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Tennis Development Coach as a Leader

By Fernando Segal

I´ve always thought that those who are taking responsibility, today by preparing for the future and improving their behaviors are putting themselves in a position to be successful in their journey.

This includes all of us who have direct relationship with the education, training and certification of tennis teachers and coaches. We have a great responsibility and a deep sense of belonging and legacy. We should work to prepare future generations of professionals, with a better profile, environment, professional ethics, and competitiveness.

I am convinced that we, tennis coaches, at any level and area of performance, are very essential in the task. At same time, we are also the weakest link of the tennis chain in terms of structure and recognition.

To prepare for better future, we must identify and address the opportunities facing us. There is no more powerful force that driving a group of people or an organization towards the goal-success than having a clear and shared vision of the future. Thanks to a positive and constructive vision we can be more precise about producing the next generations of tennis coaches who will lead our sport to another level, emphasizing that they are in the humanistic trenches of teaching and developing players. We are not mechanics.

Regardless which organization you command, the training of tennis coaches involves certain fundamental professional principles. Regarding that, following my own principles I will share my thoughts with you.

If we agree that our industry belongs to the sector of entertainment, service, and customer relationships, then our focus should be, on training and developing coaches as true DEVELOPMENT TENNIS LEADERS, beyond teaching methodologies only.

As I mentioned in my previous article about my book Tennis Concept 6/90, we always teach to human beings who then play tennis., beyond the tactical and technical contents of the game. I called in my book that each leader should be a Tennis Development Coach.

Precisely, creating leaders in tennis development means creating a mental, emotional process that is a model of behavior, attitudes, and efficiency which prepares them to generate more and better service and growth in our sport.

We build bridges with people through tennis. Our business is about building relationships and through them, producing players. This is what leaders do. This is how we create a better future for tennis.

We must learn a lot from the hospitality, service, strategic and marketing industries, to understand that what is important is the journey, not the destination. What´s is essential is the path that each one takes in tennis, regardless of their choice of competing or not.

Leaders understand that they lead from the heart and proceed from the mind, generating strategies to make people fall in love with the sport we love. It is worth remembering examples such as: Vic Braden. Dennis van der Meer, Nick Bolletieri, Richard Schonborn, Jim Loehr, Jack Groppel, Harry Hopmann, Alberto Castellani, Felipe Locicero and many others to mention, who transcended in their own way for their quality of delivery, commitment, energy and focus, in addition to the quality of what they taught and developed. They made significant differences in our sport. …. Where are the next tennis leaders?

My own master coach Felipe Locicero from Mar del Plata, Argentina, started a revolution in Argentine Tennis since in the 60´s, where precisely by forming 7 players who reached the top 100 ATP/WTA in the world, one of them being Guillermo Vilas, ATP #2 and champion of 4 grand slams. Not bad for someone who didn’t play tennis and he grabbed his first tennis book at age 42 to start teaching with his own ideas. He was a barber in his previous profession.  Felipe led from the transforming force of passion and love for our sport, accompanied by a strong discipline and systematic order. Perhaps he was not the one who better taught the forehand or the serve, but he was best at making everyone believe in themselves, that they could do it. He was a master of motivation and to create self-esteem in others.  

Leaders have that, they believe in you, they believe in themselves, and they awaken your self-confidence and make it bigger. I honor his memory and legacy.

I am convinced that players can be developed on many systems. However, I am also convinced that those who make a difference are those who work on the personal skills of each human who will be tennis player. 

Based on this perspective, I propose that we prepare leaders for tennis growth in areas such as: Personal development, self-care, professional performance, leadership, technologies applied, communications, negotiation strategies, networking, relationship management, promotion strategies, systematic innovation and creativity, career positions, brand management, business development, financial management, team management, professional ethics, hospitality, environment & ecology and customer service culture and more. In summary all areas through you will contribute to the tennis world.

Regardless of how old you are, you always have an opportunity to venture beyond your comfort zone to create a larger growth zone. Let´s share the vision to transform ourselves and develop as leaders in tennis development. 

In another aspect, tennis coaches should help organizations create standards of excellence and recognition for our profession. I think in this area we are in deficit. There´s still much to do and with consistency.

For instance:

Only 3 countries out of 210 National Federations have regulated and protected by law the tennis coaches´ profession. Only certified coaches can work in affiliated clubs. In addition, that they are protected by labor laws, like any other recognized profession.

In most of the cases, tennis coaches travelling with professional players on the most important professional circuits, in most cases do not have formal contracts, or job protection, health, or retirement insurance. Other sports regulate coaches’ relationships with teams and with athletes. Let’s think ahead and let´s do a better model for our profession. 

In the USA there are a less of dozen universities that prepare with the degree of management and specialization in tennis. In Golf there are almost a hundred, 10 times more at least. Perhaps Golf has thought better than us how to help its management professionals to develop country clubs, large clubs, and academies. Can’t we in 10 to 15 years’ work on a project to include programs in many more universities and in many more countries?

The large tennis organizations formally represent the players, the tournaments, the national federations and thus, the regional clubs and associations. The only profession that does not have a common organization with agreed protocols is ours. Coaches must do more for themselves and not blame anyone else. We must ensure that the next generations have a better environment than the one we currently inhabit.

There are more windows of opportunities. Leadership behaviors are granular. This is reflected in how you speak, how you act, how you prepare, your style, your tone, your volume, how you connect with people, how you handle your emotions and fundamentally how you act based on your vision. Leadership behaviors mark and generate impact. They show who you are, your values, your beliefs, and your purposes. Let’s show who we are and think for the future with actions that prepares for that better future.

Tennis coaches matter!! To impulse tennis development leaders matters!!

That is why we created TBD Tennis Innovation Week, to think together and to be united in the love for our sport. Let’s build together a path towards a better future which has to be our legacy.

We can always be better!!

Best, Fernando

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