As coaches, it’s important to foster positive development and create a supportive environment for players. One of the first steps in helping to assure positive outcomes is understanding that every player is different. Mandy Wilson, a renowned coach and player, can recall many times where her players have gone down different roads in their career, but both ended up where they wanted to be.
“With my experience, I had two young girls that were both in the main draw of the US Open and top 50 in the world. Both were phenomenal players and in the same place with their careers. When they were in the 13-15 age range, they decided to go down very different paths. One went Pro and one went to play college. Fast forward ten years down the road and these two players were in the exact same spot. They were both competing at the same level, in the same tournaments, and excelling in their careers. They took different paths, but they both got to where they wanted to.”
Mandy emphasizes that no two players are going to have the same experience. She stresses that communicating with every player to help them achieve their journey is the main role of a coach. Wilson also believes that the most important factor for coaches to remember when setting their player up for success is to avoid any sort of comparison to other players.
“The factor of comparison can be very dangerous for young players. When they start comparing themselves to other players it begins to affect the mental and physical areas of their playing. As a coach, you have to keep their focus on the things they can control.”
For coaches working with multiple players, it can be difficult to balance player individuality. “A lot of the work that I’ve done is in groups. I had girls that were all ranked around each other and it was such an easy environment for them to compare each other, but you have to do your best to let them know that they need to focus on what they can control. They are already going to be feeling a lot of pressure, so when coaches begin comparing their players to other players, or kids begin comparing themselves to each other, it puts on an added level of stress that can be very dangerous to them.”
Focusing on each player’s individual desires, talents, and skills is a crucial part of coaching. Stay open to communication with all athletes and understand that no two players will have the exact same experience. With the help of a supportive and understanding coach, athletes can achieve their goals and stay on the path that best suits them.