MyTennisLessons is pleased to announce Matthew S. of Glen Cove, NY, as our tennis coach of the month for May. Matthew is a former elite junior and collegiate player, who has been doing a fantastic job teaching his students. We were able to find some time between lessons to ask Matthew a few questions.
1. How has your experience as an elite junior player influenced the way you coach kids now?
As an elite junior player I had the opportunity to work with some amazing coaches on Long Island and at some top notch tennis academies in Florida during the summers. I believe all of the coaches who helped me become the player and coach I am today had unique strengths that I attribute to my playing style and mental focus. Some coaches focused more on footwork, some on stroke development, others on physical strength training. I believe that being able to embrace all of these positive attributes allowed me to become the well rounded coach that I am today. Also, the amount of competition that I played in allowed me to become a mentally tough player through that experience. I use that experience to emphasize to my students to keep pushing forward. I am tough on them, but in the right way so that they keep excelling.
2. As a former collegiate tennis player, what advice do you have for young students of the game who strive to reach that level?
The most important thing I would emphasize to young students is that all tennis players will get very frustrated at various times throughout their junior development. There were times that I wanted to quit the sport because I didn’t feel I was playing up to my potential. With the support of my parents, coaches, and peers, I kept pushing through. You need to have a never-give-up attitude, and when you feel like you’ve failed, get back out on the court and keep working! It will pay off eventually.
3. Do you have a favorite success story with a student?
My favortite success story would have to be when I was training a young boy at the age of 11 until about 14. He then went to train at an academy down in Florida to get more year-round outdoor training away from the harsh winters in New York. Years later I ran into him when he was 17 years old, and he told me that he had just gotten a scholarship offer to a Division I team here in New York. He said to me, “You gave me the strokes I have today; you gave me so much, and I really have to thank you for your hard work.”
4. In your opinion, how can parents of tennis players help their children excel in the sport?
I think parents play an essential role in a junior’s development. I would emphasize that while tennis is an expensive sport, try not to equate a child’s success on the court directly to money. This will make them feel even more of a failure after a bad loss if you rub it into their face by saying that you’ve been spending all this money on lessons, and you’re still losing. Parents need to be encouraging, especially after tough losses. One other important point is that kids are kids. By this I mean, life is not all about tennis. This attitude will lead to failure in life in the long run. Being that tennis is sometimes an isolating sport and not really a team sport, it is extremely important that kids spend time with friends outside of tennis. It will help them in their futures, and in tennis in the long run.
5. What’s your favorite part of the game to teach/emphasize and why?
That’s a really tough question … I love teaching all aspects of the game, however, if I had to pick one, it would have to be the physical aspect of the game. By that I mean, pushing kids to their limits physically and mentally, and helping them realize that they can achieve anything they put their mind to. I tell them “your only limits are the ones you place on yourselves.” This helps translate into success on the court during tough competition when they feel like their bodies are ready to give out. I believe our job as coaches is to help each player recognize their full potential.