When starting out on their coaching journey most coaches have dreams and aspirations of travelling the world, staying in luxurious hotels, playing tennis every day, and one day sitting in the players box watching your charge in a grand slam final. The reality is while that may be the case for the very few, the majority will travel a different path for several different reasons.
Those coaches wanting the life of a touring coach need to spend a significant amount of time and money on their own development before they can entertain the idea of travelling the world with a player.
They need to understand and gain experience in everything that goes with life on the road. They will need a complete understanding of the technical aspects of the game so they can teach, develop, maintain, and evolve their players skills during their time together.
They will need a comprehensive knowledge of the tactical side of the game and how to identify not only their own players strengths and weaknesses but that of their opponents as well as being at the forefront of the latest trends in the game, so their player is not getting left behind.
Once the coach has all the tennis skills required they will then need to make sure they either have access to a sports psychologist and a fitness trainer or in the majority of cases they will be providing those services as well especially when a player is starting out as they will more likely not have the financial means to employ several people so, knowledge in these fields is essential.
If you have all these bases covered then you will need to understand how to plan a tournament schedule. What tournaments do you have your student enter, how much travel and to where, how long do you stay on the road, how many weeks training do you have between trips, ranking goals that tie in with all the planning for the time you are away.
Now that the coach has bases covered for the player you must work out how much is your time worth. Going to a tournament for a full day, several days or overseas for weeks or months can make it a challenge when working out a fee.
With so much time away, you can’t charge your regular hourly coaching rate, but you also do not want to be losing money be being away. An agreed day rate is usually the fairest way but when a junior is first starting out you are relying on generous parents or parents who can afford to pay you for your time. If a player does make it on the tour, then you may be able to negotiate a salary and/or a deal when you get a percentage of prizemoney but that is for the lucky few.
The flipside to the life on the road is almost the opposite. Whilst you still must have an excellent knowledge of the game and the skills required to teach up and coming players, we will often see a different attitude from coaches who like to coach but are not interested in a life on the road.
These coaches may be excellent at what they do but they might have a family they do not want to be away from for an extended period, they may have a mortgage and other financial commitments that does not make travel viable, or they might own or lease the tennis centre and need to be there to operate the business.
Then we have the coaches who enjoy the tennis coaching lifestyle more than having an ambition to develop players. They have worked out that being outside hitting tennis balls is a decent way to spend their week, they get paid for the number of hours that they want to work and can still enjoy time off to socialise, travel or have time off when they like.
Owning or leasing a tennis centre has become a serious business over the last few decades. Whilst most operators go in with the intention of developing tennis players and having world class programs for some the idea of generating as much profit as possible in the time, they have at their centre becomes more appealing and for some the reality of high leases and costs means that must put as many people through the centre as possible to survive.
Is it possible to combine player development and still earn a good living? For the select few there is no doubt you can earn a good living, travel the world, and fulfill that dream of sitting in the players box on finals day but for most coaches it may well be a case of deciding which path to follow: dollars or development.