In this article, Ellen Considine-Miller, a teaching pro in Houston and high school tennis director, shares her insights for ways coaches can strengthen their skills and learn new techniques for getting the best out of their players. You can meet Ellen and learn from her during the 2017 USTA Mid-Atlantic High School Coaches Workshop in February 2017. More info on the workshop follows the article.
This year marks the third year I will be presenting at the USTA Mid-Atlantic High School Tennis Coaches Workshop. What makes this workshop special is the people it brings together. From high school coaches with decades of experience and industry leaders to the novice coach seeking advice, everyone rallies around the belief that there’s always more to learn. At its core, this event is an opportunity to share ideas with other tennis coaches, adopt new ideas and reflect on what kind of culture you want to build for your players.
My motto has always been that if you don’t feel like you are qualified, find someone who is and make that person your new best friend. Pay close attention to what they do. During my 25+ years as a coach I have adopted, emulated, and eventually expanded on the positive techniques that I saw other coaches using. I paid attention, but I also asked loads of questions and wasn’t afraid to challenge conventional wisdom. Sometimes our own ideas are as good as or better than others. Yet we have to keep learning and adding to our repertoire if we are going to remain relevant in this ever-changing business. This tennis workshop will help you do that.
As I mentioned, I have attended this workshop for a few years now and during that time I have met some wonderful tennis coaches. The give and take and sharing of ideas is what brings us back. For us, the challenge is always how do we reach the young players who have been entrusted in our care? How do we work with kids from the beginner to advanced level of play? How can we make that happen on three courts? These are all issues we have faced as high school coaches, making it undeniably one of the most challenging jobs in all of tennis! As coaches, we need to come into this unique coaching environment with an open mind and with the thought that we want to help these kids reach their potential.
As in recent years, my presentation is focused on 10 and Under tennis. In addition to my work as a junior high and high school tennis director, I work with the USTA as a National 10 & Under Faculty Coach. 10 and Under tennis uses low compression balls, shorter courts, and smaller racquets to teach young players to play the sport quickly and having as much fun as possible.
Although we can’t really use smaller racquets with high school players, we can introduce them to slower balls and modified court sizes to teach and practice certain fundamental skills. I am all about skill building. The key is to identify what skills you need the kids to learn and then figure out how to introduce a drill or game that will reinforce this. There is no question in my mind that using a slower ball and smaller court for beginner players yields the best results. Even more advanced players will benefit from slowing down the pace of play and shrinking the court to challenge their skills.
As players get better, you can broaden the spectrum. Use a faster ball and a bigger court. The key is to get the kids the skill. In my session, I will share some of the warm-up exercises, on-court drills, and live ball play that I do with junior high and high school kids, on both a modified and full-sized court. I will show you how to empower players to work together to help them improve. Tennis is a game of live balls, impromptu hitting, and above all else problem solving. We need to provide that environment where skills can be developed and kids can feel accepted and challenged to learn.
We will talk more about all of these coaching techniques at the workshop, so please come out and join us! For those of you like me who direct junior high and high school programs at area clubs, this is an excellent program for you to attend. There is a huge overlap between school and club play. We all need to be working together to make sure our players get the right mix of drills and play. I hope to see all of you in February! You won’t be disappointed.
The USTA MAS High School Tennis Coaches Workshop takes place February 4, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Northeast Regional Recreation Center in Parkville, Md. Registration is just $40 and includes light breakfast, lunch and a subscription to HighSchoolTennisCoach.com. The first 30 registrants will be entered in a random drawing for equipment! Register by February 1, 2017.