What is making coaches tick?
Tue, 27 Jun 2017 00:00
In the short time since I've launched RTT, I've found myself wondering what I can do to achieve my goal of creating accessable tennis in Tayside. For me, many strings came out of this question, but one I wanted to talk about was the up-scaling of the tennis workforce today. What encourages or motivates them to get into the LTA coaching pathway initally, what encourages a coach to go that extra mile for someone; and what drives them to be successful in their respective environment?
This an interesting thread, and one that deserves a little more focus and attention than it currently gets. With Andy Murray sitting at world no.1 and heading into the latter stages of a marvellous career, it's hard to escape the feeling that we are are bang in the middle of a massive chance to create little tennis hubs around the country, and to get people playing more than ever before. The intensity of the latest programmes to get people playing (such as LTA legacy programme and the miss-hits, GBTW events) have been phenomenal in increasing the number of players on courts, and coaches up and down the country have been able to lap up the waves of interest in free tennis. The perks for these courses in the eyes of the players are: Low-cost or FREE (rightly so); usually materials such as t-shirts, online membership and resources or further activity - but what perks exist for the current workforce?
I feel it is important at this point to stress that this is not a measurement or formal opinion on what support is given from the LTA and Tennis Scotland: More a discussion around what makes the individual coach "tick" and strive to achieve more. I am fortunate enough to have worked in multiple coaching environments over the past few years, and one area which I feel has been particularly strong in developing passionate, innovative tennis deliverers (Loose term to cover all the people who do not directly coach but are actively involved in tennis) has been the College and University environment. From Edinburgh to Abertay, and Aberdeen to Glasgow, student tennis clubs are absolutely thriving. Without being able to quantifiably justify this, you can bet your buck that there has been a rise in the number of players AND deliverers across the clubs. Social media has been a wonderful tool, giving insight into other clubs activity, connecting people and profiling events and I wonder if this has impacted the competitive nature that student sport is so renowned for. Is it pride and perception that drives these tennis enthusiasts? Or is there a longer-strategy in place?
Sticking with the student trend here, I look to other industries and fields such as primary teaching for similarities in the nature of the role (defined as delivering knowledge and activity in structured environments). As a tennis deliverer or school teacher - lesson planning; programme development; communication skills; innovation; reflective practise; driving standards and being adaptive are all traits that are required to deliver successfully. One fundamental difference however is that a teacher is part of a wider staff team, whereas beyond the student years you tend to find a coach operates as an individual. Thats's what I like about university tennis - the concept of being part of a team of like-minded enthusiasts, a sports office network for backing / support and a number of insitutes nationwide to tap into, to call on for working together and to aspire to achieve with our out-do (nothing wrong with either attitude).
Universities have got it right, and students have got it good. I feel like we as tennis coaches should aim to create this "team environment" around our programmes, creating diversity and opportunity to our playing participants, but also personal and professional development for the delivers that encourages them to be creative and take ownership of their programmes.
In Summary (with respect to enthusiastic young coaches out there), low-cost development and high impact at the heartbeat of programmes - coaching, lesson planning, marketing, promoting etc - would support the rising interest in driving our next workforce. Carrying this out in a team-structure as opposed to individually would have social connotations too, and perhaps the passion within the educational system would start to flow into the national campaigns in the years to come.