Keeping your integrity as a coach
Back in the day when I was playing, a lot of the coaches were more dictatorial. They were pointing fingers and telling the players what to do all the time. I think our generation of coaches is more listening.
Today there are bigger teams around the professional players. There is the tennis coach, sometimes even two. You have a fitness coach or a physio, you can have a mental coach or a nutritionist. When I was playing, it was the tennis coach who was handling all those jobs, but now everyone is getting deeper into their area.
So, as a tennis coach, I think I have to listen a lot more to what the team has to say, but at the same time, I have to stand up for what I believe in. One of the reasons why that is a difficult balance is that in the world of tennis, it’s oftentimes the player who is paying the coach. Therefore, it’s quite tough for a coach to say things that you know the player will not be happy to hear. It’s natural to be afraid of losing your job.
You have to stand up and be able to say no when you think things are not going in the right direction, or a player is not meeting your expectations whether that be on-court or off-court behaviour. At the end of the day, the only thing you want as a coach is that the player gets better. My experience is that many times players come back after a couple of months or a couple of weeks and say that it’s okay. That they think what was said was tough to hear, but they are happy that I did tell it to them and, as a consequence, they are now a better player or person.