In order to have a thriving business, tennis coaches on all levels need to keep players in their program. Coaches who tend to have the most influence on the game of tennis are developmental coaches. Developmental coaches are coaches who work with starter-beginner tennis players. The first impression that an aspiring player has of the game will ultimately predict their future participation. Usually the first introduction to any sport is through a coaching lesson (Gilbert & Trudel, 2004). The quality, therefore, of coaching that developmental coaches produce in their lessons will have a significant bearing, not only on their own program, but also the game of tennis. It may be assumed that developmental coaches should be proactive in making sure they have the right skills to coach players. This would entail attending a course staged by their respective National Tennis Federation. Unfortunately, this is not the case as the image of tennis coach education courses is somewhat negative; participants of courses are of the feeling that they are not receiving the required knowledge to deliver high quality service tennis coaching (McCullick, Belcher, & Schempp, 2005).
Researchers have proven a positive influence between coach education courses and a coach’s confidence and efficiency (Vargas-Tonsing, 2007). Considering the globalization of sports, including tennis, coach education and the demand for qualifying coaches, has been on the rise (Vargas-Tonsing 2007). In light of this information, tennis has stepped up its efforts to provide a better education to their coaches through adopting coaching courses that have the most updated coaching information and matching educative resources (Crespo, McInerney, & Reid, 2006). Santos, Mesquita, Garca, and Rosado (2001) have concluded that the quality of coaching has a direct relationship to the success and satisfaction of its participants and ultimately in their willingness to stay in the sport. There has been a change in focus by researchers in coach education from coaches’ behaviours and performance towards thoughts and knowledge that form the basis of coach’s actions (Gilbert & Trudel, 2004). Many developed tennis federations have established their own unique models of coach education and certification to ensure that those individuals working with a country’s top young players are employing both current coaching practices and working with these players with a methodology and philosophy that is player-centred where the health and well-being of the athlete is put first (Crespo et al., 2006).
The International Tennis Federation (ITF) is the world governing body of tennis and is responsible for the overall development of the game worldwide. Its structure comprises of five departments: Presidential and Communications, Commercial, Finance and Administration, Professional Tennis, and Tennis Development. The Tennis Development benefits from the Grand Slam Development Fund, a fund comprising of equal donations from the four grand slam nations: Australia, France, Great Britain, and the United States of America (ITF, 2011).
ITF’s Development Department’s objective is to help developing countries grow the game. Tennis is known as a sport that is very good at attracting players to the sport, however, very poor at retention (USTA, 2008). Therefore, if the ITF could get coaches to coach starter-beginner tennis players in such a way that would entice them to stay in the sport, this would go a long way in guaranteeing the game’s future. One of the ITF’s development programs is the availability to developing countries of a coach education syllabus, should they not already have one in place. A large majority of developed countries have their own curriculum and, therefore, do not require the ITF’s assistance. Currently, there are 80 nations that use, in some form or other, the ITF’s coach education syllabus (Miley, 2011). The ITF, therefore, influences a great number of coaches worldwide by way of developing countries using the ITF’s coach education syllabus. It is for this reason that the ITF’s coach education syllabus should be the cutting edge in coach education design, ultimately to fulfill its objective of developing the game worldwide.
A major component of participation in the sport of tennis falls on the shoulders of the tennis coach. In most cases, the first port of call of any interested starter-beginner tennis player is the coach. Researchers have shown that the quality of coaching has a direct relationship to the success and satisfaction of its participants and ultimately their willingness to stay in the sport (Santos et al., 2001). Although quality of coaching is not the only intervening variable in the continued involvement in tennis, it is recognized as a significant, contributing factor to the development and retention of players (Santos et al., 2001, Misener & Danylchuk, 2009).
Evaluating the quality of service of tennis coaches’ courses as a service, therefore, become fundamental to the sustainable development of tennis as a sport.
From an educational point of view the development of sports coaches is a complex process that requires not only an individualized program, but in many cases random learning pathways (Nelson & Cushion, 2006). It is the requirement of coach education syllabi to recognize this and to comply with the demands of the coach as they play a critical role in tennis participation and retention. Misener and Danylchuk (2009) justify the importance of the coach when they say, “Coaches are influential figures in the social, physical, psychological and emotional development of athletes” (Misener, & Danylchuk 2009:1).
The requirement for effective coach education certification programs is becoming increasingly important worldwide for many reasons (McCullick et al., 2005). First, the number of children who participate in youth and interscholastic sport are increasing dramatically (McCullick et al., 2005). In addition, female participation, older people playing the sport, and newer sports forms are also on the increase which has created a demand for more qualified coaches and sports instructors, thus, making the education and certification of coaches essential, particularly at the entry level (McCullick et al., 2005). Most of the developing countries using the ITF coach education syllabus have a policy that all coaches need to be affiliated and be certified in order to coach. Ensuring that all coaches go through the certification system, the need for coaching courses, particularly at the developmental level to transfer the appropriate knowledge to the coaches in order to retain players, is paramount.
The findings of this research emphatically point towards the ITF’s Starter-Beginner Coaching course providing a high level of quality of service. Considering the worldwide perspective of the sample generated to make this research’s analysis and interpretations, the ITF is doing its best to impact coaches in a positive way. The implementation of the modified rules program into the ITF’s Coach Education Syllabus has been positively received by the participants of this research. This provides the confidence to the coaches in their attempt to attract and retain tennis players in this program. If every coach who takes the ITF’s course is receiving the appropriate knowledge and doing their best to retain players, this will have a worldwide impact on the game of tennis. This would be the ultimate goal of the ITF as the status and future of the game falls in their hands. From a coach’s educational point of view, the ITF is fulfilling its objective.