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Saturday, August 27, 2011

REFLECTIONS: Coaches and Instructors are perhaps siblings but not twins

An instructor is defined as someone who teaches another. A coach is also someone involved in the training of an individual or team. Looking only on the surface of the definition, both appear to be about the same. But when we look at the synonyms, we get a better handle on what I perceive to be the difference. Synonyms, just as a middle school refresher, are alternate words that mean roughly the same as the original. Thin, for example, can be a synonym for skinny.

So what about Coach? One of the prevalent synonyms for this word is Mentor. But when we look for an alternate to instructor, we get words more like Tutor or Schoolmaster. A Mentor is one who advises or inspires, while a Tutor is someone who educates. 

As the school year begins and girls tennis teams begin their season, I think it is wise to differentiate between the two and consider the role and value of each. As an instructor myself, and a certified school teacher as well, my role is to work with a tennis players on the nuts and bolts of stroke production, strategy & tactics, and court movement. A coach's role however is to focus more on teamwork, belief, encouragement, and support. Most of what I have seen in high school tennis coaches does fulfill this role. But there is a huge gap, resulting in the lack of producing more solid players, that exists in the overall landscape of a tennis season. 

This gap can be filled by certified tennis instructors, either in semi-private or private lessons, and this can make all the difference in both enjoyment on the court and wins on the scoreboard. Coaches and instructors together make for an awesome one-two punch that can knock out competitors and result in a successful season. It is simply very important that each knows the role they play. They need to support one another in their efforts so that kids will have a positive experience in this game they can play well beyond their high school years.

Remember: mindlessly hitting more tennis balls in drills during practice, or running laps and suicides for endurance, does not make a better team. These high school players need to be given a conceptual framework and specific goals if they are to achieve success. If this cannot be provided by a teacher who coaches after school, simply because he or she does not have the knowledge of a certified tennis instructor, then they should seek out opportunities for their athletes to get the training they need. Be realistic coaches! Everyone has their role to play and we each need to be proactive in our efforts if these students are to achieve their very best.

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