There is more to coaching than meets the eye. In fact, coaching tennis is arguably one of the more demanding professions. Pros spend hours upon hours on the court teaching their students, however, one of the most overlooked aspects of coaching is the educational component for the coaches themselves.
Jenny Robb, USTA Alabama state representative and tennis coach, has always valued the importance of coaching education. A quick look at her bio tells you all you need to know about Robb’s passion for expanding her knowledge. Her certifications include ITPA Performance Trainer, ITPA Tennis Performance Specialist, PTR Master of Tennis – Junior Development, PTR 10 & Under Professional, PTR Adult Development Professional, and USPTA Elite Professional.
Despite the myriad of conferences attended and certifications earn, Robb will never stop growing her knowledge base. Robb first dabbled in coaching as a collegiate tennis player on summer break at the Future Stars Tennis Camps in East Hampton, New York.
She recalls long days both on and off the court, driving a 13 passenger van to pick up her students for an action packed day. “You either loved or you hated it,” said Robb. “Some people bowed out, but I absolutely loved it. I ended up staying longer than I had originally planned to stay and that’s how my coaching career began.”
Once Robb began coaching on a full time basis, she quickly realized that she would need to expand her technical knowledge base, which is why she began traveling across the country to attend coaching conferences.
“I was always scared to death of not having the right information or not giving the right information to my students,” explained Robb. “I didn’t want to misrepresent coaching because I think it’s so important. I had coaches that meant so much to me growing up, so I wanted to be a better coach.”
“It really started out as seeking knowledge. I knew that I didn’t know everything, and I wanted to know more. That’s how it began, and I had some great people guide me through that process of what was available and what was out there,” she said.
Robb gained her first certification through the PTR with her mentor Danny Leal, which is where her passion for education began. A few years later, she became involved with the USPTA and USTA as well. Through these certifications Robb has not only expanded her coaching knowledge, but she has also built lifelong relationships.
“These educational opportunities have been absolutely life-changing. As much as learning is important, the relationships and friendships actually mean more to me,” said Robb.
Nonetheless, it was not always easy for Robb to create these relationships. When she first began attending conferences, she was too nervous to speak up or get involved in the activities. However, once she was able to overcome her nerves, Robb was able to learn more than ever before.
“When I got the courage to get a little bit more involved, people would ask for volunteers from the crowd as they demonstrated their drills, and I started doing some of that,” said Robb. “Every time I got out there, I just learned so much more. I would encourage everybody out there to get involved, talk to people, get out there and help the presenter because you take more of it with you.”
“There’s a drill that I now do all the time with adults and juniors, and it’s because of not just attending a specialty course but actually getting involved and doing it myself. I’ve really felt more confident being able to bring it back and run it in my club because I wasn’t just watching. Watching and taking notes is great, but getting involved helped me be able to bring it back and run it,” she explained.
Investing in education has changed Robb’s career for the better, and she urges other coaches to consider doing the same. “I cannot say enough about how important it is to make the connections with other pros who are passionate about learning and teaching,” she said. “It’s easy to get wrapped up in your own world at your club. You’re serving so many people. You’re dealing with players, you’re dealing with parents, juniors, adults, club members. There’s so much happening that you have to get out of that bubble.”
Getting out of her comfort zone has allowed Robb to develop prosperous connections with coaches she would never have met otherwise. “My life has been so enriched by the friendships I have made just by going to these conferences and meeting people.”
“It’s been life-changing and it’s incredible, so I would encourage any young pro – I know it’s expensive, I know it takes time, your club may or may not support it – but it’s life-changing. It’s career changing and it’s life-changing. It’s priceless, it really is.”
Take it from Robb, an investment in coaching education is an investment in not only your future as a coach, but also an investment in your players. Coaching is an ever-evolving profession, and in order to keep up, dedicating time to education is critical.