Coaches corner: March 25
Tim from Austin, Texas
Tim – To succeed on the collegiate level, an athlete must be internally motivated. Some walk through the door on Day One with a twinkle in their eyes, anxious to tackle anything that the coaches throw at them. Others arrive looking for one of us to constantly provide external motivation. To paraphrase a famous quote from Bobby Knight: "Desire to win is worthless without preparation to win." Our practices are very demanding mentally and physically. If an athlete needs a lot of external motivation to get through practice, she will not hold up very well "under the lights" in matches. An athlete must EMBRACE THE ANXIETY inherent in a challenging practice environment to be prepared to execute under the pressures of match play. No one can DECIDE to make this commitment for her. It is a matter of individual and personal accountability.
Peer leadership from teammates can also facilitate the transition from outer to inner-directed motivation. Without help from peers, the process can take much longer as coaches attempt to help the athlete learn how to "spread her own wings." Coaches are, by the nature of our roles, external motivators, so this process is a tricky one. Playing mind games does not work in the long run. You must tell the athlete the truth about her situation. If she trusts that you have her best interests in mind, you can employ a combination of encouragement and tough love, and eventually you can cut the cord. The most gratifying moments in my coaching career have come while watching athletes achieve goals that they never imagined possible, convinced that they did it themselves.
Stephanie Blackburn from Harker Heights, Texas
Stephanie – To make any top-20 college team, a player must have experience being successful on a high level in either USTA or ITF competition. Although many top junior players compete for their high school teams (and by the way, the caliber of coaching in Texas high schools is extremely high!), we always look at USTA and ITF rankings first.
Polly McWilliams from Austin Texas
Polly - We do not have an official on every court because the pool of officials available does not include enough adequately qualified people (in my opinion) to fill the requirement. We do not want to face a situation where an inexperienced official becomes intimidated or overwhelmed, which has happened to us often on the road when the home school puts officials in every chair. In many cases, a school will do this because it looks better. I am more concerned about quality and professionalism. The players come first.
Regarding ball kids, we will be starting a program next spring. We used to do a lot of neat activities with area junior players, but new rules recently passed by the NCAA have limited our activities to some degree.