Sunday, March 28, 2010

On-court coaching needs to go

I have never been a fan of on-court coaching, but I have tried to be open-minded about it. There are just too many things wrong with it, though, for me to support this trend; indeed, I want it to go away.

One of the main arguments against on-court coaching is that it is the antithesis of what tennis is all about--the challenge of one (in singles) individual--alone--figuring out what to do against an opponent. Though some may perceive this as a purist concept--so what? The image of the tennis player on her own, mentally and physically equipped to make fast decisions and execute well-timed shots, is an image that suits the sport.

Then there is the gender issue. The ATP does not have on-court coaching, so having the women get help makes them look especially dependent. And--as Tom Tebbutt commented last spring (the editorial is, unfortunately, no longer available) in The Globe and Mail, it is disturbing to see middle-aged men--often fathers--coming onto the court to tell women and girls what to do. I agree. And while I know that the Sony Ericsson WTA tour gives lip service to equality, when it comes to action, sexism is the order of the day. Having older male authority figures come onto the court to direct young females is a disturbing image indeed. The fact that there are so few female coaches (that's a discussion for another time) doesn't help.

Then there is the distasteful issue of microphones. Why on Earth would a coach want everyone to hear what he is telling his player, and why would a player want everyone to hear it? Isn't anything private? And there is also the matter of different coaches and players speaking different languages.

The Sony Ericssson WTA Tour defends on-court coaching by saying that the "fans want it." What fans are these? I have never met anyone who watches women's tennis and likes on-court coaching. And even if such fans do exist, pleasing them via a system that makes women look weak and tennis look tacky should not be an option.


Overhead Spin said...

Fantastic post Diane. I have been calling for the abolition of this travesty ever since it was first introduced and I will continue to rally against it. It makes the women look weak and indecisive and the fact that this is not something that is endorsed by the ITF should have given the WTA a clue that this is not something that would be embraced at the decision making level of tennis. Every time I watch a women's match I just have to shake my head when I see players who are in trouble call their coaches court side to discuss tactics and hear the complaints that they are making to their coaches. On a number of occassions when you do get a chance to listen in on the discussion and are able to glean the complaints, this is usually what you hear: where should I serve? where should I stand on the return? She is running down everything, what should I do? She is reading my serve, what do I do? Unfortunately, most of the above quotes are attributed to 2 players: Ana Ivanovic in the first 2 and Hantuchova in the other 2. Those quotes give you an indication as to the mind set of these 2 individuals. One they have absolutely no idea how to problem solve, and 2 they have absolutely no confidence in their own abilities. I think this whole on-court coaching was instituted because of the blatant cheating that was going on when players would take advice from their boxes mid-match. These exchanges used to be caught on camera and it was embarrassing when supposedly mentally tough players like Sharapova, Jankovic, Ivanovic, Henin and others were caught by the cameras receiving coaching and were subsequently fined for this offence. I think the WTA in assuaging the needs of corporations decided to go this whole route and then label it as something that fans would want. It is instructive that the most capable players, i.e. those who are known as problem solvers on court never have a coach down to whisper in their ears. I know for Oracene Price would not deign to move from her lofty perch up in the bleachers, dark glasses and all, and come down to tell her daughters what they need to do, and Richard, while he did get miked once for a match with Serena is more prone to want to stop trecking around the world with his daughters rather than be miked up for a match. Enough of this now, let the women be women.

Sunny said...

Thanks for this wonderful post Diane. I think I have explained to you my disgust at on-court coaching before. I am worried that new women coming up will get used to it and that the women already on the tour that are trying to stay in the top ten or climb, will start using it.
I follow both WTA and ATP. It makes me furious when I see women using the on-court coaching and the men go out and figure it out for themselves. Women look like kids who don't know how to adjust or construct a point and the men look like men doing their job.
Karen I understand your point about coaching from the stands but that situation is up to the umpire. The umpires should call the players on it just like they should on taking to much time on serves and challenges. Also the TV lands on the same coaches regarding illegal coaching but on TennisTv I have seen coaches coaching that no one speaks about.
Well that's all I can think of right now.

Diane said...

Thanks to both of you.

I urge fans to write to the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour and express your desire for on-court coaching to end. And if you contribute to a tennis blog, please keep the heat on.

Overhead Spin said...

Diane if there was ever a reason to disband on-court coaching, look no further than the just completed Hantuchova/Williams match. One kept calling her coach for advice, the other just kept her nose down and changed her tactics. The one who was without a coach won. Venus Williams just beat Darren Cahill. Nuff said

Diane said...

The only tactic Venus needed was to look at Dani across the net! More on that later....