There is a term “cookie cutter” coach. That is the one that would say nothing, but clichés to the students: “early back swing” or “take the racquet back”, “bend your knees”, “swing low to high”, “watch the ball” or “keep your eyes on the ball” and many other “instructions” of the same sort. I have seen and heard guys yelling “Don’t miss!”, as an instruction.

This happens partially because these “instructions” are true and correct and when you start teaching you want to be safe and say what’s right. Then you see how it does not always work right away (or at all), but you are the teacher and they are the students. So who is right? So “coaches” very often justify lack of students’ progress by all kind of good reasons: this kid would not need to be a professional player, or this kid has no athletic ability or patience or desire, mom just signed him up for a class, tennis is not a sprint, it’s a marathon (this is philosophical one), this kid only plays once a week and etc. There are a lot of good reasons.

The next thing happens, you find yourself doing just this and being right in this pathetic way for so many years that at the end all you can think of to justify your own incompetence is: “Back in the day we really loved the game and wanted to play and learn, but this iPhone generation is totally worthless”. I am sorry, if this offends anyone. It is what it is. Most of the time “coach” does not even believe that the student can improve. Anyone who tried to be a tennis teacher knows this feeling. And very few tennis teachers are willing to take the blame on themselves and keep believing in their students, regardless of all the good reasons. There are still coaches that are more secure and don’t mind to be wrong and to admit that. Those guys always dig deeper, revisit the old clichés, break myths, test and retest what works the best and evolve through that and sometimes come back to the basics finishing the full spiral twist. And at the end there will be simple words said to the students but felt through so much that they pull the right strings and messages get delivered.

It is very funny, but all of these good reasons arguments or excuses about slow learning are true. When working with recreational clientele I constantly have to remind myself that inspiring is more important than teaching. Passion has to come first. Functionality has to come second, but, as I said earlier, as soon as possible to keep the passion alive. And for that I do everything I can to make sure that there is a passion for the game of chasing balls and ‘returning favors“ to opponent, as well as passion for improvement through learning things that are FUNCTIONAL for playing competitively. Once passion is there, then, to me at least, improvement is ultimate and tennis provides unlimited opportunity for it.