A few people have asked me to blog my return to tennis but I was sceptical at first, as I had no idea what would be interesting for you to read about. I really don’t think you are interested in whether I had 2 eggs or 3 for breakfast, coffee or tea, brown or white toast… it all seems a bit narcissistic to me, and anyone who knows me can attest that the one and only Naomi Cavaday is not the slightest bit egotistical.
I have been coaching in performance tennis in Britain for the past 3 years and it has thrilled, infuriated, inspired and demoralised me all at the same time. Contrary to popular belief, exasperation with coaching was not why I chose to return to competition. One of the most frustrating parts of getting stuck in to the coaching world is that you realise… barely anyone actually knows what they are talking about. I am referring to generic performance coaches here. Few have been lucky enough to be out on the circuit week in week out and even fewer (almost none) have experienced the tour. If they have travelled with their players to tournaments abroad, as they should be doing, then they have seen what the juniors are doing around the world. This is a great step and lets assume (as we should) that all performance coaches have done that. They have seen the juniors at one end, and they have watched the top 100 on TV at the other so they think they know what they are talking about. Apparently it is ok for coaches to just fill in the gap with their own assumptions and guess work. That gap just so happens to be a supermassive black hole that lies between juniors and top 100, sucking up almost every British tennis player ever. I was sucked in and spat out but not destroyed, so now I am back and maybe if you are interested I can share some thoughts as I fight my way through once again.
I really hope this isn’t coming across as me criticising our hard working performance coaches. It is not their fault that they have not had a player on the circuit… how are you supposed to help develop a player to this level if you don’t know what the level is? Lets get real here, I am not even talking about a portion of coach education, this IS coach education… but did you know that you attain a level 4 high performance coach award without ever watching a 10k match? Inexplicable.
A little more on this black hole and what it entails, which is quite a lot actually! It is hundreds of ranking points to be won, schedules to be negotiated, thousands of places in the rankings to be gained, hundreds of thousands of pounds to be spent, quite a few laps of the world, winning a lot of matches, losing a lot more… I could go on. Oh and by the way, if you manage to fly through this black hole without so much as a glitch because you are some exceptionally hard working, extraordinarily talented wonder kid, IT STILL TAKES 2 YEARS. Here I can point to Borna Coric and Donna Vekic who I know well. On average, it probably takes 3-4 years to complete this journey. I don’t want to focus on the negative side of it like so many do, if I truly believed that the circuit is a negative experience I wouldn’t have any chance in this sport. I am not complaining, far from it, I am hoping to give an insight into the life of a tennis player through my own experiences.
I decided to come back to the sport in June this year and it has been a rollercoaster since, well half of a rollercoaster… just the bit where you go up and up! I’m sure that I will revisit some of my recent tournaments in various anecdotes but I don’t want to go through every detail. I only really got started at the beginning of September as I had a lot of work commitments through the summer and I couldn’t let the kids down. Since then I have thoroughly enjoyed being back on the match court and relished every point I have played. I realise now that I am not yet ready to be a coach… I have unfinished business.