The Quiet Coach

Good coaching is not about yelling and inspiring as much as it is about teaching. Take John Wooden as an example. Photo by AP.Tennis was one of the first sports I played and it remains one of my favorites to watch on television. A unique aspect of tennis is that while coaches are involved intimately in training, often on a one-on-one basis, they have no role at the match. With the exception of some recent rule changes in women’s tennis, it is frowned upon to even look at the coach’s box during a match and communication is forbidden. Watching the ebbs and flows of a five-set grand slam final as athletes must cope alone with the momentum changes and building pressure produces some of the best drama in sports. The tennis coaches may not get much recognition but they are some of the best coaches in the world since they prepare their athletes to do this battle alone.

Talking with coach Harry Marra last week has gotten me to think more about coaching theory. Many of the topics Marra talked about concerned how to improve communication between athlete and coach. Coaches must know their sport, and the great coaches are those that can best convey it best to their athletes. The great coaches will have athletes that are not just physical specimens, but also students and active learners. During a competition they are not on their heels waiting for a sideline instruction from their coach; they are proactively deciding their next move because their coach equipped them to learn for themselves.


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3 replies
  1. Jesse Squire
    Jesse Squire says:

    My high school coach, who is in the Ohio track & field hall of fame, loves practice and doesn’t care as much for meets. He doesn’t take splits or keep score. And if he ever had to raise his voice, you knew you were in real trouble. He always said “once the clerk turns you over to the starter, there’s nothing I can do for you. We better get it done before that.”

    • Martin
      Martin says:

      The head coach at Cal State Northridge when I was there was Don Strametz. He also didn’t care much for meets and would also just send his assistants to NCAA indoors and stay back to do administrative tasks. Even Bondarchuk doesn’t like to travel much any more and is rarely with his athletes at meets.


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