Updated: Dec 4, 2022
Many believe hiring a private tennis coach is the best way to improve their game. They feel a personal coach can catapult them to US Open, Laver Cup, or to become a 20-time grand slam champion like Roger Federer.
This blog post will cover why hiring a private tennis coach could harm your development. But I will also outline 4 types of tennis coaches you should look for when hiring one, as well as what to check when making your decision.
Whether in Great Britain, The United States or the rest of the world, this blog is for you.
Last but not least, we'll talk about whether or not private tennis coaching is worth it.
So without further ado, let's get started!
Why You Don't Need a Private Tennis Coach
We all dream of winning Wimbledon or the Australian open, but we never will. Top tennis professionals need a full-time coach, and they will use the coach to arrange practices, book hotels and flights, analyse opponents and be friends on the lonely professional tour.
But for your average club player, you don't need a private tennis coach!
Yes, I am a professional tennis coach. Yes, I have private players; ultimately, they don't need me on a personal one-to-one basis. I always tell my club members that you don't need private lessons!
Tennis coaching over the past twenty years has become a big business. In my recent blog, I outlined that Tennis Coaches can make a handsome living from delivering lessons.
Let's go back over thirty years ago when I started playing Tennis, and private lessons were for the very best player and the very rich. I was neither.
So how did I learn to play? I found some friends, we played tennis for hours, and we developed our skills on the court, with no coach, no instruction, just by playing. I didn't spend an hour standing still, hitting hundreds of forehands being expertly placed to me, and I learned how to hit forehands on the run, stretching, jammed up and under pressure. Every ball I hit counted. You don't want to miss your peers.
Tennis is a game of 'feel' hence why most great players have kinesthetic learning styles. They learn by playing the game. If you read any Tennis autobiography, the players such as Roger Federer, Serena Williams, Billie Jean King and Novak Djokovic talk about the early years of bashing a ball either against a wall or with friends or family.
Now back in the present day, many online resources can help improve your tennis skills - even if you don't have a professional coach.
This includes using tennis forums, search engines, and social media. In addition, you can also watch tennis videos or read tennis books. As long as you're taking steps to improve your game, you're on your way to becoming a better player.
However, hiring a private tennis coach is unnecessary and can be harmful to your development, tennis.
You see, poor tennis coaches will change everything about your game, grip, stance, swing, and much more. They feel they need to justify your paying custom!
If you decide to have a private tennis coach, you must be selective about who you work with. And tennis coaches love to give you a load of information, and the Tennis coach disrupts learning!
Sometimes this information is too much and will leave you more confused than clear.
Not hiring the right coach can cost you lost opportunities and wasted money on lessons/tournaments/equipment etc...
Coaching from an experienced tennis coach will give you the best results in the shortest amount of time.
So, whether you're a beginner or a seasoned player, there's no need to hire a private tennis coach - you can get the help you need from the many online resources available.
4 Things You Should Look For When Hiring a Private Tennis Coach
So you wish to make quicker improvements, you may not have friends or time to arrange a friendly game with, or you may have lots of disposable income.
A good tennis coach can tailor lessons to suit your needs, build your game style quicker and solve your problems quickly and easily.
But how do you pick a tennis coach? I would suggest you focus on four key areas:
You will spend hundreds of hours with this person, and you need to establish a connection with them. Are they the type of person you would have as a friend, are they the strict drill instructor you want, or are they happy-go-lucky people you connect with?
Think about your favourite teachers at school. What made them so connectable? Did they challenge you, value your opinion and relate to you?
A great coach will look to establish a connection with you. They should talk very little in the first meeting and listen a lot. They should be taking a considerable interest in you, your goals, how often you play, where you feel comfortable on the court, and how you learn best.
If they spend the first half an hour talking about themselves, how they once hot with the ex Davis cup player, how they could have played at the grand slam level and how many ATP, WTA or ITF players they have produced.
My advice here is to run!
Once you have established a connection, you feel like it will be a great working relationship. Ask about their coaching experience around your current issues and goals.
If you are a 47-year-old ex-squash player, ask if you have worked with squash players before and what challenges they overcame.
If you are a parent and want your six-year-old to be the next Carlos Alcaraz or Iga Swiatek, ask has the coach got experience developing players through the player pathway.
You should go into the first lesson, a taster of meeting with a clear set of goals and ask the coach about their previous experience on achieving similar plans and what they did, what barriers they faced and how they overcame those barriers to achieve success.
3. Qualifications and CPD
Coaching is an art, and it's not straightforward as playing the game of tennis itself. Being a great coach takes years of practice, hours of training and research and personal development. Tennis knowledge is accessible, and you can now read most of how to play tennis on google!
But transferring that information across simply and effectively to a fellow human is very challenging.
Does the higher qualification or certification mean they are better?
No, but it shows the coach has made an investment in themselves and trying to improve their craft. It would be best to ask where the coach conducted their certification, how many training days they covered and how much additional training they carried out each year.
If the coach did a four-day fast track course compared to another coach who did a fourteen-day intensive study, there is a noticeable difference in the amount of time they invested.
If the coach is conducting continuous professional development (CPD), ask what courses the coach has undertaken over the past year and if they are relevant to your current issues. If you are an adult and the coach conducts many junior tennis courses, they may not be the adult expert you seek.
I would also check if the coach has police checks, safeguarding training and first aid certification.
4. Coaching Style
Spend time watching the coach conduct some lessons, watch how they communicate with players, set up practices and teach.
A good coach will include critical elements such as serve, return, game-based games and matchplay. A good coach will teach you how to play the game tactically and give you the technical skills to achieve your desired outcome.
Tennis is a game of winning points, making your opponent move, covering your space, beating the ball bounce, and hitting with balance. Tennis is not learning how to hit the perfect shot, standing still, and trying to make your strokes look great.
You may want to check out this recent blog's five most common mistakes Tennis Coaches make.
The Pros and Cons of Having a Private Tennis Coach
There's a lot of debate around the pros and cons of private tennis coaching - so what's the truth? In short, there are pros and cons to having a personal tennis coach.
✅ Quick Progress - You are getting a bespoke tailor-made lesson all about you! You would hope to make quicker progress than grinding it against your friends.
✅ Quality hitting - Your coach should provide consistent feeds and balls and set up situations to get the best out of your game. Tennis can be pretty frustrating if you walk to pick up your friend's forehand ball that's landed outside the fence.
✅ Experience - Your Tennis coach should have previous playing or coaching experience; you should be just one of a hundred or thousands of players they have come across. That collection of expertise can benefit you and hopefully keep you from common mistakes or pitfalls.
✅ Convenient - Booking a lesson is easy, and arrange a time that suits you. The coach is free, and away you go. Most Tennis coaches work weekends, evenings and early mornings, so there is generally a wide range of availability to arrange a lesson.
❌ Expensive - Private tennis coaching can be costly
❌ Too Good - The coach can easily make you look great on the court by placing the ball into your hitting zone, giving you slower balls placed perfectly to your forehand. They can make you look great. The coach wants you to 'feel good and come back.
❌ Over complicated - Sometimes, the coach can do more harm. They may over-complicate matters, confuse you or give you so much information that you lock up. Tennis is a relatively simple game, you hit a small ball over a net and inside of lines, and you don't have to match the biomechanics of Roger Federer or Serena Williams to achieve that.
❌ Quality - Like any profession, we have fantastic tennis coaches and some pretty poor coaches. This could be a costly mistake.
Be sure to follow my above four things to look out for above to separate the good from the not-so-good.
Is Private Tennis Coaching Ultimately Worth It?
There is no one-size-fits-all answer to private tennis coaching, and the decision ultimately comes down to your skill level and goals. For example, if you're a beginner, a cheaper option may be to find a tennis group in your area instead of hiring a private coach.
If you are a competitive player chasing ranking points, a private coach has enormous advantages, such as bespoke training plans, tournament visits and data analysis.
Ask the coach about their training methods and philosophy before signing up for private lessons. And importantly, don't be afraid to do your research! Not all coaches provide the same calibre of service.
So, before shelling out your hard-earned cash, ensure you're getting what you expect.
Frequently Asked Questions, I get asked.
Is private tennis coaching essential for beginner players?
There is a lot of misinformation about the necessity of private tennis coaching for beginner players. Contrary to popular belief, in the end, it's up to each player whether they choose to have a coach or not.
Coaching can make the game more complex and frustrating for beginners, who are constantly forced to change their techniques and strategies. Additionally, coaches often charge high fees, discouraging beginner players who may not achieve great results.
Beginner players need to play with some guidance from a tennis instructor or coach, which can be during a club session or a group lesson. You also don't need a lesson every week; a lesson every few weeks with some practice will go a long way to quickly getting your game up to speed.
Should I expect to pay a lot for private tennis coaching?
There is no need to pay a lot of money for private tennis coaching if you want to improve your game. Unless you have a lot of funds available or are willing to spend a lot of time and effort on tennis coaching, there is no real reason to go ahead. Professional tennis coaches can cost anywhere from £50 per hour for beginner sessions to £100 or more.
Is there any other type of training that can help me improve my game as much as private Tennis Coaching?
There is no need to pay for private Tennis Coaching if you can achieve similar results by practising on your own and attending tennis lessons with a group coach twice a week.
Doing this allows you to customize your tennis coaching program to suit your needs and goals better. This means you can get the most out of your tennis training while avoiding unnecessary costs or inconvenience.
How can I find a good Tennis Coach without spending a lot of money?
There are many ways to find a good tennis coach without spending much money. One way is to ask around or speak to friends or family members who know someone with tennis coaching experience. Additionally, you can try contacting privately-run academies or clubs in your area. On the internet, you can look for coaches who have good reviews and specialize in your playing level or skill set.
Many tennis coaches may offer block booking discounts, but always check the terms and conditions, such as wet weather or late lesson cancellation.
So, you're considering hiring a private tennis coach? Great!
There are a lot of great reasons why you shouldn't do this. You can get excellent tennis coaching from your local gym or recreation centre. Furthermore, if you're a tennis club member, you already get plenty of tennis coaching. So what's the big deal? The big deal is that private tennis coaching is expensive, and it's not always necessary. Having one-on-one attention from a professional coach can be great, but you don't need it.