As coaches, we live along the continuum from being direct to indirect. Being direct essentially means who’s making the decision within the learning environment. So, if I’m (Emma) being direct, then the coach is making the decisions for the player. If you’re working with a bunch of five-year-old’s and say “Come over here and place your toes on the white line” that is a direct command. Which is much needed for a group of five-year old’s and in terms of instruction. So, I’m not saying one is better than the other, but obviously that direct command is what comes naturally generally to most coaches.
I’d say 80 percent of the coaches do not need to learn direct commands as a tennis coach, that’s what they’re pretty good at, naturally. On the other end of the continuum is the indirect coaching style, which is where the student is making the decisions. Within the lesson, the coach potentially sets up a great learning environment and then the player is allowed to explore and what that the benefits of that are is unlocking the cognitive and what’s called the effective domain, which is the enjoyment. Because if the child has to think and try to solve problems and work it out, most kids, especially in Western culture, very much enjoy that process. They’re encouraged to do it because that is how they are they learning these days on their tablet, on the phone playing Minecraft and these games where they have to do the decision making and the thinking by themselves.
So, it’s so much a part of our world that if we can tap into that and unlock that in tennis, I’m a huge believer in that. So basically, having this knowledge of direct versus indirect and knowing that when we practice being more indirect, this is how we really can help to unlock the decision making and the learning within the player, which is essentially our sport.
That’s how we strengthen the coach or the inner voice. Let’s be honest, our ultimate goal, I always say, is to make ourselves redundant.
And yes, we may still stay in contact with our students. And certainly, my highlight of my career is when I attend a wedding or even watch one of my ex-students give her father’s funeral speech. Those are the moments that really excite me to see them as adults and be able to use this voice to help them, no matter what they do in their life. And build that character is the ultimate job for me as a coach. So, I think the more we can practice those indirect skills is absolutely critical to our ability to unlock the learning within the player.