By Kenyon Generette-Oliver, Universal Tennis Academy, Universal Tennis Management/Partner, USPTA Elite Professional and PTR Professional
Atlanta is known as the tennis mecca of the world, with one of the biggest organized and competitive tennis populations. Yet, unlike most organized sports, tennis coaches can’t always attend matches, and thus, aren’t privy to their players’ actual performance. Regardless of a win or loss, players are expected to come back to practice and give an accurate answer when asked, “How’d it go?”
Court preparation comes from practice and match observation. At both the junior and the adult level, I believe coaches are doing their clients a disservice by approaching the game as a business and not tailoring practice to fit their clients’ needs. At practice, I can coach you on strategy and get you physically fit, but I can’t anticipate how your opponent is going to react on game day. However, by watching tapes of old matches, I am able to better prepare you for matches and identify patterns in your opponents.
Because coaches aren’t able to attend matches, they have to take the feedback of the players and parents at face value. It’s natural to pick apart everything you did wrong if you lose and glorify what you did right if you win. But keep in mind, sometimes you don’t play your best and still win. Also, opponents can win matches even if you did everything right. Tennis is not about the perfect forehand; it’s about responding. More often, what is missing in your game is not knowing how to respond mentally. The opponent is working just as hard as you, so while it is important to have the line 1 win, sometimes the win is responding with your best when your opponent is better. The feedback from the players and parents after a match might be that their backhand was just off that day. But what the coach really needs to see is that the backhand suffered because the opponent did something special.
At Universal Tennis Academy, we have a process called skull sessions. This is an off-court station with mental questions we go through to prepare for drills, privates, and ultimately a match. We suggest that all of our coaches go through some version of this with their clients, whether at adult or junior level. The golden rule is to recognize your opponents’ weakness, while being able to identify your own strengths. These drills provide players with the tools to stay engaged in a match.
Tennis is an individual sport — a mental and emotional rollercoaster. You are out there alone with your own thoughts, strategies, and decisions. Unlike team sports, tennis players are constantly trying to figure out their responsibility in losing or winning the match. Instead, you should focus on what you do really well versus your liability. Of course, players would benefit by having their coaches at matches. This would impact directly every player’s understanding of the game. And, tennis is 100-percent about understanding your game.
How did you get involved in teaching tennis? I taught tennis at summers camps through the YMCA, and was assistant coach for the school tennis team while teaching middle school.
Diehard fan of what sports team? ALL Atlanta teams!
Best part of your game? Strategy and backhand slice
Dream doubles match would be me and… Arthur Ashe against John McEnroe and Peter Fleming.
When I’m not teaching tennis, I’m… Relaxing with my fiancé, family and dogs.
My favorite tennis memory is: When I was 10 or 11 years old, I would watch out my window a guy serving on our neighborhood courts. In my mind, he was world-class. My grandmother and mom gave me the courage to go up and ask him if I could try to return his serve. It was then with … this guy appeasing a young kid that I realized tennis was more than lessons. It was making plays and competing.
My favorite professional player is: Federer. Obviously, he is an exceptional player, but he seems like a genuine person off-court.
#1 reason why I enjoy teaching & coaching tennis: The lasting relationships formed are so important to me. This is something all coaches should take advantage of. I cannot say I have succeeded as a coach if I do not hear from adults and juniors after a match. I also want to be a part of birthdays, a part of graduations, a part of weddings, etc. I want to be a part of their growth in every sense wherever they are in life.
What important tennis message do you want to promote? The grind, the adversity, and the biggest — how you deal with RESISTANCE.