Tennis Coaching- do parents know best?

Embed from Getty Images

Tennis is an individual sport in which players who have professional aspirations travel nationally and internationally from an early age. Training at an academy can cost between £10,000 and £60,000 per year. It can cost over £1,000 per week to attend international tournaments- even at junior level, where the only income is likely to be any sponsorship that can be obtained. This situation means that there is a massive amount of parental involvement and commitment needed to give a player even the slightest chance of making it to the highest level. Some players train at large academies which will take some of the organisational stress away from the players’ parents- but these can be enormously expensive. Some governing bodies, such as the LTA in Britain, will provide partial financial support, but the extent of this depends on the political climate and their opinion of a player’s progress- which is very subjective and heavily influenced by a young player’s physical development and fitness. There is one way in which the costs of developing a young tennis player can be substantially reduced, without relying on the largesse of others: a parent can become the player’s main coach. This also gives the parent substantially greater control than they would otherwise have. Is this a good idea?

For a parent to be an effective coach of an elite player, they need to learn sufficient technical information about the game to be able to guide their child’s practice and technical development. Some tennis parents are already proficient coaches, which might be considered to offer them a significant advantage. A good example of this is the former Russian Davis Cup player Alexander Zverev, who coaches his two sons, Alexander jr and Mischa. After years of hard work, Alexander is currently ranked 20 in the world, and Mischa 33. However, this type of arrrangement is rare in the men’s game. There is only one other male top 50 player who is coached by a parent, namely Bernard Tomic who is coached by his father John. John Tomic was not a tennis player, but he learned as much about the game as he could, in order to guide Bernard and his sister Sara. He is a controversial figure, but he has had more success than many traditional coaches.

Interestingly, the situation on the women’s tour is more heavily biased in favour of parent-coaches. 6 of the current top 23 female players are coached by a parent. What is also noticeable is the fact that some of the most successful female players of recent times have been coached by their father- and most of these parent-coaches have not been former players. For example, Richard Williams coached his daughters Venus and Serena after learning about tennis from books: Piotr Wozniacki, who coaches Caroline, is a former footballer. Former Wimbledon champion Marion Bartoli was coached for most of her career by her father Walter, a doctor by profession. Richard Williams and Walter Bartoli in particular are noted for the innovative ideas which they brought to coaching and practice.

The evidence above suggests that parents are perfectly able to succeed as co aches of elite tennis players- and in fact may benefit from not having been immersed in the currently fashionable coaching and training ideas for many years. A new perspective can sometimes bring progress. Most parents have limited funds, so taking on this vital role themselves can allow their child to play more tournaments and possibly give them a better chance of success. Nonetheless, there are potential problems. In my next post, I will look at some of the possible downsides, and also consider the psychological implications of this type of arrangement.

Embed from Getty Images

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

I accept that my given data and my IP address is sent to a server in the USA only for the purpose of spam prevention through the Akismet program.More information on Akismet and GDPR.