I (Emma) got really quite burned out from coaching tennis. I couldn’t understand that I was only relating to half of my players. How was it possible that I could bring out the best in these players and not in those. I wasn’t quite sure why. After studing emotional intelligence and Neurolinguistic programming (NLP) I found the concept of coaching someone without being aloud to tell them the answer. All of a sudden it’s about asking the question that unlocks the learning within the player.

I highly recommend that tennis coches try for fun to have a lesson where they are not allowed to give direct commands. It’s really difficult.

Sir John Whitmore belives that it’s more important what goes on inside the head than what goes on outside, inspired by the Inner Game of tennis. When I heard about that I started exploring how to unlock the learning from within by questioning the players.

When I then got back to tennis I had from previous tactical and technical concepts, but I now also had tools around communication.

I started noticing when I used past- and future based questions.

Noticing that players would shut down when I said: “Why did you miss that ball?”

The player will then tell you a long list of reasons to justify why they missed the shot. As a coach you will nod at their answer, but that only cements what they did wrong – that doesn’t help them with what to do differently next time.

The minute you ask the player a future based question you point their attention towards the future and what to do.

My all-time favorite tip is the 2 words: “Next time”. “Hey, next time you have got that same ball…”. The future based question allows the players to move on and think about the future rather than dwelling on the mistake they just did.

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