Tuesday, April 4, 2017

What I learned from teaching tennis

1. Being a good player doesn’t translate to being a good coach. The crucial part is being able to communicate, explain, and transfer your skill sets to someone else. Sometimes, being too gifted and talented works to your disadvantage because when certain aspects come easy for you, it will be hard to understand why your student doesn’t get it as quickly as you do. For the record, I excelled at tennis because of extreme hard work, superior coaching, and financially and spiritually supportive parents. The stroke that is commonly the most difficult to teach is the serve. I’ve learned that you really have to take this shot step by step. Start from the service line, go piece by piece and gradually get your student to graduate to the baseline. You need to get them the right form first. It’s very difficult for a beginner to start off hitting serves from the baseline. The distance is too great for a first timer. You have to start SLOW and not try to solve everything in a day.

2. Things may get ugly, but you have to let it be ugly before it gets better. To me, this is the reason students who are really trying to become great should take private lessons. In a group setting, it’s very difficult to get individual time on a stroke you are particularly bad at for multiple reasons. First, when you miss the ball a ton, it’s difficult for the other students to get any practice in because you give other students no rhythm. Second, unless you are the most confident student ever, you probably don’t want to be missing over and over again in front of your peers. However, the only way to improve is repetition. I’d much rather be messing up in a one on one situation and get that individual attention for the fastest improvement.

3. Speak slow and make sure your student understands exactly what you are getting at. Ask them specific questions and to reiterate what you said. I have a tendency to speak very quickly and that’s not conducive to transferring knowledge to someone. Speaking slow is a sign of power. When you speak slowly, you want the person to understand. I know for a fact that teaching tennis has greatly improved my confidence in public speaking.

4. I have a huge ego. My students recently told me I have a large, joking ego. I’m not sure what to say about that because it’s true. I wear my emotions on my sleeve and when I am certain in something, I exude confidence. I do try to keep a fun atmosphere in practice because working hard at something you love should be fun! Of course, to get what you want, you will have to do things that you don’t want to do such as conditioning, practice serves, and lifting weights. However, you can always try to have a positive attitude. I am concerned because I hope that my ego doesn’t get into the way of my teaching or hurt any of my student’s feelings. I am blunt. It’s my job to point out what you’re doing wrong because knowing the problem is the first step in fixing it! I could work on giving more positive reinforcement to my students and let them know they are doing great.

5. Coaching would have made me such a better player. In practice as a player, you are only focused on yourself. What stroke am I trying to work on today? It’s definitely much more physically exhausting. It is not as mentally exhausting but also showed me that I could have been more aware on the court. Now that I’m coaching, I better be on my best mental game so I can catch every nuance and every mistake I see a student make. I analyze each one of my students’ games closely to determine what I feel like they need to work on. Every student is different and has different strengths and weaknesses. While scouting opponents in tournaments is similar in the analysis, the thought process is different. As a player, I’m just looking to see how I can exploit an opponent’s weakness. As a coach, I identify the weakness and determine what the best strategy is to fix that weakness.

6. I love coaching. It’s fun because I feel very confident in what I’m teaching. I enjoy coming up with new drills for each student because making someone better at something is the most fulfilling feeling. I used to think that I would only enjoy teaching the very best, highest ranked students, but I really don’t care. I’d much rather teach someone who really wants to learn and tries their hardest when they are with me. In fact, snobby students of any ranking can go eat dirt because I want nothing to do with you. I put in a lot of effort to my students and I expect the same from them. Effort and attitude is everything. Practice doesn’t make perfect. Perfect practice makes perfect.

7. Coaching is about chemistry. I encourage my students to try different coaches. Some coaching styles work better for specific students. Some coaches are also special at teaching specific strokes! I’ve learned so much from all the coaches I’ve had. At the same time, I think that it’s best that a player sticks to 1 or 2 (maybe 3) coaches consistently for continuity. Building that player-coach relationship is also so critical to growth. Growing up, I went through quite a few coaching changes but mostly stuck to 2 main coaches. While losing students is sad, I don’t want to be someone’s coach if they think there is someone better for them out there. I would be doing them a disservice. Jealous coaches stem from insecurity. I’m happy to help whoever wants to be taught by me.

If you're interested in lessons from me please contact me at coachkenkao@gmail.com and leave your phone number! My requirements are that you want to learn and will give me your best effort.

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