| By Lonnie Mitchel

After many years of teaching and working in the business world, I learned you must develop a philosophy and live by it and be true to it. If you are about to embark on a search for the best instructor, ask him/her what is their teaching/coaching philosophy?

You need a mission statement as a professional and the student should be agreeable to that mission statement. Learning from my mentors and my experience, you must brand yourself in everything you do and be true to your philosophy and mission. If you visit my office at SUNY Oneonta, on my door you will see the slogan and components of The CORE 4. The CORE 4 is a constant reminder to my players as to my expectations during practice and matches. This guides me in almost everything I do as a teacher and coach. CORE 4 may be catchy, it rhymes and can be considered as a device to augment my beliefs and I don’t deny it. When I worked for the Walt Disney Company, I was reminded of one the greatest men of the 20th century and how he branded Mickey Mouse as the icon of the company. A cartoon mouse skyrocketed this company to “The” entertainment company five decades even after the death of Walt Disney. Disney said, “If you can dream it, you can do it. Always remember that this whole thing was started with a dream and a mouse.” I try to look at the habits of some of the most successful people and emulate their habits and learn something from them. Use the tools that are available to you through their knowledge, experience and combine it to fit your own goals.

CORE 4 in tennis
My players walk into my office and they recite back The CORE 4. They know it and live up to it on the tennis court or they will be behind the eight ball on my team. You are likely at this point wondering just exactly what the CORE 4 is. On the tennis court, you better have:

1. Great footwork: Nick Bollettieri will not consider a student for his IMG Academy without good footwork translating to good body language which can tell a lot about a person and as a tennis competitor.

2. Poise: You better have poise or develop some and be receptive to my coaching of it. I want you to keep your composure, both while winning and losing and in practice when you are working to improve. Poise in the classroom separates you from the rest.

3. Consistency: Not just being able to hit the ball back and forth more than your opponent, but doing all the right things on and off the court consistently. From the six pillars of character are Trustworthiness, Respect, Responsibility, Fairness, Caring and Citizenship. Being persistent to perform in those areas repeatedly is vital.

4. Focus … you and the ball: One of my mentors became one of the most successful amateur players in the world by embracing the components of focus in everything he did. The great champions all have it and I want my players to have it on the court and in the classroom. What about technique? If you are a competent instructor, you are teaching it. If you are taking a lesson, you will want to attain it. A teacher can teach good technique and strategy, but getting students to do well for a long period is necessary for long-term growth.

Microsoft, one of the most successful companies in the world, has a very simple mission statement: “To enable people and businesses throughout the world to realize their full potential." Microsoft continues to realize their mission. In my journey to be a successful collegiate tennis coach and role model, my mission is to be true to my CORE 4 beliefs and teach my players the components of such on the court and in life.

Are you a teacher and do you have a philosophy or mission? You will be successful if you do. Get your mission written down and it becomes real and your chance for success increases dramatically. Or, you can be just one of those people existing and not knowing where to go or what to do on the tennis court or in life.


Lonnie Mitchel

Lonnie Mitchel is head men’s and women’s tennis coach at SUNY Oneonta. Lonnie was named an assistant coach to Team USA for the 2013 Maccabiah Games in Israel for the Grand Master Tennis Division. Lonnie may be reached by phone at (516) 414-7202 or e-mail lonniemitchel@yahoo.com.