What is my fault? Difficulty coaching some of the older players - advice?

What is my fault? Difficulty coaching some of the older players - advice?

Helo, my name is Fernando,

I am a Spanish tennis teacher who started teaching six months ago. I am working in a public sportcenter and I am having some problems with adults. When I started I realiced that the students were used to playing tennis without any control. Young students told me that the other teacher only used to leave them play - he rarely explained them how to hit the ball. Consequently the do enjoy my clases and they are learning a lot and impoving their level of tennis.

So far so good, but the problem is that with the adults I have the impression that they don´t like my clases. In fact some of them left the group at the begining. I try to mix different kinds of drills during the class and I usually finish it with a game like for example 21, winner........

But it seems that they don´t enjoy it. During the exercises most of them don´t try to do what I tell them. As a result, they don´t have a good level of tennis. But as far as I know, the other teacher was a tennis player who uses to play against them during the clases.

As this is my first time teaching tennis, I don´t fell confidence and that is the reason whay I do´t like to play against them. Appart from that I think that this is not my role as a teacher.

So I would like you to tell me how to deal with that situation. I don´t care if they leave me because this is not going to affect my job, but i wouldn´t like them to leave just because I like tennis and I like teaching tennis.

Thank you very much for your help. I am sorry for my English. Best wishes!!!!

FernandoCoach, Spain
Igor TolarCoach, Slovenia

Fernando I am tennis teacher in Slovenia and I have the same problems with adults. I agreee with you it's not your job to play with students. Maybe just if they ask you for that. I work as a tennis teacher for more than 15 years and it's not better because my experiance. Sorry I couldn't help you so we both looking for one good answer.

Tennis CoachCoach

Hi Fernando and Ogor. From my experience most of the kids coming to your lessons, but especially the ADULTS are not really interested in learning how to execute THE BEST and CORRECT SHOTS , but they want to teach them how to start playing the game of tennis as quick as possible and enjoy playing. So, for them, to enjoy more your lessons don’t insist too much on techniques on the first lessons. Don't make too many drills when you are just feeding some balls and they are staying in the line to wait to get one shot and after that to get at the back of the line to wait for another shot. That could be quite boring at least for somebody who just start playing tennis. Keep them as busy as possible and help them to learn the shots during some games you are doing with them. Keep them all involved in that games, and just do some minor explanations time to time about some elements of the shots which they are practicing while they are playing the games. As an example you just ask them while they are playing to : “turn their body a little more on the side when they are hitting the ball”…or “ hit the ball moving the racquet from low to high…”….” Retract the racquet =backswing, by doing a loop – C shape”….” Finish with the racquet high after they hit the forehand/backhand….” But always using simple explanations without getting into to many details, and in each lesson you insist just on 1 or max 2 elements.

The students coming to your lessons which are very interested in obtaining performance in tennis, you can teach them as you are already used to: starting with teaching each shot in detail , doing lots of drills to give them to practice that technical elements, and so on. Just later on, you get with them into the game situation, just after they have got some technical base.

BUT, you need to start thinking the other way around than your normal way of teaching, when it is about adults coming to your lessons, or even kids which are not interested in performance , but just as any other sport made to keep their body fit.

I hope my answer will help. Please give me some feedback if you are using my advice and tell me how it worked. Thanks. Gab

Tennis CoachCoach

Hello Fernando.  Let the adults be social with each other, setup some doubles drills where they have a specific tool(s) to work on.  While this is going on, walk around and watch what is going on and target out players who are not executing the drill correctly.  Do not get lazy though, hop into the drill if you've got an odd number.  If they make friends, they will come back to see those friends so encourage that.

Tennis CoachCoach

Hello Fernando it is a horrible feeling when you know adults are leaving your group because they don't like the way you do things. but usually thats more to do with them then it is to do with you some people just take a while to cope with change. But yeh i agree with the above comments make it more about playing and having fun rather then coaching points at first. try to get to know the people in your group and let them get to know you then as you all bond a bit more you can start to introduce more coaching by just saying to them that if they tried to do something in this way then it might help. give them the option to use your advise. I don't agree with you not joining in and hitting with them though. it is part of a coaches job to lead by instruction also it really does help when your trying to get a point across. I have often found that if you play well against them they enjoy it and it makes them want to improve just to beat you. The main thing i have to say is to seem as confidence as you can even if on the inside your not.

Del LarkinPlayer, United States of America

Hi Fernando,

I agree with much that has been said about adults. Also do not assume that if they are not doing the drill as you envision it they are not trying.  They might not be at that skill level so you need to adjust the drill.  Also, I agree with keeping verbal explanations to a minimum with specific suggestions (short) as they execute.  Most adults are playing tennis for some exercise and fun, those wanting more input will ask you.

Tennis CoachCoach

Hi Guys, I have been a teaching pro now for about 13 years. Working with people 3 yrs to infinity. My oldest beginner was 83 years old! I agree with alot of what has been said, but find myself agreeing mostly with Del. Most adults in your programme will want to exercise and have fun whilst doing it. If you can persuade them that the better they get, the more fun they will have, then your job is done. Let them come to you for input. It sounds cliched, but it is not how much you know, but how much you care.

Tennis CoachCoach

How about hearing from a 65 yr old "student".  Most adults learn by "visualization" ie, see it, do it.  If we don't understand "how to do it", then we just tune out!  As my instructor does a great job of demonstrating the drill, and then "showing" how to do it, he gets more participation.  As you watch adult students, who do not know how to do a particular skill, they are not engaged in the activity.  Make sure you take some interest in the student; making sure they know how to do the skill, help them by demonstrating it correctly and then having them do it.  One example of this; we have 3 instructors covering a large group drill. My partner in a doubles drill was having trouble putting so top spin on the ball.  Finally, frustrated, he asked me how I was able to do this?  When I inquired about the grip he was using, it was a continental!!! None of these instructors had taken the time to observe what he was doing, and then make a slight correction in his grip.  He had no idea what I was talking about when I suggested he use at least bevel # 3 for an eastern grip on his forehands.  The instructors should have done a better job observing and then taking some corrective action to help him improve.  Just a thought.  If adults don't respond to this type of teaching, they may be in the wrong place!

Matthieuse Coombes-OlneyCoach, England

Ciao Fernando,

Much great advice already. My top tip is make your coaching point relelvant to the player and the `game` they play. Show them what it will do for their game, be realistic most adults already feel they can play tennis, unless they are an absolute beginners. So if your class are older teaching a rearing topspin kick serve followed but a net rush is probably not going to be popular. They probably mostly play doubles so quick wins, court stratgeies and hints and tips always go down well. Remember it must be fun!

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