10 Keys to Unlock Your Coaching Potential

Parents sift their children through activities and sports in an effort to make them more well-rounded and prepared for the world. Toward that effort, we place our children in the hands of teachers and coaches with a variety of approaches and philosophies. Some are hyper-focused on winning and losing, others on pure fun (“everybody gets a trophy!”), and some tackle the more sought after hybrid: win or lose, and have fun either way. However, if you’re lucky, you may win the coach lottery, as we feel we did. Our children have a coach who brings not only his knowledge and love of the game to his team, but also totes his heart, soul, and grit along for all to share.

Enter: 10 Keys to Unlocking Your Coaching Potential

Over the last six months, I’ve been inspired on a weekly basis by a gentleman who goes by the name Coach Zi (pronounced “zee”). Coach Zi is a tennis coach who came to us highly recommended by a family friend.  She told us Coach Zi would not only teach our children tennis skills but life skills as well. So with three children who were moderately interested in tennis at best, I was somewhat hesitant to pay for weekly lessons. However, my wife and I  decided to give Coach Zi a call and set up our first lesson at our neighborhood courts.

Fast forward 6 months

My kids along with two of their friends are not the only ones who look forward to their weekly tennis lessons with Coach Zi. On tennis days, I feel like a child anxiously awaiting recess, eager to watch Coach Zi instruct our kids with a formula unlike any other. For me, witnessing him in action is a refreshing reminder that there ARE amazing role models for kids.  In a time when there is so much pressure to win (see a previous post called The Art of Losing), Coach Zi’s emphasis is on teaching skills, building confidence, and crafting well-rounded citizens.

Coach Z in Action

What makes him so special and how can we learn from his qualities?

From day 1, Coach Zi keeps the kids at ease

He understands that each child is unique, and learns differently. He speaks in a calm, almost melodic tone, still demanding and receiving the respect he deserves.

Each lesson is peppered with skills and drills, as well as proper tennis etiquette on and off the court.

Today he demonstrated the proper way to shake hands at the net. “Gentlemen should always take off their hat while shaking hands with an opponent, especially when shaking hands with the opposite gender.”

Coach Zi searches for connections with each child.

Before, during, and after the lesson, he chats with the kids about their interests other than tennis. Once he makes a connection, he won’t forget it.  My son recently told him he liked lacrosse. Coach Zi was somewhat unfamiliar with the sport but asked my son many questions to help him better understand. Several weeks later, Coach Zi showed up and asked my son if he watched the NCAA lacrosse final. Coach Zi not only watched it but shared some of the highlights.

With Coach Zi, the well-being of our kids is always number 1.  

He preaches hydration, nutrition, sun protection, and overall safety each and every lesson. He not only tells them to hydrate but also how to hydrate properly and how it affects the body. The tennis lesson will briefly become a science lesson.  If it’s cold he’ll discuss the importance of layering and keeping an extra layer in your bag.

Coach Zi makes sure each child is equipped with the proper gear.

He would literally GIVE you a racket if you didn’t have one or if your racket was damaged. He emphasizes the importance of proper footwear, hats, and grips.

Coach Zi calls conditioning a reward and makes it fun yet challenging.

How many times have we witnessed the opposite? A student or young athlete misbehaves, and the coach or teacher makes him run a lap or do pushups as a punishment. The last thing we should ever do is give exercise a negative connotation.

 Coach Zi encourages reading and the importance of education.

He often checks in with each child to see what he/she is currently reading. He’ll also throw out random history, geography, and math lessons. My daughter enjoys when Coach Zi goes off-topic, like the time he explained square roots and quizzed them throughout the lesson.

Coach Zi respects each child whether a beginner or advanced.  

This is a HUGE reason why our kids LOVE tennis lessons.

Coach Zi keeps tennis fun by providing a positive atmosphere, and an unlimited Rolodex of drills and games.

My oldest son said, “Coach Zi notices the smallest mistakes and always help us fix them.  I like how he pays attention.”

Coach Zi has an infectious, deep, hearty laugh to complement his sensational sense of humor.


I guess for me, Coach Zi is remarkably inspiring because of the complete package he brings to each and every lesson. As a physical education teacher for more than 20 years, I’m always searching for ways to improve my craft. Having the honor of observing Coach Zi has provided me with professional development I could not find at a conference, hear at a lecture, or read in articles and self-help literature. I am privileged and humbled by my opportunity to meet and observe this outstanding coach.

Oh, and by the way, along with everything mentioned above, my kids’ skill level and knowledge of tennis have blossomed.  Thanks, Coach Zi.

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7 Comments on “10 Keys to Unlock Your Coaching Potential

  1. I would love to watch coach z in Action! He sounds like a great coach.

  2. Extremely enlightening, like so many things in life it is the most obvious common sense ones we tend to overlook. in other words the most important ones. Thank you for a great read.

  3. I appreciate your effort to give us the most importants characteristics of outstanding coach.

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