A few years ago, I wrote what I was later told was an “oxymoron”. To be honest I didn't know that word existed. The oxymoron was:
“A child stops learning when we start teaching him”
Years after having written that sentence... I still think the same and, to tell the truth, more convinced than at that moment. I do not want, nor should I, give an opinion on education in general, although I do believe I have a certain right when it comes to the teaching and training of tennis.
For many, many years, I have seen and above all heard coaches who do not stop talking during training and/or games about what is right or what is wrong. The corrections are permanent and consequently, the player evolves waiting for the coach's feedback instead of learning to listen to his own. Over time, the player becomes totally deaf to his own feedback and seeks external responses and approval. A large majority of these players become insecure, dependent, and unstable players.
But it works for many, there are many examples of that, but is it a good model? Is it fair to the player? Does it respect the identity of the player? Is it a model that fits the moment we live in? Personally, I don't think so, although I respect any opinion.
In the previous blog, I wrote about the need to accept the mistake, the “Good Mistake”, as a determining factor for the player's learning and development. Beyond the acceptance of the “Good Mistake,” there is another factor that I consider extremely important and that is the fact of giving space and time for the player to discover a new solution through the mistake. Leave and respect the player's own space, give him/her and create opportunities for him/her to find solutions and simply stay quiet and observe, above all observe and monitor the process. What does observe mean? For me, it means asking, asking, asking, asking... without judgment, directions, or advice, just asking.
“There is no better advice than a good question”
With questions, you invite the person to listen to “HIS/HER” feedback and look for an answer, “HIS/HER” answer, the one they can handle at that moment and that does not mean that it is the only or last answer to that situation. If the answer is not what you are looking for, then change the question. But what kind of questions? Personally, I divide the questions into two groups, the explicit ones and the implicit ones. The explicit ones, which are direct and are based on the NLP metamodel, and the implicit ones, for me the most valuable since they are answered through the game itself, and which are the questions that are hidden behind the situation they are trying to solve and which could be a technical, tactical, physical, mental/emotional exercise and of course the match.
Let's see if I can write it easily: The art of the coach is knowing how to ask questions a bit above the level where the player can respond and designing exercises that allow them to solve for themselves, acting and deciding from their identity, and accepting their abilities and, observing their probabilities to connect with their feedforward… But Feedforward is a topic for another blog.
From my point of view, a Coach does not teach, but opens doors to learning, shows tools, and encourages curiosity, observation and self-observation. In this way, the players grow and evolve from their identity, with courage, without fear of failing for the simple fact that they evolve knowing that the answer to what they need to learn is always after the “good mistake.”
Try, fail, try better, fail better.