Coaching During High School Tennis Matches

The USHSTA surveyed tennis coaches across the country about how they coached their players DURING matches against other teams. We provided a number of questions to answer and solicited additional comments. Thirty-two coaches provided answers; collectively, these coaches had won 18 conference titles and eight state titles. Their responses are below. Not every coach answered every question, depending on their situation, so totals may vary.

When are you allowed to coach during matches?
1 – Any time
0 – After a game only
28 – During changeovers only
3 – After sets only

Who is allowed to coach?
11 – Head coach only
18 – Head coach and assistants
1 – Coaches and teammates

I give…(you may choose multiple answers)
0 – Technical advice during matches
10 – Strategy and tactics advice during matches
7 – Mental toughness advice during matches
21 – All of the above

I find that I…(you may choose multiple answers)
1 – Primarily point out what the player is doing wrong
27 – Remember to point out positives about my player’s performance, as well as negatives
6 – Primarily do the talking during these coaches sessions
11 – Require my player to initiate conversations/observations, and then I respond
10 – Lean toward focusing on my player’s strengths and weaknesses
10 – Lean toward focusing on countering the opponent
16 – Always focus on both players equally

In order to give all players equal attention…(you may choose multiple answers)
12 – I use teammates, parents and spectators to watch individual matches and give me updates
6 – I have teammates, parents and spectators chart matches and use the info during the matches to coach
11 – I require players to observe what is happening during a match so they can tell me what is happening
6 – I focus on one, two or three players/matches, rather than trying to watch a portion of all of the matches
20 – I try to watch all players/and matches equally

Subjective Comments

“Our conference has three singles and two doubles teams. Five possible points, seven players and no player is allowed to play both. All five matches are played at the same time. Subs on my team chart to keep them busy and learn match play from the starters. I may give the people charting a different assignment on each match. Ex. first serve winning percentage. Points won when advance to the net. Winners. Unforced errors. Winning percentage when the player wins the first point of a game, etc. I spend time on each court and get some feedback from the charters. I try to let my players get into the flow of the match and after about five games on a changeover I may offer coaching tips depending on what may be needed. I do not overload my players with info. Paralysis through Analysis. I narrow my time spent on a court or two and focus my attention to the closest match that I may make a difference in a win for the team. Strategy and tactics that may make the difference. Always a positive comment. NO negatives. I try to encourage players to carry an index card in their racket cover and on that card write down a word or a phrase to remind them of a certain area of their game. They may view it on a changeover. Ex: Keep my head up on the serve. Stay aggressive. First point of every game.”

“I handle the different athletes differently. Some players need to do the talking and I’m there to reassure; some players need to hear a stupid joke because they are so tight…they need to loosen up; some need help adjusting to the style of their opponent; and some need to take a moment before they self-destruct. I have found that I have players that need gentle encouragement while others need a challenge. Part of coaching is learning what a player needs to make them perform to the best of their ability. Building their belief in themselves during a match is a constant and I always chuckle when I hear a coach tell a player not to double fault…who really tries to do that!!!!”

“When coaching it is important to vary advice and style according to the individual player involved. Some players need very little, others just a small boost. Having a coach and assistant coach involved is a bonus. Before each match begins, we decide who will talk to which players, as some respond better to one style than another.”

“There are few times in life more satisfying than coaching a player who is down 7-1 to an 9-7 victory in an 8 game pro-set format.”

“When I coach my players I try to keep the advice very simple. I believe giving too much advice can hurt the player. I try to focus on one or two things they can try to counter their opponent and one thing I would like them to try and do themselves. I may only mention one thing each time I speak with them. If my player is up in the match I usually leave them alone and just encourage from the side. If they are losing, I speak with them more frequently. I make it a rule that if they lose the first set they need to talk with me before they start the next set, if possible. Example: if it is a changeover”

“I try not to overcoach during a match. The player’s have enough to focus on during a match and if I overcoach that is overloading and taking away the player’s instinct on points played. Paralysis through analysis. I get a feel of all matches by walking and viewing court to court. I let my player’s play. Then as needed if a player is up a set and appears to be cruising to a victory I will focus my attention to a match that is very close and with my coaching at a changeover with positive advice I may turn that close match into a victory. I also have subs chart on all 5 courts and rely on that information. I make charting a very important job to my subs and it keeps 5 of them busy and learning from a starter.”

“Our state has a very specific rule for coaching during matches. We may coach at the end of a set and at one changeover during the set. The only ones allowed to coach are the head coach and one assistant that is under contract by the school. Time is also limited to 90 seconds at a changeover and two minutes at the end of the first set. Between the second and third set the player can leave the court for up to 10 minutes and anyone can talk to them.”

“I find that the most important things I can do to help my players during a match are:1.Remind them of a tactic that we spoke about before the match and make sure they stay patient when it is not working. 2.Let them know when it is time to abandon a specific tactic and move on to a new one. 3.point out a weakness I see in their opponent and let them know how to counter. 4.Keep them in a positive and competitive frame of mind. 5. Know who needs and benefits from talking to me and who would prefer not to speak to me.”

“As players are watching matches, I make my rounds and try and catch several points. If player appears to be in control, then I move on. I make it a point to speak with each player as soon as I am able to, to find out what they are feeling.”

“I always say something positive first.”

“This is an area of great interest to me. I think this is worth a lot of sharing amongst coaching. Each player usually needs to be handled in very different ways. Some need attention, some want to do it all on their own, some listen, some don’t. It would be nice to hear more about techniques that certain coaches have found the most meaningful and if there are any patterns.”

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