In the world of tennis, and sports in general, communication is an essential tool. This is especially true when it comes to the delicate and complex relationship between coach and athlete. Every coach knows that men and women generally require different approaches when it comes to both training methodology and in the way they prefer to communicate.
Coaches often have a preference regarding which gender they would ideally like to coach. There are various reasons for this, but for the most part it comes down to personality and temperament.
A recent study conducted on 40 professional tennis players, 20 men and 20 women (Golimbioschi et al., 2015) looked into the similarities and differences between male and female players when it comes to their coaching preferences. Both sexes emphasized that the relationship between coach and player is extremely important in terms of the player’s overall happiness and their performance on the court. A key aspect of this relationship it a player’s ability to share problems and experiences their coach. There must very good communication between player and coach, and they should be able to engage sincerely with each other without fear of judgement.
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Of course, the study identified some differences between the sexes as well. Both want a good relationship with their coach, but men and women differ in how they want their coach to give them feedback about their performance. Men, in general, prefer their coach to be more direct and incisive, even borderline aggressive, when critiquing their player. Women, on the other hand, generally prefer their coach to be more friendly and empathetic, as well as respectful of their emotional experiences.
Men and women also differ in the way they cope with the stress generated by competition. Women tend to prefer a certain level of emotional closeness to their coach before, during and after a match. They often like talking and seeking advice during this time. Men, in contrast, prefer to keep to themselves during this time.
It is important to note, of course, that these conclusions are not set in stone and do not apply to everyone. Each person is different and it is important for every coach to assess the personality of their player and design a coaching strategy that fits their needs. That being said, this study does serve to emphasize the important difference between not just the sexes, but people in general. There is no one-size-fits all approach that will work with everyone. Coaches must adjust and adapt with each and every player they coach.