Coaching Styles for Every Type of Student

Improve your coaching methods to support your students in the best way possible.

Jason Hufford
February 9, 2023

Learning a sport can help students become more confident and resilient in a variety of ways that can impact them for a lifetime, so it’s crucial to improve your coaching methods to support your students in the best way possible.

As every coach knows, no two students are quite the same. In fact, over 70 different models of learning styles have been proposed by different researchers across the globe to try to explain why students learn and retain information differently. Each student requires different levels of encouragement and training to succeed, yet certain strategies are more effective than others across the board at helping every student succeed. 

The challenge facing tennis coaches is learning how to tailor their coaching to positively impact all of their students, who all have different needs. Let’s dive into how you and your students can find success with an adaptive approach to coaching.


Preparing Students to Process Your Coaching

Research suggests that students usually forget about 50 percent of information within an hour of learning it. That being said, you can take action to prepare students to accept your coaching so it makes a greater impact by setting clear expectations from the start and developing trust.

Setting clear expectations for what your students will learn from you is critical in preparing them to accept what you’re teaching. When I was 11, my tennis coach told me I would need to throw away everything I thought I knew about my groundstrokes and that I wouldn’t win a match for the next two years. Instead of focusing on winning or losing matches, my sole focus during tournaments would be improving my technique. Over time, I started winning more matches. Establishing how much time it will take for students to improve their skills and giving them specific things to work on is part of setting clear expectations that will help students better process your coaching. 

Building trust with your students is also key. Students must completely trust their coach to make the best decisions for them, even though they may fail at first. You can develop this trust by learning about each student as a person outside of your sport. As you spend time discussing different experiences they’ve had in their life, your students know how much you care about them. By implementing these simple tips, your students will be more accepting of your suggestions as a coach, even if you ask them to do something that’s outside of their comfort zone.


Handling Differences in Student Mindsets

In my experience, when young athletes quit an activity, it’s usually due to a coach or other adult who doesn’t know how to handle the student’s individual coaching needs. As you adapt your coaching to your students’ resilience levels, you and they can grow together.

Some students are more sensitive, which means you have to be more positive with them while still avoiding filling them with false hope. Setting smaller goals can help these students stay motivated. Here are some coaching strategies to help sensitive students succeed: 

    1. Give them tasks or activities they can easily achieve at first. 
    2. Speak with softer language.
    3. Manage expectations for each student while maintaining standards.  
    4. Do hand-eye coordination exercises away from the net. This will help them to be less worried about missing the ball at the net.
    5. Be more excited for them when they do things right. Then when something goes wrong, it won’t be as big of a deal. 

With students who have more experience or a tougher mindset, you can be more direct while still being encouraging and supportive. Consider these proven coaching methods for reaching students who are more resilient: 

    1. Be completely honest about how they’re doing. If they are not doing something correctly, let them know. 
    2. Teach actual standards and hold them accountable.
    3. Show them specific numbers that prove what is working and what isn’t. For example, you may count how many times they lose their temper during a match so they better understand their behavior and recognize the need to improve. 
    4. If a student is not responding to your coaching methods, consider bringing in another professional to work with the student. A different perspective on what can be improved can be helpful for both the coach and the student.

Since every student is different, effective coaching must involve some degree of customization. As you make efforts to understand your students and adapt your coaching style to their unique needs, you and them will begin to see greater success.


Using Proven Coaching Strategies

When coaching is done right, it can account for 20 to 30 percent of the variation in team outcomes. To help students feel positive about the coaching methods that are being introduced to them, it’s important for them to associate hard work, competition, and learning new things with fun and enjoyment.

Here are some other positive universal coaching strategies that I’ve found to be effective:

  • Teach them to cope when things don’t go right, regardless of their level. Encourage them not to spend energy on self-destruction after making a mistake.
  • Take a video of your students and show it to them later to help them evaluate their progress. Visualization encourages improvement.
  • Adapt your exercises to make difficult aspects of practicing enjoyable. For example, when my tennis students are struggling with practicing their swings in the summer heat, I like to replace their tennis balls with water balloons to help maintain an environment of fun and positivity. 
  • Have your students compete with opponents of all levels, not just those who are better than them. This will help them to have variety in their practice and improve their abilities to work hard, maintain positivity, and practice humility.
  • One-third of an athlete’s time should be spent practicing against opponents who are worse than them, while another third should be with opponents who are at the same skill level, and the rest of their time should be with opponents who are better.   

Overall, it’s important to remember that a key aspect of any sport is how it helps you to become a better person—it’s not just about getting more successful at the sport. As you apply these tips and prepare your students to process your coaching, cater your coaching to your students’ needs, and use proven coaching strategies to help them stay positive and progress, your students will thank you for years to come.


How We Can Help

RacquetDesk is a cloud-based club management software solution designed specifically for racquet sports clubs and organizations. Our expertise provides us with unique insight into successful coaching styles, club management requirements, and player needs, which has allowed us to design key solutions that racquet clubs need.

Our team brings combined experiences in software, facility management, and tennis/racquet sports to provide service and support for you and the needs of your clients and members. We aim to help you stay organized so you can spend more time on what matters most: your clients.

Level up your club management by scheduling a demo with RacquetDesk.

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