Contradicting CoachesChristy Vutam | December 23, 2013
Half of house/pet sitting is pleading with dogs to go to the bathroom when it’s raining/wet outside.
As I predicted, my coach cancelled that next night’s lesson because it was too cold. Eye roll.
I’ve recently started private lessons with a second tennis coach while I’m still taking from my original teaching pro whom I’ve been with for about a year. That was a mistake. You know for two people who don’t know the other one exists – they work at different facilities, and one is new to town – they sure have loud arguments with each other. In my head.
I’ve debated doubles strategy with my second coach because of the teachings of my first coach. I’ve been trying to master the latter’s doubles philosophy for nearly a year – the whole reason why I started taking lessons from him was that I really liked his specific doubles instructions – and now my head is swirling because this other person I am willingly paying to teach me tennis is telling me all of that is incorrect.
Despite that, I thought I’d be able to make this work, this whole taking from two coaches thing. The only reason why I even looked for another tennis teaching pro to begin with was that my first coach didn’t have any more open slots and I wanted more instruction. I had just learned the term “deliberate practice” from Cal Newport’s book So Good They Can’t Ignore You: Why Skills Trump Passion in the Quest for Work You Love. Deliberate practice epitomizes the phrase “work smarter, not harder,” touting constant feedback as the best way of getting better at pretty much anything.
Darn book wreaking havoc on my tennis life. This is what I get for trying to finish books.
In what was supposed to be merely a supplement for my “real” lessons has become much more than that. In my first hour with this new coach, she changed my grips on my backhand. Remember what happens when coaches fiddle around with your strokes? That’s right; you no longer have that shot for at least half a year. Did I mention my first lesson with her was two days before the Tri-Level Tournament? Ugh, worst timing ever. Thank goodness for doubles partners.
By the way, I have a theory that the first thing all tennis coaches do in the initial private lesson is to change a player’s grip on at least one stroke for two reasons: 1) they feel the need to do something to prove their worth to the player and 2) this changing of the grip and thus making the person worse at tennis ensures the player will be coming back for more lessons.
So after the grip change with the one coach, I then met with my other coach, and all I wanted to do was work on my backhand, of course, and get used to the grips while under the tutelage of a pro. After that session, I actually felt good when I left – I rarely feel good after lessons; I usually walk away wondering how I ever win tennis matches – and I thought I was on the verge of finally grasping this most bizarre, graceless movement I’m forced to hit because I unluckily fell in love with this terrible sport that haunts my every waking moment. I’d be seeing the coach who had initiated the grip change next, and I was sure she’d perfect my stroke easily. Backhand solved!!!
See, I knew I could make this two coaching-headed monster work!
Instead, my backhand made such little progress that she switched over to working on my forehand – the one stroke I can actually hit – and I had to say, “No, no, no, I don’t care how frustrated you are; we are working on this backhand, gosh flipping darn it.”
But the stroke didn’t get any better in that hour. While we were picking up balls together, I happened to grab her racquet and mimed the shot right in front of her. She said, “Whoa, no, you’re not supposed to hit it like that. You’re supposed to hit it like this. Have you been trying to hit it like that – how I would not want you to hit it – all this time??”
Like that was how my first coach had said to hit it. Un-flipping-believable. I just wasted a pricey lesson (they’re all pricey lessons #tennis) because of this two coach nonsense.
Why can’t there be a universal, standard way of playing tennis? Why must there be so much gray? Why are there so many different ways of hitting a ball? Why are there so many varieties in how to play this frustrating sport?
Neither coach is wrong, per se. This is how he hits a ball; this is how he plays doubles. He’s really good at tennis. This is how she hits a ball; this is how she plays doubles. She’s really good at tennis.
Playing tennis – hitting that little ball over a mountain-high net into a confined space – is already a tall order. Why are the very people we entrust to making the sport easier on us really making it harder?!?
Oh my gosh. I just got it.
It’s a ploy. It’s a scam. It’s a joke they’re all in on!
The joke – the sick joke: someone decided to come up with an activity that was at once maddening as it was addicting. They publicized it as being a “fun” and “healthy” sport – no physical contact! – that could be enjoyed for the rest of people’s lives.
This horrible person filled the sport with the most awkward movements possible complete with the most illogical scoring system ever. Then each year, he taught a new group of young tennis players a particular way of hitting the ball with different grips and body sequences, and after they had perfected that way of playing – because you can mold kids to do anything – this mad man had his disciples disperse to all over the world to teach tennis to unsuspecting laypeople. Over the course of a lifetime, recreational adult players will generally have lessons/drills with multiple coaches, each one teaching a different style of tennis than the last – heck, coaches themselves will negate what they just said at the previous session – the intentional point of which is to keep tennis confusing and cause folks to fork over money hand over fist in a misguided attempt at getting better at the sport when in fact there is no getting better at tennis. Everyone – the coaches, the people who run leagues, the officials, the non-tennis-playing employees of tennis pro shops, etc. – are laughing and laughing and laughing at us.
Both my coaches have contradicted each other on specific points of just about every stroke. One coach has said your hips turn first and then your racquet follows on groundstrokes while the other coach has said your hips stay back. One coach has said you don’t need to jump on your serve; the other coach is making me jump on my serve (oh, I don’t have a serve, anymore either, as of a few days ago; yay!). One coach has said being a more defensive-minded doubles player is important and it will generate offense; the other coach has looked at me like I was insane when I brought that point up.
It’s almost like I’m being Punk’d and at the end of this long, morbid tennis version of The Truman Show, the producers will finally say, “Okay, that’s enough of messing with her,” and I’ll get to meet Ashton Kutcher for all my troubles.
If I do get to meet Ashton Kutcher someday for having to go through all this, then I just might be okay with that trade-off…
Oh, both my coaches agree on this one point though: I think too much when I play. Oh, really? I had no idea. I’m the person who came up with Vampire vs Werewolf and The Sun while I’m playing my matches (I kid you not. I think up narratives in my head in the middle of points…you know, for you, dear reader).
So the moral of this story is that I’m going to keep seeing both coaches. I wanted
to complicate my tennis more instruction, and I’m certainly getting that. Adding voices to the din that’s already inside my head should do wonders for my game, wouldn’t you agree?
Happy Holidays, everyone!