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How We Found a Great Tennis Coach for Elizabeth

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The search for a tennis coach in Washington DC

When Elizabeth was almost 6, we decided that it was time to get her a professional tennis coach. I kept training her at least once a week myself, but she also needed to have professional instruction to make sure I don’t miss anything.

Oh well, finding a good tennis coach in Washington DC was not easy!

I saw quite a few coaches give tennis lessons at various courts I visited, but nobody really caught my eye. I wanted somebody outstanding for Elizabeth, since she already showed a lot of promise. And I didn’t see anyone like that.

When I went on Google and typed in “tennis coaches near me”, I got some suggestions which were quite good, but prohibitively expensive. Ouch. Who can pay $150 for a little kid’s class? I guess you end up paying for superb customer service on the phone and convenience of searching from your own house. Well, that’s not what I was going for. So I kept on looking.

I decided to try another route. I asked for some names of local coaches at the tennis camp which Elizabeth was attending in the summer. That worked like a charm.

Our first tennis coach

The tennis camp people recommended coach James (who went by JJ) from Rock Creek Park Tennis Center.

Well, we loved him from the start. He was a wonderful coach–kind, caring, great with kids, very knowledgeable. We signed up for group lessons in the fall of 2021–Elizabeth was a part of the group with 3 other kids.

I will always remember that after the first class JJ was so impressed by Elizabeth’s play that he said: “So, are you going to the US Open?” Oh yes, that’s where we’re definitely going, I said. Every time we came to the class, we tried to be 20 minutes early. JJ always let Elizabeth start practicing right away–he gave her a whole basket of balls to serve till other kids showed up.

At one point, we decided that it was better for Elizabeth to switch to one-on-one coaching with JJ. She was learning much faster than kids in her group. JJ was happy to train her. We just needed to come up with a schedule.

One afternoon, I texted JJ with the proposed time of the private tennis lessons. I was excited to start the new chapter!

No reply all day.

Weird.

Well, may be he lost his phone or something. I planned to talk to him at the next group class.

JJ didn’t come to the next class (we had a substitute coach). He didn’t come to the following classes either.

Apparently, he was in the hospital.

Eventually, we received a message that JJ … passed away.

What a heartbreak.

I will always remember JJ not just as a tennis coach but a wonderful person who truly cared about kids, somebody who made a mark on my daughter’s life.

Our second tennis coach

As you might guess, I was too traumatized to look for a new coach after JJ passed away.

I trained Elizabeth myself for a few months. We made sure to practice all the routines which JJ taught her. Forehand, backhand, volleys, serves… Elizabeth was progressing well.

At one point, I came across the tennis club which is not far from our house. I noticed they had a coach. I watched him train other kids and I really liked his style.

So, now we have a new coach–Jeff–and we are very happy. Jeff comes up with something new for each class. Elizabeth loves going to her tennis lessons and really looks forward to them.

My thoughts on tennis coaching

The importance of a tennis coach in the life of a tennis player cannot be underestimated. I think that many tennis players would not be who they are today, if they did not have a particular tennis coach.

Would Novak Djokovic be the same Novak today had he not enrolled in the first tennis classes with Jelena Gencic (his first coach in Serbia)? May be. But may be not. He credits a lot of his achievements to his first tennis coach and a lot of his motivation comes from the time when he was a child. I heard that he wanted to be #1 in the world when he was just 7.

Would Carlos Alcaraz be the first teenager ever to claim the #1 spot if he didn’t have Juan Carlos Ferrero as his coach for the past three years? Again, may be. But may be not. Beyond doubt, Carlos has exceptional talent, but it also takes a super coach to develop him into the youngest world #1.

As many of you know, the legendary tennis coach Nick Bollettieri passed away recently. This is a tremendous loss for the tennis world. He developed and nurtured so many great tennis champions, including Serena and Venus Williams, Monica Seles, Jim Courier and Andre Agassi. American tennis would not be the same, had Nick Bollettieri not opened his famous academy.

When choosing a tennis coach for your child, you need to keep in mind that each tennis coach is different. They all teach the same sport, but they have a unique style, a unique tennis philosophy, a unique personality just like any teacher or person in general. Different tennis coaches will introduce various elements into your kid’s game at different times, and there might be slight variation in the way various strokes are executed. Tennis is a bit of an art, don’t you think?

You need to observe carefully and make sure that a particular coach is a good match for your child and they work well together. We often see on TV that tennis players change coaches from time to time. It’s not by accident. Sometimes, the coach can be outstanding, but the player is just not progressing under his guidance and would benefit from a different approach.

So, good luck finding your perfect tennis coach and making your child’s tennis dreams come true!

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