Tennis is easily one of the most popular sports on the continent, with a global national reach of almost 100%. While it’s treated casually in the majority of these nations, tennis in the United States is a big deal. Tennis players make millions each year from the game and the whole tennis industry supports thousands of people financially, both directly and indirectly.
Right at the centre of this amazing sport is the tennis coach; the unsung hero that makes it all happen. Indeed, successful tennis players can attribute their skills to natural talent, however, that talent alone is far from enough to unlock professional play.
Tennis coaches are an essential part of the game to the extent that their training skills alone can make something of an otherwise ‘untalented player’ with the right amount of coaching effort.
Coaching is, therefore, a noble profession that can be highly rewarding both financially and psychologically. In the US, Tennis Coaches are among the top most-paid professional coaches.
It comes as no surprise, therefore, that one cannot just claim to be a professional tennis coach out of the blues. There are several regulations to be observed. These regulations are, however not meant to deter aspiring coaches but rather to prepare and empower them sufficiently for a career in the fascinating world of tennis.
What Does a Tennis Coach Really Do?
Tennis coaching defines a full-fledged profession that is much more demanding than one would otherwise expect. It is the coach’s duty to transform amateur players into skillful professionals that can compete on a professional level. Coaches are also responsible for refining the skills of professional players to maximize their abilities on the court.
Here are some of the key duties of a tennis coach:
Conducting Training Sessions
There’s more to the regular training sessions that were all familiar with especially at school. Each session is fully designed to develop certain skills and abilities within the students and improve their game.
The coach must, therefore, plan and organise each session and conduct it in a manner that achieves the main objective. Coaches also use these sessions to improve the physique of their players and develop suitable stamina that can last them the whole match.
Player Analysis and Evaluation
Humans are naturally diverse and unique in their ways and abilities. The coach has to analyse each player and determine his/her strength and weaknesses. Such evaluations are critical as they determine how best the player can be improved and how to exploit the player’s potential to the fullest.
Tennis is just like any other sport out there; it works perfectly with a team approach. Team building, therefore, requires the selection of ideal members that can cooperatively seek victory and seamlessly operate in any competition.
The coach must also be able to foster a team spirit among players by enhancing cooperation tendencies and encouraging collective effort and responsibility.
Humans naturally thrive when exposed to the right motivation. It is, therefore, the duty of the coach to ensure that all his/her students are fully motivated to perform their best at any given time.
Without this, players can easily under-perform and fail to realise their full potential. The right motivation can, therefore, be the key difference between a measly performance and an outstanding one.
The coach is responsible for ensuring flawless and optimum gameplay.
Every match comes with its unique dynamics and it is the duty of the coach to closely monitor matches and make timely decisions that promote the best possible gameplay through proper strategizing, player selections and substitutions.
The coach is also responsible for keeping track of performances during matches of both his/her players as well as that of opponent for future referencing and strategizing.
Last but not least, the coach is responsible for team additions (and eliminations) in an effort to grow the team and improve its performance.
This is a very serious aspect that can have serious impacts on overall performance and success of the team and it requires keen observation skills for scouting talent as well as the ability to convince new players to join the team.
All these duties must be executed in a professional and seamless manner that does not frustrate the players into quitting the game. The coach is therefore responsible for the continued interest in the game by his/her players.
A greater part of the profession also has nothing to do with physical fitness and stamina issues but rather great morale and team spirit which binds the team together during thick and thin. As such, coaching involves a lot of techniques that can only be learnt and mastered through practise and experience by the coach himself.
In the US, tennis coaches at junior level schools are commonly faculty members who have other academic teaching commitments. As the levels of education rise, these coaches tend to be more and more full-time with highly committed teams training at almost professional levels, especially at university levels.
Where bigger teams are involved, most institutions often have an assistant coach as part of the staff compliment. These assistant coaches are essentially junior coaches that may have lower qualifications or less experience than the main coach.
They perform the same duties as the main coach in his/her absence and they assist with the same duties in his/her presence. As such, teams can have multiple coaches; one main or head coach and several assistant coaches to help effectively manage the team and improve the player-to-coach ratio which ultimately produces better performance on the court
What Does a Tennis Coach Earn? – The Perks of the Trade
Since tennis coaching is a profession of its own, it comes with its perks and benefits that make it worthwhile.
Most coaches are employed by organisations and institutions such as schools, clubs and tennis associations. All these caters for all ages for tennis coaching, from very young children seeking a footing in the sport to retired players wishing to stay in touch with the game.
As a profession, coaches are entitled to standard remuneration amounting to a standard of about $43 000 in the US plus a host of other benefits such as health and retirement packages as well as annual leave days to take a break.
Elite clubs, however, tend to pay much higher than the standard with some seasoned coaches earning nearly $100 000 each year. Personal professional coaches also ear much higher than this especially were huge events such as the US Open and Wimbledon are involved.
Getting Certified as a Tennis Coach
The USA has always been notorious for imposing regulations on sporting conduct, from the players themselves up to the coaches themselves. Such regulations are always met with mixed feelings but they are a clear indication of how serious the nation takes its sports.
For tennis players and their coaches, adhering to these regulations is the best way to demonstrate true professionalism. It is the only way to be taken seriously in the industry and it can unlock a whole lot of opportunities, from sponsorship funding to performance on a global scale and stage.
Getting certified as a tennis coach in the US can be achieved via various organisations and associations that are well recognised within the tennis circles.
Some of the most popular certifying organisations include; the United States Professional Tennis Association, commonly referred to simply as USPTA, the United States National Tennis Academy (USNTA), and the Professional Tennis Registry, also known simply as PTR.
While all these organisations are competent enough to certify tennis coaches, their approach to the process is often unique to each institution.
For instance, USPTA aims to certify coaches that are capable of teaching at all levels, from the very tender enthusiasts to professional players as they gain experience. Contrary to this, PTR believes in a specialised approach where coaches focus only on a certain stage of one’s tennis career and pass on the player to a higher-level coach when they think he/she is ready for the next step.
Besides the actual certifications, these organisations also offer a variety of benefits for their members such as job opportunities with their affiliated clubs, schools or teams as well as other essential benefits like insurance on the courts and access to professional facilities for training.
More often than not, one is permitted to subscribe to both organisations to enjoy the diverse benefits that they each have to offer. Between the mentioned organisations, USPTA often seems to have the upper hand with coaches.
Let’s just briefly take a look at the tennis coach certifying process.
Sign up for Membership
You can kick off your journey to be a professional coach by becoming a full member of the USPTA. Membership with the association comes with multiple professional benefits as mentioned earlier and it’s a very manageable commitment and a very small annual fee. It also helps you to get your skill levels assessed and on record.
Complete the Coach Youth Tennis Program
The USPTA has designed a tight-knit training programme that is meant to provide a basic introductory exercise for coaches and equip them with the basic skills and knowledge required to be a coach. Once you have acquired your membership, you can register for the programme. Members have a variety of options to choose from depending on their schedules to complete the programme.
The course is made up of 6 online courses on organisation skills and supervision techniques. It also trains candidates to communicate effectively with their students and how best to develop young skills. To complete it off, the candidates then undergo an intensive on-court workshop which demands physical presence and focuses on the requisites of training young players.
The association offers 3 levels of certification through which every coach progresses depending on their skill levels and experience in the field. Progressing through these levels is, however, a gradual process that can takes years. Every coach kicks off at a ‘professional’ level then, after passing the professional exam, moves on to the ‘elite professional’ level.
From there, coaches are expected to practise for a minimum of 10 years before moving on to the final coaching level, the ‘master professional’. Let’s take a quick look at what each of these levels entails.
Level 1: Professional Coach
Members wishing to sit for the first level exam need to be 18+ years old at the time of the exam. The practical part of the assessment focusses mainly on on-court prowess as candidates demonstrate skills such as strokes and grips. Candidates must also demonstrate their organisational skills with groups and how they handle one on one interactions with their students. For the theory, candidates sit for a written exam with a wide syllabus covering teaching skills, creativity and even business management skills. Once a candidate completes this stage, he/she is mandated to earn at least 6 education credits over every three years to maintain it intact.
Level 2: Elite Professional
The cut-off age for this level is 22 minimum. Of course, candidates must already be certified as professional coaches. There are a series of exams and evaluations on the courts involved just as at the professional level. Candidates must demonstrate their increased skills and techniques convincingly as well as pass within the acceptable score categories of the written exams. The elite professional level, however, focuses more on professional aspects of the game such as business skills which earns credits for the coach in question.
Once a candidate is successful, the certification must be maintained by earning at least 6 education credits over every 3 years. These credits are awarded based o participation in tennis professional activities like seminars, workshops and special training sessions. Failure to maintain these credits will cause a demotion back to the professional level and the candidate must undergo the elite professional process again.
Level 3: Master Professional
The final level of the USPTA certification is awarded as a culmination of skills and expertise on the court. To be eligible, coaches must be elite professional certified and have been at that level for a minimum of 10 years as mentioned earlier. They must also have undergone a minimum of 80 hours of training in speciality courses over those 10 years.
The final certification level is more focussed on contributions and dedications to the tennis industry. As such, credits are awarded based on service traits such as participation in aligned events e.g. seminars and workshops as well as meaningful contributions, be it in the form of research of tennis practises and their associated impacts or tennis publications aimed at improving the game.
Most certifying associations recognise the need for special certifications for people who cannot, for one reason or the other, undergo the regular process.
These certifications vary on an individual basis due to the complexity of the game and the uniqueness of each candidate’s circumstances. To pursue these channels, candidates need to approach their desired certifying association or organisation and present their case.
One such certification at the USPTA is the wheelchair certification. Candidates are required to undergo the same written examinations for every level of certification as the regular procedure. For the on-court sessions, the association alternatively subjects the candidates to rigorous training workshops as well as evaluations on a private lesson.
Since coaching is more about skill development than academics, there is often less concern about the academic qualifications of the coach especially at the more amateur levels of tennis play. As such, certification organisations often concentrate more on the individual’s knowledge of the game itself and his/her coaching skills. This would explain why most coaches are retired players of the game itself with vast playing experience and knowledge to pass on to their students.
Professional coaches nowadays are, however, shifting towards both the skills and the academics. Most professional teams, colleges and universities now require coaches to have at least a bachelor’s degree, preferably in fitness and exercise subjects such as physiology, kinesiology and the nutritional sciences.
For liability and safety reasons, many schools and institutions in the US now require tennis coaches to be certified or licensed or, at the very least, have undergone some form of approved training course. Others even go as far as to ask for teaching licenses just to insulate themselves from any possible lawsuits in the event of training accidents and mishaps. It’s also common for schools to conduct background checks before hiring coaches due to the proximity and frequent contact with the students during training.
Tennis Coaching Resources
There are several publications out there by seasoned tennis gurus that can help you get started on your career in tennis coaching. You can get valuable insight into what to expect and how best to go about it depending on your personal circumstances. Here are a few best-selling books on tennis coaching;
1. Coaching Tennis Successfully – 2nd Edition
This title comes from the United States Tennis Association, a 2004 publication that outlines a full guide to coaching success. It was put together by experts of the field and gives teaching tips and hacks for success.
2. Coaching Tennis – Chuck Kriese
This 1998 publication remains a gem for tennis coaching for success. The author is a well-decorated tennis veteran with a record 11 ACC titles and 6 ACC Coach of the Year awards. He is solely responsible for the expertise and success of legendary players with thirty All-Americans to his name.
3. Building a Champion – The Fundamentals of Playing & Coaching Tennis by Dan McCain
Dan walks the reader through the art of tennis for both players and coaches in this priceless 2011 publication. He tackles the subject on both the physical and the psychological approach to give an insightful and well-rounded narrative that is bound to improve your coaching skills.
4. Coaching Tennis Technical & Tactical Skills – American Sport Education Program
This title is another great work put together with the expertise Kirk Anderson the United States Tennis Association (USTA). It focuses on technical and tactical tennis skills for success.
As we conclude, tennis certifications are an essential mark of quality that every coach should aspire to possess. The reality, however, is that coaching takes more than a certification. It is a form of teaching on its own hence it requires a passion for the game and very serious dedication.
The requirements of the certifying associations are also clearly indicative of the requisite time commitments necessary to secure any form of certification. Successful coaches have always pointed out the need to enjoy the process first before hoping for any success at all since it can easily be a life-long commitment rather than just a job to suffer through.