Differences Between Tennis Coaching and Consulting

At the request of my good friend Xavier Proulx, I taught his friend Ramon, who was in South Florida for the day. Ramon, a golf professional by trade, was a fairly decent striker of the ball. Even though Ramon technically signed up for a private lesson, it was more or less a consultation. The main difference of teaching someone on a consistent basis versus teaching them on a one-time basis via a private lesson/ consultation is that the teacher does not have the time to teach in a more organized, step by step progressive process. In the case of Ramon, he never takes lessons but he likes to compete. Instead of breaking down his strokes into individual components like with other students I coach, I had to pick and choose what was most applicable for his situation. I had to intuitively assess Ramon’s level, how he processes knowledge best and understand his goals. Any complication in my teaching would hinder him. However, not making him aware of his fundamental flaws, which prevented him from competing effectively, was also detrimental.

The middle of the road approach between a one-time private lesson/ consulting session and full-time coaching is full-time consulting. Even though I do not coach full-time consulting students on a multiple day, weekly basis, I still work with them throughout the year. As part of this process, I work with their existing coach, parent and/or just themselves through live consultations and video and email type means. In order to adequately prepare the student for the next consulting session, each consulting session includes a follow-up plan. I have tailored my different consulting programs to fit one’s needs. As part of this process, I help students accomplish their goals per their requested program. Because I take a holistic approach with my work, I focus in on other aspects of a student’s overall tennis game, such as their motivation and whether they are being as realistic as possible with their goals. For instance, if a student’s goals are unrealistic relative to the program they signed up for, I am going to call them on it. Regardless of how well a teacher tailors their programs, overall success is contingent on the student being motivated enough to learn and realistic about their goals.

In the case of Ramon, I prioritized his footwork first. As I explained to him, in order to execute the basic strategy of ball control, he has to balance himself better and feel the through-ness of each shot. And he must perform all of this more instinctively, which entails letting go and being less mindful when learning. Finding that balance between opening Ramon up to new ideas without overly complicating him with concepts was my challenge. Ramon had major skill flaws and went about the process of learning skill too analytically. Hence, not only did I need to teach Ramon new things, but I had to help him process it in a higher trusting, less thoughtful way. If I had more time to coach him, I would not need to simultaneously teach him different aspects in one consulting session. Because of the limitations in time, I was unable to teach him more perfectly. Fortunately, he was motivated to learn and realistic about his goals. Subsequently, I was successful in pushing Ramon to let go of additional things he asked about such as figuring out his ideal contact point. Had I overly taught him with more technical points in this limited, 90 minute private lesson/ consulting session, all the good that was learned would have been squashed.

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