BY BEN HESTLEY, TENNIS DIRECTOR AT DRUID HILLS GOLF CLUB
When making a doctor’s appointment, people rarely question the credentials of physicians. We just take their qualifications for granted, because otherwise, they would not be allowed to practice medicine. Now, I am not insinuating that tennis pros go through the same rigorous training as doctors, but there does exist a pathway to becoming a well-qualified coach that few tennis players know about or understand.
The tennis industry has two associations that certify tennis professionals, the United States Professional Tennis Association (USPTA) and the Professional Tennis Registry (PTR). Both USPTA and PTR offer excellent initial training for certification, continuing education resources, and career development. Our national governing body for tennis, USTA, is continuously increasing the education standards required for tennis coaches. As a certified tennis professional and employer of many tennis professionals — and as coach to a large mass of tennis players — it is imperative to me that tennis players are familiar with the associations that provide coaching education.
Unlike seeing a doctor, where one knows (or at least is highly confident) the physician has a medical degree, tennis players often can be unassuming about the educational background of their tennis coach. There are several advantages to being coached by a certified tennis professional. For starters, both certification bodies train their professionals to systematically develop players through a series of progressions from easy tasks to challenging drills that improve performance. Take “mini-tennis” for example; it’s a common warm-up activity all certified professionals are taught to perform effectively. This activity is applicable to all levels, and it allows players to work on technical skills in a confined and controlled area, thus giving them confidence to progress to deeper areas of the court.
Certified professionals also are trained on how to best manage groups like ALTA teams and exercise what we at Druid Hills (and other professionals) call “PIGS,” or “privates in a group setting.” Coaches who have experienced certification workshops know how to deliver drills and games effectively to many players while giving individualized attention to each.
How does this help you as a tennis player? Simply knowing that your pro is certified and routinely participates in continuing education courses should give you peace of mind that you are getting the very best value for your time and money. Plus, the advice you are receiving to improve your game is not mere opinion but coming from a methodology that helps coaches find the root cause of the error. All certified pros are well versed in how to execute this method on how to focus on the cause — not the effects — of a player’s technical needs. Furthermore, exceptionally trained professionals use “guided discovery,” which is a cooperative coaching approach using questions and gaining feedback from the players to arrive at a conclusion for the most effective improvement measures.
Instruction from a certified professional is incredibly valuable given the time it takes for a coach to gain the knowledge to achieve certification. I hope that all ALTA players are taking lessons from certified professionals. Should one be curious if their coach is USPTA or PTR certified, a search can be done by visiting www.uspta.com or www.ptrtennis.org and clicking on the “Find a Pro” or “Find a Coach” links. You also can find certified coaches through USTA’s junior tennis initiative, Net Generation, at www.netgeneration.usta.com. Net Generation provides junior program curriculum to coaches, but also serves as a platform for parents to find Net Generation-approved programs and certified coaches for their children. All Net Generation coaches have passed background checks and have been trained in Safe Play.
I hope this draws more insight for our ALTA players on what the industry expects of individuals who coach tennis. Having certified professionals on the court is vital to delivering the best possible lessons to our players and improving the game at our clubs, facilities, and neighborhoods.
Ben Hestley is the director of tennis at Druid Hills Golf Club. He is a USPTA Elite Professional and PTR Master of Tennis. Hestley also is a Net Generation coaches trainer, conducting workshops around the nation to help coaches best deliver junior programs.