Category Archives: Coach Says

Posts from the Coach


Pre-Match Rituals


How do you pre-game for your big match?

Me, personally, I do this to get my mind right:

Music to set the mood. I don’t like to talk to teammates, family members, or opponents before a match. Instead, I listen to music before a match. Some of you can probably listen to classical music and relax.  Some of you probably jam out to old motivational songs like “eye of the tiger” or the “rocky theme”.  My music of choice before a match is rap.  I want to listen to something fast paced, with lots of base, and lyrics that will pump me up.  I play tennis like there is a chip on my shoulder.  I try my best to get in a mindset of feeling disrespected before a match and rap music gets me there.  Never quit, fight for every point and be willing to leave it all on the court win or lose is my motto.  Don’t back down from anyone!

This is perfect for all you ladies to get pumped up for your match and not come off as anti-social! It’s hardly noticeable!

Play tennis first, socialize after.  This may sound rude, but I’m not there to make friends.  I usually arrive 10 minutes before the match to stretch and shake hands with everyone.  My goal is to stay away from all the chatter that goes on before a match….like talking about the opponent’s record, who they’ve beat, lost to, whether the other team stacked their lineup, and all that nonsense.  I can tell in the warmup and first few games of the match everything I need to identify about my opponent.  So many times I’ve seen players lose matches before they even step on the court.  They mentally jinx themselves before the first ball is even struck.  Very disappointing and I want no part of it.

Look good, play good.  Just because I don’t like to participate in small talk before a match doesn’t mean I’m not prepared – mentally & physically.  I have multiple racquets, towels, fresh grips, drinks, snacks (our bag check will coming up in a future post) and anything I might need appropriate to the situation (weather, indoor vs outdoor).  Hat is turned backwards, shoes are laced up, clothes are comfortable, I’m looking good and I’m ready to win.

Remember coach’s small tips.  When I go watch my players compete I try and give simple instruction.  You can’t completely change your game pre-match so don’t try!  That would be an over-reaction.  KISS (Keep it simple stupid).  Believe in yourself, trust your preparation leading up to the match and make small adjustments when necessary.  Hopefully your coach has given you small, easy to remember tips that you can draw on mid-match.  As a coach, before one of my teams plays, I usually have a good motivational speech prepared, and if you go to Nationals, you might even hear me rap.

Go Hokies!


Picking the Perfect Partner


Doubles is like a marriage.

You need a partner with the same commitment level as you, someone who makes up for your weaknesses, and someone you trust.  For me, first things first, I have to like my doubles partner, I have to want to get drinks with him after the match, and he has to be the kind of dude I would be happy to hang with at Nationals.

Doubles partners support each other

Commitment.  There is a monetary, time, and trust commitment to strong partnerships.  You won’t hear me say, “You must take private lessons or you will not be successful!”   BUT…  I do think private lessons are helpful when you and your partner do them together. You want someone who will show up more often than match day (if that’s also your goal).  You and your partner should share goals and both be willing to do what it takes to accomplish those goals.  Getting on court with your coach more often allows you to develop better chemistry and problem solving skills. Be sure before you team up you talk about what you both want to gain out of your time together. The quicker your team can implement a winning strategy and learn the game plan the better!

Makes up for your weaknesses.  When looking for the right partner pick someone who compliments your game.  For instance, if you like to set up the point from the baseline, then pick a partner who is comfortable at the net!  Someone who likes to poach and is comfortable finishing points.  Teams composed of players with similar strengths and weaknesses get exposed.  **NOTE:  If you don’t know what your strengths and weaknesses are, it’s time to get with a coach and figure it out.**  Knowing is half the battle!  I’ve coached really good aggressive players that when they play doubles together fall apart against great lobbers or teams that are able to beat them to the net (like serve and volleyers).  I’ve also worked with players that never miss from the baseline and defend unbelievably well, but can’t put anything away…  Really good offense Beets good defense at the next level.

Trust.  You want a partner you can count on when times get tough.  As a tennis player you are going to have good days and bad days.  A good partner is someone who doesn’t shrug their shoulders at you or avoid talking to you after a bad shot.  You both have to laugh it off, high five, think positively, and move on!  A tennis match is a marathon not a sprint.  No matter how bad a game, series of games or even a set … the match is not over until it’s over!  It doesn’t matter if you win by a point or 6-0, 6-0, a win is a win.  Finding a partner that is not scared to talk to you when things are going bad, keeps you focused when things are going well, compensates for your weaknesses, has the same level of commitment that you do, and wants to join you at lunch after the match makes all the difference in the world.

Good luck and choose wisely.

Go Hokies!

Competition… It’s The Key to Your Growth as a Player

I have a passion for USTA Team Tennis.  The kind that’s real, that affects your rating, and that you spend hours deliberating over.  That’s why this is my favorite time of year in the adult tennis world.  We wait all winter for this time to arrive, and it brings an excitement to the courts.   All the strategizing, all the gossip, all the pressure built up!  Here’s where we find out who’s got what it takes to succeed.  It’s competition, ladies, and it’s your key to growth as a player.

Why you need to play USTA Team Tennis this Spring

All the other team genres…Tri-level, mixed, GWTA, NVTL…they are nice, and fun, but they are only “extra credit training” IMHO.  Every time you step on the court you are competing, yes.  But, without the real pressure of your rating, your spot on your team, your doubles partnership, it’s just not the same. I set up a developmental pathway for my players that culminates with the Spring team season.  The summer is usually quiet (your off season), in the fall you add to your arsenal or improve your game, in winter you implement new shots/techniques in matchplay, and then the Spring is for competing!  I’ve been using this strategy for years with very positive results.  Whatever you do, you must be continuing to work on your game or you will eventually get passed (not asked back to the team, not bumped up a rating level with your teammates, etc).

But I digress…

You need to play USTA Team Tennis this Spring because it’s all about competition.  It shows how you stack up against the rest of the league, District, Section, and hopefully Nation!  Correction, it’s how your TEAM stacks up.  It’s your 8 players against another teams’ 8 players (or 5 on 5 depending on your playing level).  You will win some and you will lose some (hopefully you win more than you lose!). Everyone loses at some point though, and that’s why you have teammates you can count on.  You win and lose as a team.  I’ve coached teams with less talent who believed in each other and went all the way to Nationals.

Why should you play USTA team tennis? Why not!  If you lose? You know what to work on going forward and you gain experience.  If you win? You learned how to close out a match, built some self-confidence, and probably overcame some obstacles.  In tennis, you can’t sub out when you get tired, there is no one to help you when nerves kick in, and you can’t even talk to anyone when it’s going downhill.  There is no one to blame or congratulate but yourself when the match is over.  That’s the beauty of our sport!

If you’re still on the fence… Play USTA team tennis!  Yes, you will hear stories of bad experiences… cheaters and simply mean people.  They are not prevalent in 95% of matches.  Don’t let a few bad apples affect your decision to compete.  Tennis is the ultimate 1 on 1 (or 2 on 2) sport.  Get out there and compete.  See how you stack up in a match that counts.  It’s March already… wow, I better start preparing for my own season!


Go Hokies!