1. A Difficult Process
Finding good tennis instructors and tennis coaches is difficult. The vast majority are former college or high school players who look reasonably good hitting a ball, but have little actual teaching experience.
Indeed, they’ve seldom studied basic principles of education, read books about proper technique, taken courses in the basic principles of teaching progressions and tennis coaching, or attained certification by either the PTR (Pro Tennis Registry) or USPTA (US Pro Tennis Association).
Always ask your potential Tennis Instructors their NTRP rating, if they are nationally certified (which association and level: low, medium, or high), whether they have ever been ranked highly in the USTA, the number of years they have been teaching professionally, the ages and levels of the students they have taught, the types of locations at which they have taught (year-round indoor centers vs. part-time outdoor summer camps), and which notable authors they have read.
And, while you’re talking to your potential Tennis Coaches, try to gain an understanding of their level of professionalism, dedication, level of maturity, type of personality (personable; gregarious), and their ability to communicate clearly and effectively.
2. Expect RAPID Results
You’re paying good money to take tennis lessons, and you’ve got a right to expect good results soon. If you have difficulty understanding your Tennis Teachers during your tennis lessons and have been progressing slowly, stop crossing your fingers hoping you’ll one day have a magical epiphany and suddenly improve.
Instead, demand results NOW while you’re on-court, and not at some later time. If your Tennis Teachers are truly worth their grain of salt, you’ll start improving with your very first tennis lesson, and will continue to improve with each successive tennis lesson.
A good Tennis Teacher is absolutely worth the price. A poor Tennis Teacher simply waists your time and money.
3. National Certification
While certification does not guarantee a GREAT Tennis Coach, it certainly guarantees a reasonable minimum level of expertise. It’s unfortunate, but the vast majority of Tennis Coaches are unable to measure up to this requirement.
Always ask your potential Tennis Instructors and Tennis Coaches if they are nationally certified, and to which level.
The PTR and the USPTA are the only two well-respected, USTA-sanctioned, certifying bodies in the USA, and both have been certifying Tennis Coaches for almost 35 years. They certify Tennis Instructors to essentially three ascending tennis coaching levels (low; medium; high).
Good Tennis Coaches always work and study hard to periodically retest and elevate their certification to the highest level.
4. NTRP Level
It’s simply impossible for a Tennis Teacher to teach you to do something he/she can not already do him/herself, regardless of what he/she might think or claim.
So, if a Tennis Teacher only has an NTRP of 4.0, he/she can not teach you to play at NTRP 4.5 or higher. If you happen to improve beyond your Tennis Teachers NTRP level, it is solely due to your own abilities, not your Tennis Teacher’s.
Always ask your potential Tennis Teachers their NTRP level. It is ill-advised to settle for a lower NTRP level for the sake of a lower price. You will only get what you paid for, with little or no lasting improvement. Instead, demand a high NTRP level to better assure yourself of more rapid improvement.
5. Ranking in the USTA
While a higher USTA (United States Tennis Association) player ranking is no guarantee of getting good tennis lessons, it certainly does help. Tennis Instructors who have never been ranked, or have never even competed for a USTA ranking, should be avoided.
Always ask your potential Tennis Instructors about their current and/or past rankings: The higher, the better.
6. Years and Kind of Experience
There’s no substitute for experience. But, tennis teaching experience can be gained in a variety of settings. These include year-round indoor and outdoor facilities, as well as outdoor summer-only institutions such as adult and junior camps, recreation department programs, and country clubs. The tennis teaching experience a Tennis Instructor gains at a summer kids’ camp is greatly inferior to that gained at a year-round club. This impacts directly on the quality of your tennis lessons.
Always ask your potential Tennis Instructors exactly where they have gained their experience.
7. Experience Teaching Different
Ages, Levels, and Groups: Different ages and levels require different approaches and techniques when it comes to tennis instruction.
If your potential Tennis Instructor has spent the bulk of his/her time teaching children, he/she will be hard-pressed to provide proper tennis instruction to you as an adult. The skills required to teach privately to a single person are very different and more demanding than teaching a group.
Always ask your potential Tennis Instructors how much time they have spent teaching people of your own age and level, as well as whether they have taught group and private lessons.
8. Expert Knowledge of Proper Technique
Knowledge is critical, and a great Tennis Instructor gains it only from the great effort he/she has made to educate himself/herself. He/she needs to have read a large quantity and variety of tennis instruction books, viewed a sufficient number of instructional videos, and attended many salient courses and workshops on proper stroke technique. There are no short-cuts.
Always ask your potential Tennis Instructor how he/she has gained his/her knowledge.
9. Communication Ability
Regardless of the depth of your Tennis Coach’s knowledge of proper technique, this information is useless if he/she is unable to communicate it to you clearly and concisely.
When you speak with your potential Tennis Instructor, always listen to the manner in which he/she expresses him/herself. If you are unable to clearly understand him/her during your initial discovery process, chances are you will be just as bewildered while on court.
Although Personality is presented here last, it is by no means less important than the other considerations. Indeed, a personable, gregarious, punctual, reliable, mature professional who is also upbeat, encouraging, enthusiastic, and animated makes for a fun time on the court.