Nick Bollettieri was an ingenious coach who inspired so, so many, and who outstandingly coached 10 players to World No.1 victory.
Founder of the prestigious IMG Academy and all-round tennis legend. It was with great honour that we at Dunlop were able to work with, spend time with and learn from such a unique and memorable soul. This is his story and coaching advice he shared with players…
I was a football player growing up but was introduced to tennis late in high school. Being a pretty good athlete, I managed to make my high school team. I also played on the college team at Spring Hill College.
After college I enrolled in law school at the University of Miami. I soon realized I needed to earn some extra money for my new family while I attended law school and started teaching tennis after school. It was 1957. I taught at a city-owned facility called Victory Park in North Miami Beach. I knew almost nothing about teaching tennis but watched other area pros teach to learn the grips, swing patterns, stances, etc. My lesson fee was $3 per hour. While teaching I learned that I had an ability to read people, connect with them, and motivate them. A few years later, two of my students showed exceptional talent. They were Brian Gottfried and Cheryl Smith. From that point I started to gain a reputation for being able to develop top players.
I was so happy being a coach and knowing that I may be able to have a positive impact not only on my student’s game, but also on their entire life.
Among the proudest moments of my career was when Arthur Ashe and I started the Ashe Bollettieri Inner City programs, as well as being the coach when Andre Agassi won Wimbledon in 1992. Then there was being inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame and being the first caucasian inducted into the Black Tennis Hall of Fame. Last but not least, creating the academy model of training and building the first, largest and most prestigious boarding tennis academy in the world, IMG Academy. I am also very proud of all the accomplishments of the students that have been trained at the academy and the impact we have had on their lives.
The most important qualities of a successful coach are to recognize that there are no two students alike in the world, to listen to their students, to always be truthful but also very positive, and to never let them leave the tennis court thinking they are a failure. The coach must also not only judge students by their wins and losses, but also by the effort they put into their game.
There are many ways to win a tennis match. It’s physical, mental, emotional – and great fun.
My coaching advice to new players is this. Firstly, physical conditioning, including a focus on movement, must be a part of the training program. You can’t hit what you can’t reach.
Secondly, they must also learn to play offensively and defensively from the entire court. Don’t be afraid to come to the net to finish points at the net. Use swinging volleys as well as angles and drop shots when the opportunities arise. It’s becoming increasingly difficult to win just from the baseline.
Developing a positive mental approach to the game and to life is critical as well. No one can win all the time. But a positive attitude can make the impossible possible. Lastly, have realistic goals. Pay attention to education and try to earn a college scholarship.
People need to learn the fundamental techniques early, spend time on their physical development, and always be mentally positive, especially during difficult stages when developing your game. Be realistic with their dreams, accept the ups and downs that will inevitably occur, and never say “I can’t do it”. Instead say “I will find a way to do it”.
I’ve learned tips, techniques, and teaching methods from coaches throughout my entire career. A coach always has to continue to learn, evolve, and adapt with the times to be the best. That being said, among all those coaches who have influenced, inspired, and shaped me, there are a few I would like to say a special thank you to. These include Vic Braden, Dennis Van Der Meer, Harry Hopman, Robert Lansdorp, as well as Sven Groeneveld, Thomas Hogstead, Tony Nadal, Patrick Mouratoglou, Judy Murray, and Pat Harrison.
I’ve learned so many important things from my students. No two students are alike and they must each be coached, instructed, trained, motivated and mentored differently.
I’ve also learned to be a better listener. I used to think I could determine what was needed for a student without their input but I’ve learned otherwise. I’ve also learned the importance of a coach never letting their student think in a negative fashion. Lastly, I’ve learned that to help students many times a coach needs to find a way to reach them as an individual.
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