Updated: Sep 3
Communicating is a critical component of tennis coaching. Effective communication with your players is required for improved performance.
Tennis may be focused on forehands, backhands or good footwork, but if you can't communicate, you will never produce good players.
This is true whether they are a beginner, new or advanced player.
The fundamentals of successful tennis communication, as well as how to use it to your benefit, will be taught in this blog.
Let's get started!
Join Our Community
Are you a tennis coach looking to evolve your coaching techniques and achieve better results with your players? Join our online community at My Tennis Coaching! Our platform is dedicated to helping coaches like you navigate the ever-changing world of tennis coaching. By becoming a member, you'll gain access to a wealth of resources, including player-centered coaching techniques, strategies for holistic player development, and tips for effective program management. Plus, you'll have the opportunity to connect with other like-minded coaches, share experiences, and learn from each other.
Our exclusive content, webinars, and downloadable resources are designed to help you stay updated with global coaching trends and reinvigorate your coaching style. Don't miss out on this opportunity to be a part of a community that is as passionate about tennis coaching as you are.
The importance of communication in tennis coaching
Communication is one of the most important aspects of tennis coaching. Effective communication is necessary if you want to achieve goals or help our tennis players win more matches.
In this article, I will provide a step-by-step guide on communicating effectively in tennis as a coach to your tennis players.
First and foremost, be aware of your tennis players' game style.
Do they like to hit the ball hard and deep, or do they want to play more finesse? Once you better understand your new players, you can start communicating with them.
For example, if your player is a strong baseliner with great forehands and backhands, you can try to bait them into hitting more groundstrokes. Alternatively, if your players like to hit volleys, you can try to play more at the net and help their ready position.
How you communicate to a beginner may also be different to how you speak to an advanced player, but the fundamentals should remain the same.
It would be best if you understood how your players want to play; this should be their decision, not yours. They will be the ones hitting the tennis ball, not you. I will discuss how to build confidence in players in a future blog; you will want to subscribe here, so you don't miss it.
In addition to playing styles, effective communication involves communication on the tennis court.
You need to understand how your players learn, how they feel comfortable communicating and the most effective way you can get your message across in a fun way, remember, tennis should be fun.
If it's not fun, they won't carry on playing.
How to Communicate with Your Tennis Players
Communication is vital when it comes to success on the tennis court. Poor communication can lead to quarrels and disputes between tennis players and coaches, ultimately affecting your tennis player's performance.
Establishing precise and unambiguous spoken and nonverbal signals is critical to delivering messages effectively for your player to operate at their best.
Additionally, be aware of your body language when communicating with your players - this will also impact their morale and motivation. If you stand at the side of the court, barking out orders on how to hit a forehand or a backhand, you may not get the desired results.
By following these simple tips, you'll be able to stay on top of any situation and ensure that your team is performing to its best.
How Beginner Tennis Players Learn
Knowledge or experience is excellent if you can effectively transfer that information to your players. If you have poor communication skills, no matter how great your mind is, your players will never truly understand what to do.
Before we look at how we can communicate effectively, we must understand how players learn.
You may know how to hit an excellent forehand or backhand, have the best tennis drills, and see the importance of a closed stance, but it's irrelevant if you can't convey your message.
A beginner tennis player probably needs more information than an advanced player who is new to the sport. An advanced player can tap into previous lessons or matches. When starting to work with a new player or beginner, you must work out their learning style.
Players can learn by listening. These players will ask questions, maintain good eye contact and often repeat what you may have said. In my experience, most adults are verbal learners; they have been trained through school or university to listen to a teacher or lecturer give out information.
Adults will want to listen to all your good ideas on how to hit the per cent forehand, and they will take note of where you want the racquet in the backswing and the importance of good hand-eye coordination. They will be thirsty for knowledge.
On the flip side, juniors are often poor verbal learners.
They have limited communication and concentration skills; they find listening difficult and may find communication, such as asking questions in front of peers, complicated.
Think about how you coach. Have you ever tried talking and explaining how to hit a forehand to a junior player without showing them? They may remember just one thing you have said about their racket, but they have forgotten the footwork pattern to split step.
Adults may also find verbal learning difficult in a leisure setting; a psychologist once explained that adults spend 9-5 listening at work, and the last thing they want to do when they see you is to listen some more.
Visual learning is now the norm! These social media sites, such as Facebook and Instagram, are transitioning from text-based to video posts. This blog article will eventually be transformed into video-based material by myself. A saying that's been around for a long time is "a picture paints a thousand words."
Visual learners will maintain eye contact and study what is happening in front of them. Tennis players learn by observing their coach, themselves, and their peers.
They may inquire about what they've seen or requested a second look at the objects. They may watch you hit a backhand and notice how you have your racket face closed, you may discuss how to hit an approach from the service line, but they see the type of footwork you used to get into position.
Visual learners love watching others play. They may watch other tennis players like Emma Radacanu and Andy Murray and attempt to copy their technique on the serve, forehand or volley.
I learn by feeling and doing, and I am 90% kinaesthetic in my learning.
I don't think about hitting my forehand or backhand; I hit it and feel it; I feel the height, speed and spin. I then adjust to change the outcome. I might adapt my dominant hand or my forehand grip to improve my performance a little bit.
I still need to sense what I'm trying to achieve and adjust my motions until I get it.
In my experience, 'sports people are naturally kinaesthetic, and we need to play and adapt.
Poor concentration, maybe not watching, shadowing technique, and moving around are all hallmarks of a kinesthetic learner.
I'm sorry if I seem to be listening when I'm not. All I need is instruction on how to accomplish something and maybe a hint of how it may feel.
Learning to drive is an excellent example of this. I can't just get into a car and go on day one because I need a quick idea in the form of a visual demo and some verbal guidance, so there must be some verbal and visual communication for me to get an idea.
You may now ask me to hit a forehand from the baseline in tennis terms. You can give me some teaching points on my backswing by explaining the what, why, and how. So I'll have to leave and go out there and experience it for myself.
My tennis players are predominantly heavy kinaesthetic learners with a verbal and visual element of learning.
How To Effectively Communicate with Your Tennis Players
Now you have a better understanding of how players learn, you can use your communication skills to get your message across. You can do this by using several different types of communication skills.
Good eye contact makes it personal, shows interest in somebody and shows you communicate in their direction.
Both verbal and visual learners need to see your face and lips. Eye contact also is a play of confidence and security; if you're looking away or looking floor, the players subconsciously think you are not sure or untrustworthy.
Tennis should be fun, motivating and rewarding; you should look like you're having fun, motivated and engaged. Smile with wide eyes, and it seems you are excited to be there. For new players, this is critical, and they should feel welcome and comfortable.
Tone and Pitch
Tone and pitch are necessary. A big mistake I started coaching was shouting all the time.
I thought a good tennis coach was like a drill sergeant, with lots of shouting to motivate players. Players got used to me screaming, switched off, and stopped listening; I have learnt to constantly mix up my pitch and tone during demonstrations or when talking to my players.
This encourages the player to pay closer attention to me when I'm speaking because my pitch and tone will be lowered; as a result, they'll listen harder and subconsciously realize, 'oh, the coach is going quiet.
I have also, unfortunately, made a few tennis players cry, especially young new players. By being too loud, the young players thought I was shouting at them; when a child hears a raised voice at home, it's generally because they are being told off.
I now know to lower my tone and pitch with young new players, but after a full day of work, adults may need a louder, more energetic tone to motivate them to run more in cardio tennis.
Similar to facial expressions, if you stand by the net post at the side of the court, arms folded across the chest or your tennis racket, this comes across as don't come near me.
Your body language should be open, approachable, friendly and offer a sense of security. If you're pacing up and down the sidelines like an angry lion, this may not translate positively to your players.
You have just one chance to make a good impression during that first tennis lesson, don't ruin it by standing at the side of the court.
You also must remember that visual learners will watch and analyse you; they will copy your body language and mannerisms.
When doing demonstrations, this is critical; you should cater to their ability. It would be best if you played like an eight-year-old when coaching an Under eight player: precise grip, identical fundamental backswing, and identical essential follow-through are examples.
Just because you're not talking does not mean you are not coaching!
The words, sentences and vocabulary should be at the level of your tennis player.
A six-year-old beginner needs straightforward, clear and easy-to-understand instructions, and a high school player can handle slightly more complex and possibly more information. I will cover how to demonstrate in a future blog, but keep things simple, straightforward and easy to follow.
A great tip I learned as a tennis coach is that it's not about how much you know; it's how quickly you can get the message across.
Arguably the most challenging skill, we see our role as the instructor or coach to teach. But if we look back at the learning styles of all three require some form of questioning and answering.
We should use questions to check for learning, get a feel for confidence, and allow the player to have input. It is not our tennis; at the end of the day, the tennis player will go onto a match court, implement their own game and make their own decisions.
That's why we must listen to the tennis player in terms of what they would like to do, do they find things easy or difficult etc.
The instructor or tennis coach will listen and talk less when working with tennis players.
Tennis Court Presence
I often get complimented on my court presence; I own the space.
I achieve this by mixing all the above points, using a good tone and pitch to suit my environment, having open and positive body language, walking around my entire area and engaging with every player throughout the lesson.
I won't stand to the side of the court and watch; I will consistently walk around and help all the players.
I control the entire environment and make it a positive learning environment. When working with a beginning or skilled players, it's critical to rotate and engage with them properly; they'll feel appreciated if you do so.
It's not about hitting great forehands or backhands; it's making players feel valued. I developed these skills via coach mentoring and working with more experienced coaches.
Conclusion - How to Communicate effectively with Tennis Players
Effective communication is the key to success on the tennis court. Whether you're a beginner or a seasoned coach, understanding how communication works are essential for a positive playing experience.
With the right tools and techniques, you can build trust and make better decisions faster. Yes, forehands, backhands and footwork are all critical, but how you get your message across is vital.
As a result, your players will win more on the court!
In future blogs, I will share how to demonstrate and organise your tennis players more effectively to improve player performance.
I suppose you want to take your tennis coaching to the next level?