Don’t worry, I’ve not lost my mind but please bear with me while I unpack this statement.
I was a speaker at a conference last year and, as per normal, you do a Q&A at the end. Quite often people don’t want to ask questions in case they look foolish so I prompted the facilitator with a question just in case this happened.
The questions was ‘what one thing would you do if you were in charge of developing tennis?’
My answer was designed to shock and I replied ‘I would ban coaching for one year!’
I could literally feel the room change. It was a mixture of disbelief and confusion so, of course, I had to explain what I meant.
Firstly, there is no way I am seriously suggesting we ban coaching for one year (I could feel the collective phew). However, if we hypothetically imagine we did do that, what I am suggesting is we would replace the total number of coaching hours with facilitated match play in every shape and size for every age and stage.
I could sense a few lightbulbs go off so I continued….
If we spent one year simply facilitating everyone’s ability to play our game then what do you believe would happen? One coach replied ‘we’d have more players competing’. Correct!
With more players competing, what do you believe would happen within our coaching programmes? Another coach replied ‘the players would be more motivated when they arrived for coaching as they would be doing it for a reason’. Again, correct!
More and more coaches are coming to me stating they want more of their players to play more than once a week, play outside the coaching programme and/or get into competition. When I ask these coaches how much competition they put on within their own club or programme, the answer is most often zero.
You will see from the title picture above I have used the terms ‘player base’ and ‘competitors’. Unfortunately this is how the tennis world currently looks. Never before, in the history of tennis, has there been more people receiving coaching lessons. I would hazard a guess, never before, in the history of tennis has there been fewer people competing in tournaments.
The word ‘culture’ is often used in tennis. People say it as if they have no influence on the culture but we do. Culture, in my opinion, is what the majority of people do in any environment. Therefore, if you want to create a culture of competition you must create competitive opportunities for everyone in your tennis environment.
Tennis should not be a sport where only the best compete. The success of any healthy sport is where the majority of people regularly compete.
If we can do this then perhaps, in our lifetime our sport may look more like the picture below….
We are the coaches and/or the participants in a sport. Sport is a game and the vast majority of people should compete regularly at that game.
Until we take some responsibility for this, or stop blaming/waiting for governing bodies to do something, then we will have exactly the same situation for years to come.
You can only control the controllable so please, if you find yourself wishing your players competed more, then do something about it. Ban yourself from some of your coaching hours and put on fun and unthreatening competition on within your programme.
Do I want to ban coaching? Absolutely no.
Do I want players to compete regularly? Absolutely yes.
Over to you….