I was back in Dublin this weekend and I ended up joining a reunion of former top Irish players in the famous Irish pub Doheny and Nesbitts. Most of the players there had been coached by me in the ‘80s and some had gone on to play Davis Cup and Fed Cup and to get high ATP and WTA rankings.
I had not seen many of them for over 30 years. Good news was that no one asked for their money back! Even better and the most important thing for me, and for any tennis coach working with young athletes, is that they all said they remember positively the time that I coached them. The individual lessons on the back courts of Fitzwilliam, the squads in Kilternan and the weekends away for training camps using the two indoor courts in Kelly’s hotel in Rosslare in the winter when the hotel was closed. Many had also attended my residential camps at Wesley College between ’85 and ’88.
It was great to see them all again and observing these great people so many years later reminded me that the best thing about tennis is the it develops life skills that many other sports cannot match. The unique nature of the sport, out there alone trying to figure out what to do and dealing with tough situations (tough losses, bad calls, the playing conditions etc.), prepares you very well for the ups and downs of life.
My best advice to coaches out there is to keep as a mantra what Nick Bollettieri said last year at a conference where we were both speaking …”Never let a kid leave your sessions without feeling good about themselves!” Powerful stuff.