For beginners

Tennis is a continuous challenge to improve, to focus your mind, hit your best strokes and develop an effective strategy to be a more efficient player and better enjoy the game. Improving your game will give you immense satisfaction, the same kind that you get when you master a new skill.

This is exactly the role that tennis pros — teaching professionals, not pro players — and tennis lessons have in your road to become a better player all around. When you get serious about your tennis, even if you’re just playing for fun, you need to consider taking tennis lessons. A tennis coach can help you improve your game in some very concrete ways, starting with the very first lesson.

The USPTA has about 11,000 members, 2,000 more than the USPTR. Both organizations have one great feature: They conduct serious, elaborate certification programs to make sure that their members are qualified to teach tennis. Certification proves that a pro knows and plays the game well enough to teach.

A letter of certification from the USPTA or USPTR is as close to a quality guarantee for your pro as you can come. Most certified pros are affiliated with individual commercial or private tennis facilities. You can start your search for a pro at any of those places.

When deciding whether to take lessons from a particular pro, ask her about the following things and base your hiring decision on the answers you get:

  • Fee: You pay for most tennis lessons by the hour, including group sessions and private, one-on-one lessons. Fees vary widely based on the amount of personal attention, the equipment used, and your location. On average, you can expect to pay around $40 for a private lesson with a teaching pro, and anywhere up to $100 for a big-name teacher.
  • Teaching style: Is the pro in the mold of a Marine drill sergeant? A New-Age, “see the ball, be the ball” guru? An old-fashioned teacher who stresses mechanics? Not all teaching styles suit all players. Ask the pro about her style and see whether it seems compatible to yours.
  • Background: Ask as much about the pro’s playing and teaching experience as possible without being nosy about her other pupils or private life. Ask what the pro likes and dislikes about teaching.
  • References: You could ask the pro to give you the names of two or three former students as references. But seeing a pro in action is the best reference of them all.
  • Communication skills: After your conversation, ask yourself whether the pro showed an acceptable ability to communicate in a relaxed, friendly fashion. But remember, you’re not looking for a new best friend — you’re looking for someone who can help your tennis game.

Before you show up for your first lesson, your pro should already know something about your game and, therefore, your strengths and weaknesses. The pro should understand what you need to work on and how you can improve. You should have described your game or even hit with the pro before you hired him, so that he’s familiar with your game.

During the lesson, ask for more information if your pro tells you something you don’t understand. When communicating valuable information about the game, good coaches have a knack for doing it with vivid examples, memorable catchphrases, or even gimmicky techniques.

Keep these tips in mind to get the most out of your time with your pro:
  • Show up on time, ready to play.
  • Do your stretching beforehand.
  • Have all your stuff.
  • Be patient — give your body and mind time to loosen up and get in the flow of things.
  • Forget your pro and concentrate on the ball.
  • Stay within your comfort zone.
  • Enjoy yourself!

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