Coaching “Animal Strong” Junior Tennis at Omni Amelia Island Plantation
My perception of what a great tennis coach is has changed drastically over my 12 years of coaching. At first, I thought it was the coach who gave the greatest technical advice and who also played the best. This eventually shifted to the assumption that if you were coaching an unbelievable tennis prodigy, that must mean you were also a great coach. Recently, however, my thoughts on this have shifted again. Sure, you need to be technically proficient and of course you have to want the person you are coaching to get better, but there is also something more. After all, every coach has given the same set of instructions at some point in time. Players need to be told to bend their knees, or to hit higher over the net, or to get their ball toss higher. But with this in mind, what separates a good coach from a great one?
Positivity! Positivity! Positivity! My favorite coaches all gave great advice, but it certainly wasn’t anything I hadn’t heard before. What set them apart was the manner in which they relayed that advice. Their positivity was infectious and made me want to better understand and perform. In addition to that, no matter how big the challenge was, they always believed that I could do it. They never gave up on me. They never made me feel like a lost cause. I was never afraid to fail or worried about upsetting them. I felt like I was their most important student. Because of this, I never wanted the lesson to end…
10 and Under Tennis
I recently received a scholarship to attend a 10 and Under Tennis Conference by the United States Tennis Association in Boca Raton. I learned the ins and outs of coaching tennis for kids and brought back what I learned to our tennis program at Omni Amelia Island Plantation. I was extremely flattered to receive the scholarship, but I was also excited because this was an excellent opportunity to better myself as a tennis coach, network with other coaches, and exchange some ideas on how to improve our junior tennis at Omni Amelia Island Plantation. The biggest thing that I learned was that sometimes as tennis coaches we are guilty of teaching tennis as a “closed sport” much like diving and gymnastics, where technique is so important. But we need to teach tennis as an “open sport,” where our decisions and tactics ultimately dictate the outcome. It then becomes a question of not “how” to hit a certain type of shot but “when” to hit that shot. Consider the analogy of pushing down on the accelerator in your car. There are times when it’s okay to floor it, but you’re going to want to ease off that pedal going into a turn. The same strategy applies to the game of tennis. During my time at the conference, I discovered many great techniques to help teach tennis, but I feel it’s my passion to share the sport with younger generation. That passion has developed into a new junior tennis program we’re offering this fall – Animal Strong!
Animal Strong Junior Tennis at Omni Amelia Island Plantation
The new Animal Strong tennis program is taking place on Mondays, Thursdays, and Fridays from 4:00-5:30pm. In tennis terms, being “animal strong” means we want the player to be a fighter, to not let up until that match is completely over. The term was coined at the end of one of our clinics during our “hands in” pep rally, where I came up with it on the spot. When I ask, “How strong are you?” the group replies, with thunderous vigor, “ANIMAL STRONG!”
Each semester the program will represent a different animal-this semester it’s the mastodon. The course is designed for players 12 and over who are ready to take that next step into tournament play. Players are invited into the program (which began this fall). The next session begins October 21st and focuses on stroke production, but more importantly, it places players in actual situations that they’ll experience during a match. We put students in conditions where they might have a problem and then we encourage them to solve it. I hope to have all of my students reach their goals, but most importantly, I want to build good character in each and every one of them through positivity. We emphasize team work on a daily basis in Animal Strong and stress that the journey is more important than the end result. We want them all to be Animal Strong!