A coaching philosophy and branding in tennis

This blog isn’t about who is a good coach and who isnt. In just throwing up and occasional lob.

I’ve applied for four jobs in my club coaching career and been successful three out of the four times. I’ve always thought I prepared for the interviews well by refining my coaching philosophy, providing up to date examples of how I have developed players from grass roots to college or pro tour, dropped names of top 100 players I have worked with, wins against top 10 players, and even brought my racquet and wore tennis clothes to the interviews in case by the off chance the people interviewing me wanted to see if I could feed a ball let alone actually coach! Alas, I’ve never been asked to prove I can hit a ball (some may say that’s lucky) and I’ve always noticed the guys before and after me wore business suits and a tie…

One noticable thing that was never asked of me during club coaching interviews was what my coaching philosophy was… I will come back to this point later…

When working with grand slam level players it’s common knowledge you dont need to sell yourself or try to find players, they know who you are, what your personality is like, what your style is, and what they can gain from working with you. They will come and seek you!!

Like they say in the NBA, if you need a resume when you apply for a coaching job, forget it, you are not good enough!

Last Wednesday I had a coffee with one of Australia’s leading tennis coaches. He’s a top bloke who helped me through my Tennis Australia High Performance Coaching course 10 years ago. Amongst footy and other banter, we talked about the debacle of the ITF World Tour, local participation coaching VS performance coaching and then we got into how our coaching philosophies have evolved over the years.

A coaching philosophy is simple. It’s your defined purpose of what you do, including your values and beliefs, and then add what your coaching style is. How do you develop a coaching philosophy? That’s another blog.

My own coaching philosophy is basic. Its ” To be the coach that the player needs the most at that point in time”.

Where do I draw my inspirations and form my philosophy? I like to connect with my players on many levels – another blog.

Other sports, fashion, pop culture, comedy, and obviously my background in coaching at local, national, international, Davis Cup, Fed Cup, and the Grand Slam players I have worked with also help. Networking and having a glass or 2 of vino in the players cafe at Wimbledon with other coaches certainly taught me a lot of things you cant learn in a classroom.

This brings me back to the conversation I had with the coach over coffee on Wednesday. What is the current coaching situation in Melbourne today and what are their philosophies.

There are a lot of coaches who are like tradesman. Great at the job, terrible at the business side. Or the opposite, great at running a business but not actually improving players. You only have to look on social media to see how many “Australia’s leading tennis Academies” there are. (Nevermind the run down 2 court club with holes in the nets, cracks in the court, 1960’s change rooms, and um….no high performance player!) they are still Australia’s leading tennis Academies!

The best coaches developing players in Melbourne dont have YouTube channels with videos reinventing the serve. They dont need to tell you how good they are. They don’t self promote because they probably have full schedules and dont want or need the extra work. Sure, they could delegate and delegate, but they know that would dilute the quality of their product.

Bored of my rant so far? Probably, but thanks for reading this much. Game of thrones comes back soon so go catch up and rewatch.

So what about the branding of coaching businesses? Well, the beauty of social media and the internet is that you can say whatever you want and nobody can stop you! I know of a local coach who last year had a losing record in grade 9 pennant but is a self annointed former professional player who has developed numerous national level players. Nobody has ever seen his alleged professional playing career or heard of these players he has developed, but it was on his gumtree ad so it must be true.

Branding, branding, branding!

The real problem here is that branding isn’t what you put on your brochure, flyer or business card. It’s not even your new tracksuit, t-shirt or sunglasses. These things might differentiate one business from another, but it’s definitely not your brand!

A strong brand is what people say about you when you are not there.

Coaches can invest as much time and money into their advertising campaigns and unless their is more ‘sausage’ than ‘sizzle’ in their performance and results, unfortunately they are just selling ‘snake oil’.

Having said this, when working with a tour player and on the road in a country where I can’t speak the language or know directions, nine out of ten times I’m always asked the same question after the first practice session…. “What do you want to do for dinner?”

I’m not hating on anyone, it’s just my occasional lob.

See you on the court.


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