You could certainly make arguments for both sides, but I believe that there was a certain generation of coaches who were more dogmatic in their approach.
While it is necessary for coaches to be strict and stern when it comes to technique, the laws of physics, and the geometry of the court, there are other aspects where you have to loosen the reins a little bit and understand your player’s personality and preferences.
Great coaches, even in the past, were able to understand and read their players better than just a good coach. Adaptability is key in coaching, and while it may have been more acceptable in the past to treat players a certain way based on what was known, now there is more education and information available to make everyone better.
With the world changing and social media allowing anyone to record and share anything they want, there is an opportunity for coaches and players alike to be more well-informed.
Q: Is it possible to be both adaptable and foster an environment in which there are some clear non-negotiables?
As a coach, it’s important to establish clear boundaries and expectations for your players. There’s a certain line that you cannot cross with certain coaches, but it’s important to communicate those standards based on your relationship with each player.
The line can always change, depending on the player and the situation. For example, Phil Jackson did not coach Michael Jordan the same way he coached Dennis Rodman. As a coach, you need to treat everyone fairly, but not necessarily the same way, as everyone is different and on a different journey. You must adapt to each player and their needs, rather than expecting them to adapt to you.
To effectively communicate your expectations, you need crystal clear clarity from the start. Make sure that the player understands where you’re coming from, what you want them to do, and encourage them to be honest and upfront with you as well.
Without that foundation of honesty, you have nothing. Ask the player about their non-negotiables and what they need from you. Understanding their boundaries and expectations will help you provide the best possible service.
At a higher level, like the pro tour, coaches are typically employees of the player, so it’s important to work together and establish a good working relationship. At a club level, coaches are usually in charge, but at the tour level, players have more say. Regardless of the level, the three keys to success are clear communication, adaptability, and honesty. By establishing these from the beginning, you can avoid issues down the line and build a successful relationship with your player.