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Coaching Young Ladies Tennis
by Stephen Waymire
Coach of the Ladies Herons
Tennis Teams of BCMS and BCHS

I confess. I'm a fifty year old male who coaches young ladies tennis by choice. I teach elementary P.E. and coach middle school and high school tennis in a small rural county in Georgia. All sports pyschologists that I've read and studied point out that young ladies have different expectations and goals when it comes to sports. As a male coach, it is important for me to realize these differences and for me to adapt to them. I respect these differences.

Before I go on, I must make clear why I use the term young ladies instead of girls. I teach and coach young ladies from the ages of eight to eighteen. I maybe old fashion, but I still feel that young girls should be treated special. I treat all my players like young ladies, and I expect them to act like young ladies. I do not find this sexist or degrading.

The following are some things that I've learned while coaching young ladies. I do not claim to be a sports psychologist or an expert. I'm just a male who has spent many years coaching young ladies by choice.

GIVE RESPECT TO GET RESPECT. As I've already mentioned. I refer to my players as young ladies, but it is more than words. I always try to show them respect as players and young ladies. Unfortunately, young ladies today, I feel, are no longer treated as special. I try to model the kind of respect they should expect.

TAKE THEM SERIOUSLY. Many of my young ladies feel like "second class athletes." I make it a point to tell them that I have chosen to coach them. At practice, I'm serious and focused.

SET HIGH EXPECTATIONS AND GOALS. I set goals and expectations that are challenging. Although many girls may not have the athletic skills or strength of most boys, I don't lower my expectations.

ACCEPT THAT YOUNG LADIES ARE SOCIAL. I expect my young ladies to be social and talk in groups before, during, and after practice. I accept that when one girl goes to change or make a restroom stop she will take a friend or even a small group with her. I also respect their privacy and move away from them when they are talking. But during a drill, I do expect them to serious, quiet, and focused.

APPEARANCE IS IMPORTANT. My young ladies are very conscious of their appearance. It used to drive me crazy when my young ladies would be fixing their hair or taking forever to get ready for a match or even practice. I've learned that this does not mean that tennis is not important to them. I just have to accept it.

COMMUNICATE ONE TO ONE. I try to communicate with my young ladies on a one to one basis. Besides getting across the necessary information, one to one communication creates a stronger player-coach relationship. It becomes more of a give and take.

HAVE POST MATCH CONFERENCES. After every match, I have a post match conference with each of my players. I like to talk with them as soon as they get off the court. I ask questions about the match. What was the score? How well did you play? How was your serve? and lots of questions about mental toughness. I try not to lecture. If you need to make corrections or suggestions, keep it short.

BE POSITIVE BUT HONEST. When communicating with my young ladies, I always try to positive but honest. I will not give out phony compliments. If my player played terrible, I'm not going to lose her trust by giving her some positive statement that she knows is not true.

KEEP ALL COMMUNICATIONS OUT IN THE OPEN. Any one to one communication I have with a player is done out in the open and in front of everyone. For my protection and to prevent any embarrassment or problems for my player, I keep everyone out in the open. If I need to talk quietly and privately with a player I will do it in the middle of the tennis court or right next to the court.

USE THE TELEPHONE. I use the telephone to remind my players about practices and other information. I keep these calls short and professional. They and their parents appreciate this attention. It also gives them confidence to call me about important matters or to see if I can hit some tennis balls with them.

FOSTER POSITIVE SELF-ESTEEM. A lot of research has shown that many girls have low self-esteem when it comes to athletics. I try to be positive and not allow them to "beat themselves up" with negative statements. I do not allow my middle schoolers to use the word CAN'T. I teach my high schoolers to accept compliments with a "Thank you", and not a "Gee, I got lucky."

TEACH MENTAL TOUGHNESS. Do not expect your players to know how to deal with stress and the emotional roller coaster tennis can be. I teach simple mental toughness techniques just like I teach forehands and backhands. I teach my young ladies to keep their eyes on the court, on the racquet, or on the ball to keep from being distracted. Young ladies are self-conscious about what other think of their playing and can be easily distracted.

THERE IS MORE TO LIFE THAN TENNIS. I sometimes have to remind myself that tennis is one piece of my player's lives. I really cannot expect to obsessed with tennis like I am. Most of my young ladies are active in family, school, and church activities, and many of them also have part time jobs.

CARE ABOUT YOUR PLAYERS AND LISTEN. I stress to my young ladies that I care about them. I don't tell them that. I show that I care by asking questions. What classes do you have? What do you really like to do? What do you plan to do have graduation? What are your dreams?

I think any male coaching young ladies needs to be aware of some of these simple suggestions. I do not claim to be an expert on teenage girls. My young ladies almost everyday prove to me that I don't understand them. But it is a fascinating experience to watch my players grow into mature young ladies.

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