If you ask any tennis-enthusiast who the best coaches in the world are, you will hear names such as: Paul Annacone, Brad Gilbert, Marián Vajda or Tony Nadal. They are coaches associated with some of the best players in the world.
But, what does the term “best coaches in the world” really mean? Are they the most knowledgeable coaches? Are they the ones responsible for the high level of play of top players? What about all the coaches that worked with these top players through the development process? Was their work not important or not as important?
Maybe, the coach responsible for Federer’s greatness was the grassroots coach who made Roger fall in love with the game – without him/her there may be no Roger. Or maybe it was one of his developmental coaches who helped him navigate the junior circuit successfully. The bottom line is that the tour coach is only the last coach in a long process, where success at every step is essential.
Every stage requires great coaches with very specific skills and objectives. The tour coach’s job is to detect and fine-tune very particular aspects of a player’s game. The junior development coach has to be able to organize small groups of talented players and help them each develop the necessary skills to compete successfully. A grass-roots coach’s main goal is to introduce young children to the game and hook them for life by providing an ideal combination of instruction, fun and social interaction.
In reality, it is impossible to throw all coaches into one basket. How do you compare a top tour coach to a top junior development coach or to a mini-tennis coaching-star? They are all excellent at what they do. How do you choose the best?
For top players, coaches like Nadal, Mouratoglou, Gilbert, etc. may be the best because they have a tremendous understanding of the tour and the skills to fine tune top player’s games. However, they may or may not be ideally suited to introduce players to the game or to develop juniors.
Moreover, if one interprets the term “best coaches in the world” more broadly and takes into account the social impact of a coach as prerequisite for consideration, tour coaches may not be at the top of the list because they only work with a few players during their careers.
On the other hand, top grassroot coaches and club coaches, touch thousands of players of all ages, enhancing their health and well-being throughout their lives.
So, in terms of social benefit, my vote for the best coaches in the world goes to the thousands of talented grassroot and club coaches who remain anonymous despite their tremendous positive impact on society through the players they touch.
Here’s, to all the coaches out there whose job is seldom recognized. Keep up the good work and know that you are responsible for the health of the tennis industry. Without you, there are no, players, tournaments or champions. You are truly, THE BEST COACHES IN THE WORLD!