Peter Bodo's TennisWorld - The Lonely Coach (WCC, Day 12)
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The Lonely Coach (WCC, Day 12) 07/04/2009 - 8:26 AM

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by Pete Bodo

Mornin', everyone, and a fine one it is again.

A few days ago, I had an interesting conversation with Sven Groeneveld, who heads up the novel and productive Adidas group coaching effort. Sven has coached an impressive list of outstanding players, including Mary Pierce, Michael Stich, Nathalie Dechy, Greg Rusedski, Fernando Verdasco and, most recently,  Ana Ivanovic. BTW, Ana is back with the Adidas program after a patchy experience with Craig Kardon (formerly Martina Navratilova's coach). And Darren Cahill has joined Gil Reyes, that other member of team Agassi, on the Adidas coaching roster. Those are Cahill, Reyes and Groeneveld (L to R) in this photo.

It turns out that Sven and our mutual friend, tennis insider Lisa Sommermeier, had both read the on-again, off-again series I started on coaching (it makes me think I ought to continue it), in which I wondered why tennis coaches - who run the gamut from manipulative opportunists with precious little to offer  to distinguished Grand Slam enablers - didn't have some kind of official organization, or registry. I can think of a dozen ways in which an official organization, like the players, tournaments, umpires, and even press already has (and let's not forget that strong organization of teaching pros, the USPTR), would be a welcome addition to the growing infrastructure of our sport.

It turns out that Sven had been thinking along the same lines, and he already has an interactive website that functions as a virtual employment agency for coaches. It's called Orangecoach.com. The big news Sven wanted to share with me is that this is merely Stage 1 of a 2 stage effort - the second part will consist of creating a formal organization or registry of coaches. It will not only help coaches and players find each other, but also give coaches, those lone operators, an organization that will set guidelines, create opportunities (like sponsorship deals), and give coaches the backing of the same kind of official, institutional voice that others can fall back on in times of need.

To pick a simple example, right now any charge of inappropriate behavior of any kind against a coach is simply a "he said, she/he said" affair, and who would want to be the coach in that scenario - especially if it were one of the all too common partnerships of a young female player and an older male coach?  Moreover, the WTA commitment to on-court coaching means that coaches could potentially supplement their income with sponsorship deals on a less haphazard basis. "I was never for the on-court coaching experiment," Sven told me. "But it's here and there's no reason not to take advantage of it."

Largely, though, Sven sees "job security" as the most critical issue for coaches. He points out that coaches come and go randomly, usually at the mercy of the players for whom they work. When that player retires, or moves on, the coach is back at Square One. He or she has no real way beyond networking and personal salesmanship of staying in the game. "Not too many coaches stay in the game for more than five years," Sven said. "I want to try to find a way to enable legitimate coaches to stay in the game. For example, if the player I've coached for three years decides to move on, right now I don't even have access to my workplace - the tournaments. If we had a certification process, the members of our registry could stay in the game and enjoy the same benefits as other tennis professionals."

A registry would also enable the organization to police its membership and even institutionalize the background checks that are a reasonable burden. Sven objected to the heavy-handed way the official game instituted its intrusive background checks in a panicked response to abuse and gambling scandals, but has no problem with the basic concept. "It would be part of a general certification process that would take place in stages," Sven said. "People would know what the system expects and get comfortable with it."

Sven also noted that academies, representation firms, and even manufacturers (like Adidas) have increasingly close ties to coaches, and use them in increasingly inventive and diverse wasy (as scouts, for example). The coaches need to be better informed on everything from the available opportunities to the general task-by-task pay scale.

I think this plan will work, partly because sponsors already have greater grasp of inventive ways to use coaches. The coaches are not only vital to the players on-court success, they're an increasingly significant go-between with other wings of the game, like the media. And a coach is a pipeline to a player. I've learned over time that if you have a good relationship with a player's coach, you're more likely to develop the same with a player.

I hope Sven pulls this off.


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Posted by jewell - Just say no to Fedal wars! 07/05/2009 at 05:28 AM

Word, mcakron.

aw, NP...I love the bromance! It's so sweet.

Posted by jewell - Just say no to Fedal wars! 07/05/2009 at 05:31 AM

I wonder if they'll need the roof today? It's looking a bit dodgy here...showery and cloudy.

Posted by jewell - Just say no to Fedal wars! 07/05/2009 at 05:33 AM

speaking of, it's raining now...but probably very localised rain.

*gets out the gold stars*

You've played beautifully this week, Typepad...guess you raised your game for Wimbledon. ;-)

Posted by mcakron 07/05/2009 at 05:35 AM

"Dodgy". Love the word choice.

Posted by NP 07/05/2009 at 05:37 AM

"aw, NP...I love the bromance! It's so sweet."

So a chick sez. Why am I not surprised.

Posted by Aussiemarg Madame President finally comes out of rehab and rejoices in Vamos Forever 07/05/2009 at 05:41 AM

NP You know Chicks Rule

Posted by jewell - Just say no to Fedal wars! 07/05/2009 at 05:42 AM

even the ungrateful ones. ;-)

Posted by Aussiemarg Madame President finally comes out of rehab and rejoices in Vamos Forever 07/05/2009 at 05:42 AM

Anway my fave sporting event The Tour Du france has started so at least I can watch it live now.

Posted by NP 07/05/2009 at 05:44 AM

I know U chicks rule. Which is why I'm trying to put the kibosh on the subjugation of men.

Posted by NP 07/05/2009 at 05:48 AM

Anyway I need a short nap if I wanna sit thru the men's final without dozing off. Later, folks.

Posted by Aussiemarg Madame President finally comes out of rehab and rejoices in Vamos Forever 07/05/2009 at 05:48 AM

NP Well I can sleep well tonight then

Posted by Aussiemarg Madame President finally comes out of rehab and rejoices in Vamos Forever 07/05/2009 at 05:50 AM

Well I am going to make some dinner

Remus is asleep in his basket

I will make hay while the sunshines

later everyone

Posted by mcakron 07/05/2009 at 05:50 AM

NP, you're on your own with the girls. Like you well enough, but not feeling the bromance between us.

Maybe see some of you here during/after the match. If Fed wins, this is one victory of his I won't be too thrilled about because of the runner-up's misfortunes. Though it will be nice to get this record/GOAT stuff put to bed until after he retires.

Posted by jewell - Just say no to Fedal wars! 07/05/2009 at 05:51 AM

"I know U chicks rule."

If this was actually true, No Ma'am etc wouldn't be half so enraging.

See you later, NP. :)

Posted by jewell - Just say no to Fedal wars! 07/05/2009 at 05:52 AM

and everyone else. :)

Going to restart computer and see what havoc IE8 has wrought.

Posted by Annie (Rootin' for the Rocket!) 07/05/2009 at 07:00 AM

'morning tennis fans! Typepad on pg 11? okay, don't quit yet.

anybody around? two hours 'til balls in the air.

C'mon Andy!

Posted by Angel of the Surf (Kuzzy 2009 FO Champion) 07/05/2009 at 07:09 AM

Annie I am around but reading a boook, watching Merlin and cooking dinner. I like to multitask. How are you? Are you enjoying the 4th July weekend? How is your daughter?

Posted by Annie (Rootin' for the Rocket!) 07/05/2009 at 07:30 AM

Hi Angel! We had fun yesterday. went to a bbq then came home and lit some fireworks along with the neighbors. Don't know what it is with americans and fireworks on the fourth but it's a necessity! Who are you rooting for today? Do you think Arod has a chance? I hate being let down by the finals of majors. Thought the ladies final was very disappointing. I guess it's not every year you get a 5 set epic. What book are you reading?

Posted by Angel of the Surf (Kuzzy 2009 FO Champion) 07/05/2009 at 07:36 AM

I'm reading The Girl in Times Square by Paullina Simons, I am really enjoying it. I've read a couple of her other books and liked them also.

I am going for Federer, no I don't think ARod has a chance, if he takes a set I will be surprised. I was so annoyed yesterday as I couldn't watch the final not that I cared who won. Aussies like fireworks as well especially on Australia Day and mix in a lot of alcohol.

Posted by Annie (Rootin' for the Rocket!) 07/05/2009 at 07:39 AM

oh yeah, lots of alcohol! I haven't heard of that author. I read mostly non-fiction and historical stuff. right now I'm reading 1776 which is fitting and a bio of Benjamin Franklin. You didn't miss much yesterday. I just hope today isn't a blowout. Do you have to work today?

Posted by Angel of the Surf (Kuzzy 2009 FO Champion) 07/05/2009 at 07:48 AM

Oh and my footy team won today after coming from behind, so I am very happy and we can make the finals for the first time in about seven years.

Posted by Angel of the Surf (Kuzzy 2009 FO Champion) 07/05/2009 at 07:52 AM

No I have to work tomorrow, 2nd week and I hope it is better than last week. I read fiction and bios.

Posted by Annie (Rootin' for the Rocket!) 07/05/2009 at 08:25 AM

Are you going to be able to watch the final live?

Posted by Angel of the Surf (Kuzzy 2009 FO Champion) 07/05/2009 at 08:30 AM

I hope so, but you never know with my tv network. If it starts on time I should be alright.

Posted by Angel of the Surf (Kuzzy 2009 FO Champion) 07/05/2009 at 08:37 AM

When does the final start?

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