Many people have asked me, "How do I select a coach for my children or for myself?" They would like to know if any coaches in their area teach as I do. I answer the second question first by explaining that I do not know many coaches or their teaching styles. Since 99% of the pros from my area teach the complete opposite of my methods, I would assume the same is true throughout the country. That does not mean there are not excellent coaches around the country. On the contrary, there are many dedicated and knowledgeable tennis pros who have their own unique styles and preferences when they teach.
Let's say you are looking for a pro like myself, who teaches minimum technical skills and uses repetition to mold a stroke. The process I would go through is simple. You know the "K.I.S.S." principle: Keep It Simple, Stupid! The first thing I would do is watch some pros teach a few times. Look to see if that pro overdoes the technical instruction or feeds a lot of balls with minimum instruction. If you find one that appears compatible with what you are looking for, make an appointment for one lesson and see what you think.
If you have been playing for a while and your game is already developed, let the pro know you would like to enhance what you have without making major changes. But, if you would like to make some changes be prepared to work for months to develop the muscle sense for match play! No magical piece of technical information is going to just make it happen.
If you are a beginner, some technical information is fine, just make sure the pro does not overdo it. Personally if a pro consistently overemphasizes the technical I would begin looking for another pro. I would NOT teach the pro how to teach!!! I would just quietly move on.
To find a pro you could also ask for a referral from a friend. Make sure you ask a few questions about the pro. Often players think a good pro is one that can reel off an array of technical jargon. Because a pro can reel off a ton of technical stuff means one thing... they can reel off a ton of technical stuff! Application of that knowledge is a different story. You want a pro who can apply that knowledge without having to inundate you with technicalities.
In an article printed in USA Today, June 28, 2004, Andy Roddick spoke about his coach Brad Gilbert. I love what Roddick said. "One of the coolest things about working with Brad was he came in and he's like, 'Listen, we're going to simplify things.'" After working with Gilbert, Roddick's record in finals improved to 9-1 from 9-5. Roddick remarked, "It wasn't all this technical mumbo jumbo. He just made it very simple."
Technical mumbo jumbo!!! I wonder what he was referring too? :) Apparently other coaches had tried a few technical make-overs on Andy!
I must admit that I have taught in the past using many conventional methods. As I learned more and realized the errors of my ways, I molded into a different coach and created my own methods with a compatible philosophy.
One of the most important principles when teaching tennis is to NOT teach all players the same way. All players are different with different goals, different talent, different personalities and different levels of commitment. And if that's not enough, all players are at different stages. Some are beginners, some are in the building stage, some are advanced with a solid game and others are veterans at the game. All must be dealt with on the level they have reached. If a player is a beginner you cannot give him or her strategy like you would an advanced player with a solid game. If a player is in a building stage your focus in match play may be to just practice going for his or her shots, whereas if he or she were a veteran your focus may be to create pressure on his or her opponent.
When signing on with a new pro give him or her information that can help them develop a training plan designed specifically for your level and goals. Most pros will ask if there is anything in particular that you would like to achieve. This will give you the perfect opening to explain your situation. If the pro ignores all that you have said, be prepared, you are probably about to hear a bunch of TECHNICAL MUMBO JUMBO!!! :)