We all love to win. Our self-confidence goes up. We feel more valuable. We know we can do anything. Overall we are happy. But tennis is not a fairy tale. We don’t win every time. Unfortunately tennis career is a bumpy road so we have to know how to approach wins as also how to effectively deal with loses.
Successful tennis coaches don’t just focus on tennis skills. They know that this is not enough to produce world-class tennis players. Tennis skills are just one small piece of a form so you have to possess knowledge about each piece to make sure that solid building will deal with any difficulty. If there is one weak block in building it will collapse at more difficult time.
Technique, tactic, physical, and mental skills are mostly addressed during practice sessions by coaches around the world. These 4 major areas are crucial to develop solid game but they still don’t guarantee that particular player will be successful during long-term career. Ups and downs are inevitable and strong forehand won’t help you get your mind back to the positive state if you have lost 10 matches in a row. It is much more that you need to go through this difficult time so coaches have to be aware of these details to help you when you need it most.
Tennis coaches are different. Some are positive, some are negative. Some are calm, some are explosive. It doesn’t really matter what your dominant style is unless you know some basic things that you shouldn’t do after your player loses a match. If you really care about your students read on and make sure that you will never make these mistakes:
- Understand your player’s feelings
Too many times I had a chance to see coaches screaming at players after a loss. I really can’t understand this behavior. Do you really think that your player consciously wanted to underperform? Did he lose the match on purpose? Of course not. He tried his best but it didn’t work out. Maybe because of skills or maybe because of wrong tactical decisions but he tried his best. Now he is devastated and feels negative. The worst thing you can do is to jump straight at him after the match and scream. It only shows how selfish you are. Try to understand your player. Think what he can feel right now. If you are smart the answer will be quick and simple.
- Wait with analysis
Part of the coaching job is to analyze the match and help players learn positive and negative things from each performance. It is really valuable not only for players but also for coaches because each part can experience something new. Remember to not try to analyze matches straight after the last point is done. The reason is simple – there are still a lot of emotions in both of you. If you lose the match you feel bad so mostly you will see only negative things in the last match. That is the problem. If you wait few hours you will see that emotions tried to mislead you. Now you can point out many positive lessons from this match and also see the areas that you should work on during next practice sessions. Give yourself and player time to digest this loss. You both need it to be successful.
- Go back home
One of the worst pictures I can see is player and coach jumping into the car and going home right after lost match. That is not helpful. You have to be professional no matter the score. Loss is not an excuse to skip important acitvites for tennis players. As a coach you have to make sure that your player cools down, stretches, takes shower, eats properly, and rehydrates right after the match is done. If all these routines are performed now you can say „Tournament is done – we can go home”. If you don’t do this you have failed twice at the same time.
We all make mistakes. Players. Parents. Coaches. But mistakes are not wrong if we learn from them. Maybe you made some mistakes from my list, maybe you didn’t but it is worthy to keep them in mind and avoid all the time. As a coach you are paid to make your players better so do it not only when they win. It is much easier to be effective when everything is going right but nobody said it will be easy huh?
Marcin Bieniek is a professional tennis coach and founder of instructional website http://tennisisland.us. Marcin has been working with USTA, top 100 ITF and WTA/ATP players. He is a frequent contributor to TennisPro and TenisKlub magazines and he was a speaker at International Coaching Tennis Symposium 2016 at Hilton Head Island, USA.