– Alan Lane, coach
I do tennis because I delved thoroughly into the whole background of this amazing sport. I’ve coached for many, many years, but the weird part is when I was playing on the circuit I would tell people I would never coach because it is the worst job. NEVER was I going to be a tennis coach!
Anyway when I was about 30, relatives got to me and said can you teach our kids a bit, so I said alright, bring them along at 10 am on Saturday. And then a few more kids came and then it was 9 am, and then it was OK, come on Sunday too and it gradually built into a fulltime job.
And at that point I was quite surprised to find I actually enjoyed it. And what I enjoyed was trying to help people, and I’ve always had a skill of being able to evaluate where the pupil is at and then with my desire to advance them as best they could I found it incredibly rewarding. And the more I got into it the more I realised this whole sport is complicated – I got to see that tennis and life were pretty much the same.
In my recent book on tennis psychology I make the point that if I watch a kid for a week on court I know how he behaves at home. You’re trying to teach the kids to become better but tennis is so similar to life – though tennis is a lot, lot easier to master than life.
If you’re making a player, you’re also making a person. A champion is not just a champion hitter of the ball – he or she is a champion in all areas. They know how to accept a loss – gracefully – and they also know a loss is an opportunity to learn something. And with that learning they can then apply themselves at practice.
And they also need respect – to study those who have gone before. From that you may pick up some particular item, and everything helps.
Last week I was teaching some kids and I showed them an old, old picture of a Frenchman playing at Staten Island, New York. It was Rene Lacoste. I asked what was so important about him and it turned out to be his nickname – “Crocodile”. On court, fight like a crocodile, never give up, never. Once he stepped on court you knew he was there until the death. I was saying to the kids, be like him, be another Lleyton Hewitt. You have to dig in and never panic.