Irena Chichmarova on Coaching Junior International Players
Irena Chichmarova of the Belarus Tennis Federation talks about coaching talented players and her role in the ITF junior development fund team.
Irena Chichmarova has been coaching tennis for about 20 years. She is a well respected Coach and Coach Educator. In addition to her daily coaching role, Irena is a coach with the ITF junior development fund team working with 14U, 16U and 18U.
She started as a player; reaching the top 30 as a 14U player in Belarus (then part of the USSR). She wasn’t particularly aware of her options so followed the traditional path towards coaching, which – in Eastern Europe is to attend University to study sport and specialise in tennis.
We ask Irena:
- What is your coaching philosophy?
- Some people listening will say that coaching is a science. Do you agree with that at all?
- When you’re looking at young players what qualities do you look for that tell you that somebody is going to be a tennis player?
- What advice would you give to parents who are have high ambitions for their kids? Who think their child could become the next Azarenka?
- What advice do you give to young coaches about how they can develop their coaching and their coaching skills?
- What is your role with the ITF junior development fund team?
- What is the difference between the players that successfully make the transition from juniors to seniors, like Ostapenko, and those that don’t make it?
- Why do you think there are so many top female players from Eastern Europe?
- Do you think that in the culture in “modern” Russian is changing and will that change the way tennis is presented in the future?
Key Take-aways for Coaches
- Coaching as an art and coaching as a science are like the different sides of a coin. There are some elements of both.
- Irena’s personal philosophy is that coaching is an art – she doesn’t have any formulas. You have to go on court to “feel” the situation and it’s individual for each player.
- Irena looks for:
- Mental toughness – particularly in girls as that’s where she has most experience. Not fierce – that’s different – she looks for toughness.
- Glasses – Irena looks closely at players with glasses because they can’t see perfectly they have to develop the ability to think and predict where the ball is going.
- Quick arms – many Russian/Slavic girls have quick arms. Two girls might have the same mechanics but one can make the ball fly.
- Tennis opens many doors during life – not just to the Tennis Centre. There are many options. If a kid likes to play tennis, Irena encourages them to keep playing.
- Mentoring is really important in this profession. Young coaches should keep their eyes open for opportunities. However, you start as a beginner coach and there is lots to learn.
- It’s difficult to say why some players make it and other don’t. There’s no rule. Sometimes it’s talent, other times not and players can surprise you by succeeding far more than you think they will. Coaches can make mistakes and miss potential.
- Irena explains that in the former Russian countries if you do sport you do it to perform your best – that philosophy still remains in those countries. Kids who start a sport are not looking for fun. They’re motivated and they’re looking for results.
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