How to “Cram” for the Start of the Season (A Coach’s Guide) Alexandra McDaniel October 22, 2015 Coaching The beginning of the tennis season has a bad habit of creeping up on you. One second it’s the beginning of summer, and the next, the season has started and the first match is less than two weeks away. This can be a major problem for coaches and teams alike. Although some players play relentlessly during off-season, many players do not, and are not properly conditioned for the start of the season. Coaches then have to desperately try and “cram” for the start of the season, and whip their team into playing shape. This is often a challenge, and people can get overwhelmed by the vigor of pre-season. Although the start of the season is never going to be easy, there are ways to eliminate the constant headache that pre-season brings. Encourage players to start early. Although there can be no official practices run by coaches, encourage team leaders to set up optional practices, workouts, or even team-bonding activities. Doing these can lead to a more coherent and prepared team. Coaches should reach out to players. Many times, coaches have no direct contact to the team until the start of the season. The most successful teams have coaches that are incredibly involved and motivated. Coaches who put in effort to get to know, and answer questions from players have better luck with the performance of their team. Create a friendly, yet competitive environment. Nothing motivates players more than a healthy dose of competition. By having opportunities for players to advance in the team, you can ensure that more players will practice during the off-season and will come prepared once practice starts. Competition will also provide coaches with higher quality players. As more and more players practice during the off-season, the better, and more skilled the players will eventually become. Have strong team leaders. By having skilled, and often times older players on the team, it will encourage newer players to work hard. Team leaders can often serve as “idols” for the younger, or upcoming players. It will also showcase all the hard work that the older team members have put in, and how they have been successful by doing so. Help players get informed. Coaches should be able to provide information on how players can stay active and fit during the off-season. This can include the names of indoor tennis facilities, teachers willing to give lessons during the off-season, or even what kind of racquet an individual player should get. By keeping players informed, you have the ability to gently encourage players to get involved during the off-season. Set clear goals at the beginning of the season. Have each player set individual goals for themselves. This will help keep players stay on track, and they will be able to see how they progress during the duration of the season. Goals can range from moving up a position in the team to learning how to serve. The difficulty of the goal does not matter as long as it is encouraging the individual to work hard. Have coaching drills. Drills that showcase a specific skill are incredibly valuable to a team. By having certain skills demonstrated in person, the comprehension of the information will be more retainable to the players. Although it is possible to “cram” before the beginning of the season, it is far more valuable for both the coaches and team to start early with these activities. By incorporating these tips however, it is possible to create a cohesive and successful team in just a few weeks.