Finding the right tennis instructor or coach is one of the most important decisions you can make, as it will heavily influence the trajectory of your or your child's development as a tennis player. It goes without saying that all tennis coaches are not created equal, so you will need to have a good idea of what to look for in a tennis coach if you want to maximize your on-court potential.
A solid tennis coach should be able to produce solid credentials. Always ask your potential coaches what their National Tennis Rating Program (NTRP) rating is (low, medium or high), as well as whether or not they have ever received any certification from either the United States Professional Tennis Association (USPTA) or the Professional Tennis Registry (PTR). Find out how many years of instruction they have under their belt, as well as what different types of age groups and skill levels they have worked with. It's also useful to find out the facilities in which they have taught (e.g., indoor year-round or outdoor seasonal), and what their favorite tennis-related books are. Remember, you're paying hard-earned money for quality instruction, so it doesn't hurt to do a little pre-screening to find out if your potential coach will fit the bill.
2. Passion and Personality
It's not hard to tell whether someone genuinely loves what they do or not. You want to work with a tennis coach who has a genuine passion not only for the game of tennis, but also for imparting his/her knowledge, skills and experience to others who want to learn the game. It makes all the difference in the world when you can work with a tennis coach who truly wants to see you or your child improve as a player, versus someone who seems to be indifferent. A solid tennis coach will show true concern for how well you do in matches or tournaments. They approach their instruction with the mindset that how well you perform is a reflection of their skills as a coach, so they take pride in doing a great job. In addition, the best tennis coaches are perpetual students of the game themselves; not only do they love to teach the game of tennis, but they're still learning as much as they can as well!
3. Clear Communication
The importance of having a tennis coach who can communicate effectively cannot be overstated. Your potential tennis coach may be a walking library of knowledge regarding the game of tennis, but if they can't communicate their instructions in a clear and concise manner, their lessons will be largely ineffective. Not only do their sheer communication abilities matter, but also the manner in which they communicate is vitally important. A quality tennis coach should be able to correct the flaws or errors in your or your child's game without being abrasive, overly critical or turning it into an unnecessary personal attack. Good tennis coaches are firm and straightforward, but also respectful and professional in their communications.
4. Expert-Level Knowledge of Proper Form, Technique and Strategy
Your tennis coach must of necessity know more about the game than you do. He or she must be well-versed in the nuances of tennis form, technique and strategy, and should be well-studied in a wide range of tennis instruction books. Your coach should be able to quickly detect and correct any errors in your form or technique. A solid instructor will also utilize positive reinforcement, highlighting the things you're doing well (e.g., hitting an outstanding forehand) along with making corrections to the flaws in your game.
5. A Solid Playing Level
It would be difficult to take advice from a coach who utilizes poor technique with his or her shots. Your coach should have a solid level of skill in playing the game of tennis as well. This doesn't mean that he or she needs to be a five-time Wimbledon champion, but at least be well-rounded and fundamentally sound in all aspects of the game. The ideal tennis coach should have some level of proficiency at doing the things they're teaching you how to do, because they cannot lead you to where they haven't been.
There are a lot of great tennis coaches out there, so it may be worth it so see which ones offer some type of trial class before settling into a longer-term commitment. Don't be afraid to ask around for references as well, and talk to some of the potential instructor's current or former students to see how well the lessons have worked for them. Use the ideas mentioned above to help you narrow your search, and you should be able to connect with a quality tennis coach who can bring out the best in your or your child's tennis game.