Tennis has always been at the center of Nicole Kriz’s life. She began playing at six years old and quickly rocketed to the No. 1 ranked junior in Australia before pursuing a career as a professional, where she rose to career-high world rankings of No. 104 in doubles and No. 332 in singles.
After her professional career was derailed by injury at just 25 years of age, coaching was the natural course of action for Kriz. She began her coaching career as the head coach of Newington College, leading the all-boys private school to victories at the 2012 and 2014 GPS Premiership.
Kriz also played an integral role in the formation of the WTCA, becoming a founding board member when she and CEO Sarah Stone discussed the budding idea to form an organization focused on advancing coaching for females in tennis.
Today, Kriz is now working with two of Australia’s top WTA Tour level players in Destinee Aiava and Alex Bozovic as a Women’s Pro Tour Coach for Tennis Australia, where she spends six months of the year on the road with the athletes and trains them back in Sydney.
“I love giving back to a sport that’s given me so much and seeing people enjoy the sport as much as I did,” said Kriz. “I think it’s an absolute privilege to work with some of our young professionals and have an influence over them and their careers.”
Through the years, Kriz has developed an eclectic coaching method based on a few central core values. However, the most important aspect of her style is a player-first and player-oriented mentality.
“It’s about understanding the person and then coaching them to their learning style and development,” explained Kriz. “I don’t think everyone is the same. Every player is individual in how they learn and take on information, and where they’re at developmentally. It’s not one-size-fits-all.”
However, Kriz also believes in teaching her players the fundamental qualities needed for success on the court. “High-level tennis is also about your character traits. Your resilience and your personality need to be developed just as much as your tennis,” she said.
From working with Aiava and Bozovic, two very different players, Kriz has gained a true appreciation for working with players of diverse personality types. “I think that’s part of being a coach, studying your athletes and trying to get the best out of them,” she reflected.
According to Kriz, coaches must also develop a healthy respect for a way their athletes see the progression of their careers. “When you go on the WTA Tour and you do the on-court coaching, it’s much more athlete-driven than coach-driven. I’ve learned to give my athletes a voice. At the end of the day, if you don’t understand what they’re seeing and feeling, it’s irrelevant what knowledge you have to give,” she explained.
Another central component to coaching success is building a diverse knowledge base. Throughout her years on the Pro Tour, Kriz has learned to speak with as many coaches as possible to build information on the sport and expand her network.
Additionally, Kriz believes it is vital to learn from others beyond those strictly involved in tennis. “I always tell my athletes to take little things from others who are doing well in their field, particularly other women,” she said.
“What works successfully in other fields quite often relates to tennis as well. I think it’s important that you don’t become too tennis-orientated. Draw on other fields and implement what you’ve learned within your coaching style,” urged Kriz.
In coaching, there is certainly no one-size-fits-all method, which is why Kriz has been able to thrive by adapting her own core beliefs to the athletes she is working with. If Kriz’s success is any indication, continuous learning and adaptation are certainly key components all coaches should aim to emulate.