Guest Blog Post: Be a Co-Pilot
I had just retired as an average Futures player. It was 2007, and I was looking to transition to the next phase of my career. I offered to coach one of my best friends, Dudi Sela, which turned into a fruitful collaboration that lasted for 120 weeks on tour. My work with Dudi then led to another coaching opportunity with Alex Bogomolov Jr., whom I coached and traveled with for another 130 weeks. The ups and downs of coaching on tour can be challenging, but I tried to frame them as learning experiences. I wanted to share one of my takeaways from my time coaching on tour, which has helped me with my work with both pros and juniors: be a "co-pilot".
What is a co-pilot? Someone who does everything in their power to make a player feel comfortable on and off the court, to better allow him to focus on his tennis. As a co-pilot, I organized practice schedules and transportation, and oversaw my players' weekly, monthly, and yearly plans. As much as we coaches can influence our players, it is ultimately up to the players themselves to be in charge of their tennis. Players do best when they are the ones in the command seat. As a co-pilot, I made sure my players felt confident in their tennis.
My background as a former Futures player made me confident in some aspects of the game, but humbled enough to know that there was plenty I didn't know. I made sure to speak about what I knew, and said 'I don't know' when I didn't. For the times I didn't have answers to my players questions, I did my best to learn as fast I as could. My strength was discussing tactics and game plans, and I typically led those discussions. In other aspects of the game, I sat co-pilot, making sure to listen to my players, and responding when I felt I could help, even if just as a sounding board to my players' ideas.
Being a co-pilot means treating your players with respect and engaging in open dialogue. I believe this approach has strengthened my relationships with my players (and made me better person), which in turn allowed them to better succeed on court.
Written by Yoav Schab, GPTCA Level A Coach, ATP Coach and Bidi Badu brand ambassador.
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