"Son, I want you to be a doctor or an engineer, or a pilot." Sound familiar? Did you feel the pressure to study science and math while growing up in Nepal? Was there really a choice? Although I experienced some of it, I am thankful my parents allowed me to explore other interests and let me choose my own path. My search eventually took me to a profession called coaching.
In 1988, I came to Luther College in the United States to pursue a double degree in international relations and public communication. When I graduated in 1992, I wanted to work for the United Nations. I took a year off to work as a tennis coach in South Carolina with the famous tennis teacher Dennis Van Der Meer. Soon, I had fallen head over heels in love with tennis and made coaching my career.
Very early on, I realised I had a knack for motivating and inspiring students. What I lacked in knowledge of the finer points of tennis, I made up for with positive energy, enthusiasm and passion. To hone my technical and tactical skills, I obtained professional certification from the two largest tennis teaching organisations (PTR and USPTA). And for the last 13 years I have worked very hard to improve as a coach. I learn something new every day and that is exciting.
Success with the junior players gave me the opportunity to work with professional players. My time on the WTA tour with professional athletes such as Amanda Coetzer (South Africa) and Naoko Sawamatsu (Japan) was great for my growth as a coach. Working with players from all over the world gave me a sense that my college degree after all did not go to waste. I discovered being a coach at the collegiate level was my true passion.
A coach is essentially a teacher and the best teacher is one who knows his subject, is passionate about it, is well prepared and makes learning fun for students. They are also role models and have a tremendous impact on students. Coaches are most effective when they lead by example. To teach discipline, I must be disciplined. To teach loyalty, I must be loyal. To teach ethics, I must be ethical. As a coach, you play many roles. Sometimes you have to be tough and demanding and other times you are there to give a hug or just listen.
One of the best parts of my job is the opportunity to work with players over a period of four years. I can help them in all phases of their game and track their progress. Having developmental plans for each of my students and setting short and long term goals is very important.
My students not only need to know their destination but understand that the emphasis must be on the process itself. Positive feedback and the belief you have in them through the good and bad times is vital for your students' development. Effective coaching means holding your students accountable for their actions and being consistent in your dealings with them. The greatest thing about coaching is seeing your students succeed on and off the court.
"Son, I want you to be a doctor, or engineer, or a coach."
Sujay Lama will be conducting a tennis clinic for Nepali children in Kathmandu in December. [email protected]