The eternal question a player must ask regularly of the people advising them is what can this person teach me?
If the answer is very little then either you have learnt all that they have to teach or the lessons you need have changed and you must determine how you will now continue learning what is needed. In a sentence
Can this coach teach you or must you learn elsewhere.
This is the question facing Petra Kvitova. Like any prodigy the inevitable question is asked when she has reached the top then fallen back again. Should she leave her coach? Is he a help or a hindrance? At least that is the debate I am having with my friend. He thinks David Kotyza, Kvitovas coach, is a hindrance. I don’t, I think she needs time to mature.
Since all top players have used coaches throughout their careers , with many notable pairings, Rafa and Toni, Henin and Carlos, Murray and Lendl, Caroline Wozniacki and Petr. The list goes on. It’s pretty clear that the right coach can make all the difference. But is it the right difference? I think the decision comes down to the player because it is their career. The coach can find another player and continue for decades.a player has just one career.
Bahrami, McEnroe and to some degree Novak tell the other side of the story. No particular coach is associated with Bahrami or McEnroe. Bahramis autobiography doesn’t pick out any particular individual as developing his game. Like McEnroe he just took advantage of the good opportunities that came his way. Both were obsessed with tennis but excelled with their mind first and were happy to run after anything. Both used the system well and had access to top level players and facilities if they knew how to work the system. They used the players and opportunities available as coaches. They won or they learnt. Taking responsibility for their own development. The coach was never in charge, the final say was always theirs. They may have followed a coach and listened but only because he had something to offer .
Novak is doing the same in his career. He has been loyal to Marian Vajda and achieved great success. Appointing Boris Becker is a big risk and there is no turning back. Novak hasn’t dropped his coach but he has made a big change and put Boris in charge instead of Marian.
The point is not whether it works but that risks must be taken and the player must own the risks. Standing still is as dangerous as moving. You only know the competition will move on but you don’t know exactly where. So being continually willing to learn, make changes and try things out is crucial.
Figuring out If a coach is helping or hindering is part of the game as much as figuring out which aspect of your game needs improvement and why. It’s all a risk. Using each challenge as the teacher is what really separates the top players. Fed, Rafa, Novak and Murray never stop learning. So they never stop looking for a teacher. But all use the players in front of them as coaches whether or not they have a formal coach appointed.
Last year I played more varied types of players then ever before. I feel it really gave depth to my game and exposure to many different situations.
How do you use your opponents to improve your game?