Monday, May 11, 2020

Billie Jean King Talks Coaching on USTA Player Development Learning Series; North Carolina Women's Seniors Announce Their Return for 2020-21 Season

Billie Jean King was the special guest on today's USTA Player Development Learning Series Webinar, entitled "The Future of Great Female Tennis Coaches and Players."

The 76-year-old King has a virtual lifetime of tennis experience, and while she is most famous for founding women's professional tennis, she also has provided coaching for some of the world's best players. Here is what King had to say about coaching Martina Navratilova, who was working with Craig Kardon on a daily basis, but also consulted with King.

"We'd sit down, the three of us, say we're going to the office, and we'd discuss what does it mean to be in the moment, what does it mean to be in the now," King said. "We'd have these long discussions, Martina would talk about, Craig, and then at the end, I'd say Martina, if I had to tell you one word during practice, what would you want me to say about staying the now?  And she'd go, just tell me the word 'now'. My job was to learn what she wants. And when she was practicing, I would just say 'now'. If I thought she lost focus, gone away, wasn't all present."

There was some debate on this site about the glossary I posted from last week's Learning Series webinar, so I was interested to hear this from King:

"It's very important to learn the other person's vocabulary," King said. "Point of contact? What do you want to call it? I had one kid in Hawaii who said, 'I want to call it sexy.' I said ok, whatever you want; you want to have fun."

King, who persisted after the men's pro tour rejected her offer to partner with women back in the early 70s, had additional advice for women who want to coach tennis.

"One thing is important," King said. "Do not take anything personally. This is for all the young people out there, the parents, all the coaches, administrators, conditioning coaches: I think it's really important to teach a child at a young age not to take things personally. It's really helpful."

With commencement speeches pertinent at this time of year, King said there are three things she always highlights when she is asked to give one.

"Relationships are everything. And that means with yourself and with others; family, friends, faith, whatever. No. 2, keep learning and keep learning how to learn. As a player, if you want to be pro, you better do that every single day. Keep learning and keep learning how to learn. And No. 3 is be a problem-solver. Be curious, find out things, that's going to help you. That's all we are as a jock, as an athlete, as a player. Every ball coming to you, you have to make a decision, you live with it. Never think as making a mistake as a failure, it's feedback. When you win, it's feedback."
After King's session with USTA head of women's tennis Kathy Rinaldi, USTA's Jennifer Fallon provided gender-specific tips on strength and conditioning, fitness and mental training for women.

The USTA's mentoring program was next on the agenda, with USTA Player Development's Jessica Battaglia hosting a panel with mentor Walker Sahag and her mentee, former University of Alabama play Emily Zabor. Sahag and Zabor talked about the USTA's role in encouraging their relationship, and what both have learned from the experience.

The complete webinar, which runs 90 minutes, is available at the PD Learning Series website.

Next week's Learning Series webinar will feature Jose Higueras and Jim Courier, with the topic "Maintaining Strong Player and Coach Relationships."  Registration for this webinar, scheduled for Monday at 3 p.m. EDT, is available here.

The University of North Carolina women, who won the ITA National Team Indoor title this year and would have been the favorite for this month's NCAA team championships, announced today that all three seniors would be returning for a fifth year in 2020-21. Alexa Graham, No. 3 in the final ITA rankings,  Sara Daavettila, No. 5, and Makenna Jones, No. 52, will be joined by the Tar Heels' excellent recruiting class, which includes blue chips Fiona Crawley and Reilly Tran and five-star Sara McClure.


Jon King said...

Interesting to hear Billie Jean King says she asks the players what they want to call things. She says its important for the coaches to find the words the players use. That is exactly what many of us coaches also said last week when the "common language" discussion was had that the USTA wants all coaches to use the same words so kids only hear the same thing. All kids learn differently and its up to the coach to meet the kid's language, not vice versa.