Written by: Wayne Elderton
***Wayne Elderton is acknowledged as one of Canada’s leading coaches. He is Head of Tennis Canada Coaching Development and Certification in British Columbia. In this role, he has provided coaching training to over 1500 coaches. He is a main contributor to the Tennis Canada Coaching Certification program and has also written articles and coaching materials for the PTR, Tennis Corporation of America, Tennis Coaches Australia, and the International Tennis Federation. He is a popular speaker at coaching conferences world-wide. He is a Chartered Professional Coach (ChPC) as recognized by the Professional coaching association, Coaches of Canada. Wayne has enjoyed considerable success in his career using the Game-Based approach. As a High Performance coach, he has led provincial teams to gold medals in the Canada and Western Canada Games. His players have won numerous national titles and many have achieved full scholarships at US Universities. Some have gone on to achieve WTA and ATP rankings. He has also coached 3 wheelchair players to top 10 world rankings and has coached Canada’s World Team Cup squad (Davis Cup for Wheelchair players). He is a key builder of the Canadian National Wheelchair Team program and created Tennis Canada’s Wheelchair Instructor Course. In 2006 he was inducted into the City of Burnaby Sports Hall of Fame in the coaching category. He is currently Tennis Director at the Grant Connell Tennis Centre in North Vancouver which was awarded the 2005 Canadian Facility of the Year for program excellence by the Tennis Professionals Association. For more information, please go to www.acecoach.com***
We are currently in a series about effective coaching. What makes some coaches more effective than others? After over 2 decades of experience with coaching education, I believe the key principles and behaviours that can increase coaching effectiveness are (in no particular order):
All of them are interrelated since every principle effects every other. In this installment, we will look at the principle of goals.
Has anyone not heard of the power of goal-setting? Yet, even in this age of goal oriented sports, business, science, etc. tennis coaches are typically not very good at incorporating goals into their daily activities. Too many coaches come to lessons on ‘wing-it’ mode. Oh sure, they can do fun activities, however, these don’t add up to effective improvement as they should. To harness the power of practice, goals are required. Goals increase the effectiveness of your annual plans, seasonal plans, monthly plans, weekly plans, lesson plans, right down to the drill or activity being done. You can almost use the term ‘goals’ and ‘plans’ synonymously. The old adage, “When you fail to plan, you plan to fail” is applicable here. A great plan is a series of goals that are SMART.
Specific: Effective goals are about very deliberate and specific things. For example, imagine a group of players performing a crosscourt drill. An ineffective coach will allow them to just hit crosscourts. An effective coach will ensure they perform a specific crosscourt shot (e.g. one that takes the opponent outside the sideline and keeps them behind the baseline).
Measurable: We talked about this in the first article of the series. Measurements make improvement tangible.
Agreed: A goal dictated by the coach to a mature student will have less impact than if the coach ‘sells’ the goal and gets players to ‘buy-in’. “My” goals will always motivate me more than your goals imposed onto me.
Realistic: Goals that relate to the reality of my play are far more applicable than goals that have little relevance to me successfully playing. For example, if players are given a goal to make the ball pull the opponent to the sideline, that is far more realistic and relevant than giving the player a goal to follow-through more.
Timed: Having an achievable time frame for the goal to be completed helps accountability. For example, setting a goal to improve my 2nd serve percentage by 10% in one month will give me an idea of the amount of practice I will require. Having a time-frame even helps specific drills. For example, if I am doing a drill to improve my side to side movement, it would be helpful if I knew if the drill was going to run for 15 seconds as opposed to 2 minutes. It will definitely affect my intensity.
Effective coaches have a ‘vision’ for what the player will look like after the goal is achieved. A vision is a picture of a preferred future. For example, an effective coach working with a 16 year old national level player will have the picture of that player using all their weapons, and playing with a gamestyle that suits them. All their goals would be to become that picture. Even for individual drills, the coach should ask, what should they look like after this drill? This defines the goal of the drill. Effective coaches will let the players know, “This is the goal of this drill” (e.g. “Our goal here is to practice passing shots by keeping the ball below the shoulder level of your opponent. We will do that by levelling out your racquet path.”). They then keep players focused and on-track during the drill (by reinforcing the goal) and then they summarize at the end by reviewing the goal. A goal-less drill is a purposeless activity. Take this next couple of weeks to experiment by setting SMART goals with the players you coach and every drill you do.