact, you should be overjoyed.
Aware - Every student's needs are different. Every student learns in their own way. My goal is to use the lesson structure as an organizational tool, yet be flexible enough and knowledgeable enough to offer Plan B when something is not working.
Development - My students aren't the only ones who are learning. New tips, new drills, new activities, new learning opportunities are always on the horizon. Maintaining and advancing my certification is a top priority.

Wow, this is a healthy list - and it is just the highlights! As you can see, a lot of elbow grease is needed off-court to make things sparkle on court. Here's hoping your local tennis instruction experience is exceeding expectations!