In the world of tennis, we often hear about technique, tactics, fitness, and mental strength but we very rarely discuss trust. What does trust have to do with tennis. I would argue that trust is just as valuable as the fundamentals of the game.
When parents drop the kids off to their weekly tennis lesson, they are trusting that they are going to be left in a safe and nurturing environment with coaches who are qualified to teach the game and will help them practice social skills, teamwork, sportsmanship, and respect regardless of their tennis ability.
In the modern world of police checks and working with children checks parents are trusting the club that all the coaches meet these requirements whilst clubs are trusting their coaches to have completed the necessary checks regularly and honestly.
When it comes to technical development it is imperative that the student trusts the advice they are receiving. The student needs to trust that the “expert” they have paid for a lesson is qualified to give technical advice that is fundamentally sound, will avoid injury and assist in their game development and isn’t a home-grown technique that they have moulded from watching tennis on tv and hitting a few balls on the weekend.
As students spend lots of time and money to improve their game, they are often looking for the ‘magic pill’ that will rocket them to the top instantly so, they will look for answers in many different places. With social media so prevalent these days, expert advice is only a click away so, having a relationship built on trust is imperative.
The player needs to trust the coach knows what they are talking about, and the coach wants to trust the player to be able to come to them with questions after watching something they may have watched other players do or watched on social media.
Trust is also important when it comes to having the appropriate equipment. A student will often blindly follow the advice of the coach when it comes to buying a new racquet. They will be guided by them to get the correct length, weight, grip size and, brand so it is essential the coach knows the product and what is appropriate for their student.
Parents are often spending lots of money on the best equipment and are trusting the coach to give good advice and not be influenced by the size of the sale or the brand that they may be associated with personally.
Having trust in your coach to give you the best tactics that suit your game style and personality is hugely important. Whilst the coach may have been a successful player using their style, insisting that the student plays the same way may not necessarily be the right way for them so having the trust on both sides to have a discussion in this area is key as ultimately it is the player out on the court, and they need to own their own game.
Tennis is arguably the most physical it has ever been in this current era. Players are faster, stronger, more flexible and are playing for much longer. Their diets are impeccable, and recovery has become an essential part of a player’s routine. Players need to have a relationship with their strength and conditioning and nutrition experts based on trust.
They need to trust that the way they are training and fuelling their body will enable them to compete at the highest level they can whilst not leading to overuse injuries and are able to recover so they can train repeatedly. With drugs in sport a major issue having trust that your nutritionist/trainer is giving you approved supplements is a huge undertaking and can cost careers.
Sports psychology is playing a massive part in tennis and in life in general these days. Again, having qualified people giving advice that is appropriate for each student is an absolute must. The player needs to trust that the advice they are receiving, and implementing is coming from an experienced and qualified source, and it will help improve their mindset and subsequently their tennis.
In the tennis business we are asking for our students and their parents to put their faith in us in many different aspects of their development. They are putting countless hours and resources into giving their child the best chance of success and they are trusting that we as coaches have the necessary qualifications, skills, and experience to give them the best opportunity to make this happen.
Tennis is the same as any relationship. It is based on a mutual trust between all concerned. In tennis that can be coach, student, parents, fitness trainers, sport psychologists, nutritionists, tournament directors and anyone else involved in a player’s journey. Without trust, the relationship is doomed however with it, whilst nothing is guaranteed it will give everyone involved the greatest chance of success.