It is very common to see parents enroll a six-year-old child in a tennis program and expect a champion out of it, or for a father to have the unrealistic expectation that his son or daughter will be able to beat the number one player in their school after just one month of instruction.
Good communication with parents is key when a child joins a program in order to set up realistic and achievable goals for the player. Unrealistic goals may lead to parents losing credibility and trust in the coaches.
Setting up goals allows us to align our training towards a final result. These goals give us a tangible way to measure a player’s progress. As a player starts achieving these goals, the coach starts to gain credibility and trust with the player and the parents.
But … how do we set up goals?
First, we need to understand that goals are personal. Each player comes with different objectives. For players who compete in tournaments, we also need to separate training goals from tournament goals. I advise that you set up two types of goals: Short-term and long-term goals. Some characteristics of your goals:
►Make them measurable. The player and the coach should be able to quantify progress.
►Make them challenging, and keep the player motivated.
►Make them increase the player’s self-esteem.
For beginner players, short-term goals may be hitting more balls over the net, trying to make more hits to different parts of the court (crossed or parallel) or stepping back to 3/4 of the court for mini-tennis.
For more advanced players, short-term goals during practice may be hitting only forehand shots, hitting deeper shots, or serve with a particular grip. Short-term goals for tournaments may be always holding serve or move to the next round at an important tournament.
For beginner players, long-term goals may be learning all strokes be able to maintain a long rally or play tournaments. For advanced players, long-term goals may be playing in more tournaments, moving up in the rankings, win a tournament or get on a school team.
Identifying realistic goals should be the first step in setting up a training plan. Achieving goals will make each training session a challenge and it will increase a player’s self-esteem. Parents will gain confidence in our abilities as coaches when they see their children improve and achieve their pre-defined goals.
Juan Pablo Perez Rios
<p>Juan Pablo Perez Rios is a USPTR 4A tennis coach at World Gym in Setauket, N.Y. He is also a Level 2 coach of the Internacional Tennis Federacion (ITF). He may be reached by e-mail at <a href="mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org">email@example.com</a>.</p>