Being a child means that you come with a range of needs that are individual to you. Being secure means that you will be prepared to express yourself, be creative and start to connect. If you are a young girl this puts you in a male dominated world where most people are bigger than you.
Now think about the environments and places where you feel, or felt, secure and safe? There is a great deal of trust within those environments. Trust and consistency are absolutely key to ensuring that players feel secure. From this security comes the confidence to engage in all the other activities that are listed under the other five principles but without this trust a girl will never really feel that they can fully commit to your tennis program.
At the tennis club we need to make sure that we create a fair and consistent environment. To help make sure that we provide this we need to make sure that players know that we are there for them and that they will be treated consistently, respectfully and as an individual.
Trust is an element that, once lost, is very hard to regain so pay particular attention to the strategies in this section. As a coach it is not what you know but how much I trust you that will make the biggest difference to a young girls tennis development.
Strategies for developing a secure environment
- Rules – Rather than look at rules as an approach to discipline, a basic set of fair and consistent rules for on court behavior and respect for others send the message that everyone will be treated equally. This helps girls to understand action and consequence but also to know what will happen if others are disrespectful to her.
- Communication – Always communicate in a caring and empathetic way. Never attack a girls confidence or single them out in front of the group.
- Ban Sarcasm and Irony – In an adult environment humor can sometimes contain irony and sarcasm. In a child friendly environment we should never forget that this can be easily misunderstood or cause upset. Young children may have an extensive vocabulary but this does not mean that they always understand context.
- Environment – Work hard to develop an environment that values hard work, personal improvement and cooperative learning. Avoid an environment which values the talented few, rivalry or winning at any cost.
- The Welcome Committee – As soon as a girl walks into the tennis club make sure she receives a warm and positive welcome. The coach and front of house staff should make it very clear that no matter their current experience and skill they will be a valued member of the club.
- Individual Praise – While boys are happy with any accolade, girls often prefer to be praised on a one to one basis. Girls can be embarrassed when praised in front of the group so security is maintained when they are praised on a more personal basis.
- Competitive – Teach your girls how to compete without appearing aggressive. Teach them that it is ok to be confident and can be an inner held belief. Girls are self conscious about their competitiveness and athletic ability and this can negatively affect the social dynamic and friendships.
- Role Model- As a coach, you are an important role model, and little girls are much more aware about this than you can imagine. If you show that you can be strong, yet very understanding, that you are organized, yet ready to take a break to really listen, you begin to build a team of girls who will emulate you.
- Leaders– Have you ever offered a chance to lead to a girl and been rebuffed, “No, I don’t want to do it,” or “I know I can’t”? Actually, girls do not often grow up in situations that encourage them to jump into situations and take over. In fact, most little girls feel very awkward at first. Allowing girls to choose if they want to fill leadership roles, both on and off the court, does improve their feeling of security, and control. Taking turns or a pass the baton approach where they lead for a short while then pass the role on to another can also be a boost to a girls confidence.
- Constructive Criticism –Boys learn to deal with criticism by sheer volume, studies show that in the class room boys are disciplined 8 times for every time a girl is. As a result when a girl receives criticism they are more likely to feel it keenly and internalize it. Teach girls to handle criticism or receive negative feedback by giving it honestly and privately, explaining that you will be there to help her make the improvements necessary to reach her goals. This approach will enhance the trust a player has in you and the resulting security that they feel.
This excerpt is taken from the GTN Course Manual which was co-authored by Rufus Keown, Tennis Director at the Victorian Tennis Academy, Melbourne, Australia and one of the developer of the GTN Program.
Rufus won’t be with us in NYC but we are excited to be presenting the first GTN Workshop in NYC on August 25th 2017. We hope you can join us and see how we can take this and the other five principles into action on the court. More Details …