The PTM Podcast
The PTM Podcast
Chris Michalowski, USPTA
The PTM Podcast is dedicated to helping you prepare for a career in the tennis industry on and off the tennis court. Whether you have had a lot of experience teaching tennis, or none at all, this podcast contains quick tips that you can put into practice immediately, answers your questions, builds knowledge and understanding while you prepare and continue your career in tennis.
017 - Verbal Communication
  017 – Verbal Communication   Today’s Quick Tip Is:  Learn some basic verbal communication skills.   These skills will attract players as much as your teaching skills sometimes. I have witnessed it over and over with pros on my staff. There are two types of communication: non-verbal and verbal Nonverbal communication is all about gestures, facial expressions, body movement,  touch, and anything else done without actually speaking. Verbal communication includes sounds, words, tone of voice, volume, and pitch are all ways to effectively communicate verbally and will make a big difference in the lesson. In a lesson it might be:   1. Saying students names  2. Inflection 3. Talking the right amount Saying students names, especially on the first day can be the most important.  Nobody likes,  “Hey you in the red shirt”  When I was a USPTA tester, it was important to use the students name 6 times and tim, tim, tim, tim, tim, tim didn’t work. This may be tough, but come up with a good system that will help. Inflection was also on the test and this Is wheee your voice goes up and down There are lots of opportunities to work on this, so with a little practice, you should be good to go. How we speak is important, and you can even break it down to the group you are teaching. If you are teaching some 8 year olds, the adult  comments will mean absolutely nothing. You have to speak their language for sure, whatever that me be. How about when or how often to talk to your students, well this might tie in with your coaching style like we talked about in episode 014 If you are a Command Style Coach, it probably means you will be doing a lot of talking while you have the group all together and while they are hitting on court. If you are a submissive style coach, you might be a bit less talkative and let the group run the practice more on their own terms As a cooperative style coach, there might be a little of both.  More talking during the “Huddle” but then less during the hitting, except for things like “Why do you think you won/lost that point” because this lets them give the input. When I look up effective Verbal Communication Skills online These popped up and I tried to connect them to teaching. 1. Be friendly.  2. Don’t talk too much.   3. Be your authentic self.  4. Practice humility.  5. Speak with confidence.  6. Learn the art of listening.  BOTTOM LINE: Having good verbal Communication Skills is important and can make up for some of the areas you are lacking for sure. Just keep practicing in those other areas…….  
Jun 30, 2023
9 min
032 - Oscar Wegner and His Preferred Coaching Style
  Oscar’s Success As a Coach When the coach can communicate through easy words and willing to permit the student to experiment and fail, learning will create a independent and lasting result. People learn when they experiment what does and does not have the correct result. We need to get creative when working with players to get them to understand concepts. They need to practice using a self-discovery model because this is what hey will do during a match. They need to figure out how to handle adversity for themselves. Oscar used this method with Bjorn Borg and Gustavo Kuerten. To learn more about Oscar go to Well that was an important interview with Oscar, to get his principles off the ground for his future episodes, so be on the lookout for those.  But according to Oscar:  Finding ways for your students to learn for themselves, or guided self-discovery will allow your students to learn and have a longer lasting result. I have seen it first hand. Good Luck,  Coach Mick, USPTA
Aug 16, 2018
9 min
031 - Dr. Mark Kovacs - Become a Specialist In an Area You Are Passionate About
In today’s episode, I had another chance to interview Dr. Mark Kovacs, one of the nations leaders in sport science. In this episode, Mark talks about the importance of trying to specialize in one of your passionate areas. You want to develop a skillset in any area that may make you known in: Your Local Area Your District Your Section Or eventually even nationally Some examples may include: The way you design drills How you teach Club management High performance All payers can be trained with a HP mindset, be at different levels.   You may adjust the drills, the language…..etc You may need ore seasoning than just on-court at your club: Online Workshops Volunteer at a different club If you  are not currently working where you are passionate about. Take a program that is successful and water it down to fit the level you are working with. Tennis is tennis and similar at every level.  What changes is: Intensity  Volume How you provide feedback at the different levels   If you are fired up in a certain area that you are NOT involved in, became an understudy and even volunteer your time.  You will not get turned down if they see that you are passionate about it.  They will most likely profit off it anyway. Email Dr. Kovacs on his site at Mark is always such a wealth of information and one thing I really admire about him is how he projects himself when he is around someone who does not have the knowledge he has. Even with me, I feel like he is truly passionate about teaching me and helping me understand things at my level.  Very easy to talk to and not intimidating at all. One suggestion: If you are just starting out, look at the ten and under players or program at your club.  This group sometimes gets overlooked and it’s crucial that you’re developing skills with these players at an early age anyway.   Bottom Line: Find an area of tennis, on or off court, that you are passionate about, come up with a plan on how you can educate yourself in that area at your club, locally, or even through online courses or workshops. Good luck and please email with any questions. Coach Mick, USPTA
Aug 14, 2018
10 min
030 - Sid Newcomb - USPTA National Tester - The Importance of Diagnosis
Today we welcome Sid Newcomb, USPTA National Tester to the PTM Podcast. Sid is going to discuss the importance of the diagnosis in a lesson. Diagnosis is such an important part of what we do as teaching pros. A lot of inexperienced pros tend to diagnose based on the last ball they just fed.  Way to much info instead of one thing they can work on. In a private: Start by removing yourself (or don’t teach the way you necessarily play) Be observant of the student Ask questions These are all super important in the diagnosis. A good pro has the confidence to ask questions to find out what is going on so you can diagnose. Like a doctor when you take your sick child in and tell him that she has had a fever. He/She will ask questions in order to get to a diagnosis based on the answers you give him/her. For someone just starting out in their teaching:  Watch your student start hitting the ball to try to come up with some conclusions and ask questions in regards to what they are looking to do.  (Ex. Keeping it low) Bottom Line: Be observant, ask questions and remove yourself and how you learned from the equation. Sid made a great point about asking questions because sometimes your cure isn’t the cure they’re looking for. By asking the right question it’s going to be easier to pinpoint out what to start looking for because you know the issues that your students are having. And hopefully, most of your students will be worried about the match and not the warm-up. To learn more about Sid go to: Good Luck, Coach Mick, USPTA
Aug 9, 2018
10 min
029 - Motivating Your Students To Learn
Today’s Quick Tip Is:  Tell Your Students What They Are Going To Learn – Teach Them – Tell Them What They Learned And using my online marketing method, may just get those stubborn players eager to learn. A Quick story: I had a group of students recently come to the campus for a week and it was an amazing experience for me s well as for them (I hope anyway)  And by the way, if you are interested in bringing a group here, talk to me and I will set you up with an experience that you will not forget. Each day this group worked with an expert on campus: Monday: On-Court With Player Development and working with High Level Players Tuesday: TDM With Our TDM and Tournament Expert  Wednesday: On Court With our 10 and Under Expert and working with Red Ball Kids Thursday: Progression/Regression With our Director of Coaching Education Friday: Group Lesson Evaluations (Live steamed on PlaySight) with me,    Like I said, You can set this up with me anytime as well if you want to bring a group down here. Now during the group lesson with me, I made it similar to how it worked when I was a tester for the USPTA. I gave them an area to work on, gave the coaches time to come up with a plan and then they executed that plan. We did about 6 round of lessons. Overall they did a great job (and yes Nate, you did this initially, just to get that out), but after each round, my first comment was, “You did not tell them what they were going to do BEFORE you started teaching the lesson. Then it continued to happen until the very last group lesson. My point was that students do not want to go out there and not have a clue what they are going to learn or do. They have nothing to look forward to (or dread) Imagine in school walking into every class having NO CLUE what you were going to learn that day. You just sit down and the teacher says, “ the quadratic equation is used when you can’t factor out an equation easily”   The the next day, SAME CLASS the Boston Tea Party was protest by the Sons of liberty………. You would kind of like to have a heads up, right instead of being hit with some arbitrary topic. Well the same goes for a tennis lesson and I am going to show you how you might do it, based on my experience in the online marketing world. The more in advance you can let someone know what they are going to do, the more time they have to prepare, or ask a question that they want answered during their time with you. Even on court if you say something like (and this is NOT the best way) “ Welcome to class everyone. Today we are going to warm-up, work on some forehands and backhands, do some cool drills and finish with some fun points.” At least you gave me an idea what we are going to do. Now when writing out a sales page there is a formula that I am accustomed to with the acronym, P.A.S.T.O.R. This stands for: P- Identify a problem A – Amplify S – Story/Solution T – Testimony O - Offer R – Response (Decision Time) Now I now you might be saying, whatever Coach Mick, this is a tennis lesson. Well try telling my 3.5/4.0 group that they are going to work on something NEW (Without telling them why) and they will probably fail initially most of the time. Trust me, it takes a very experienced SALES PERSON to get them to make any major change, ha! So here is how I would approach it. P- The Problem A – Agitate the problem S – The Solution Let’s define the problem as ……. The Lobber Now let’s get to the lesson: Problem – Pain: You might start off by saying – “ Good Morning Ladies, today we are going to work on how to handle the dreaded lobber” Agitate The Problem – The person who drives us crazy. You think you hit the most amazing serve or approach shot, follow-it in to the net, only to get lobbed and then you and your partner are sitting there starring at each other, not knowing who should have taken it and to finish it off you see the other team high-fiving like they did something spectacular when you know that they can’t it a decent pass to save their lives…… And of course it is YOUR fault, even though your partner gave then the dream ball to lob in the first place. (oh yeah……Phyllis does that to me every time………..) Solution – So today, we are going get them where they can’t lob you from, the net. This is VERY effective.  But it can be tricky, because the ball we get them up there with needs to be short and kept fairly low, but if you can execute this, even with some success, you will have the upper hand. We will start with working on the shot to bring them up, put it into some controlled points and then let you go for it on your own. Done. Now this is one of many ways to counter a lobber, but now you have their attention because you told them what they are going to learn AND you hopefully inspired them to want to learn it by AGITATING the problem. It is like when you are online reading some sales page, or watching an infomercial and in your head you are saying, yeah…….that’s me! You got them to relate, then you got them to feel those stressful feelings  again, in this case, on the court with the lobber and now you will most likely have their attention.  Step 2 is to teach them how to execute the shot, in this scenario, the short low ball. You will have to progress through it by most likely working on under-spin and working on ways to adjust if it is not staying low or short enough. Then you will put them in a situation to where they start each point by executing the shot. So, what I would do here is to do it champs and challenger style, and let me stop here and give you a tip, because I have seen this many times, even in a testing situation. DO NOT have the champs hitting the shot that you have just worked on.  If they stay champs for a while the other 4 players (or 2 teams) on your court will never get a chance to work on it. I like to almost always have the challengers hit the shot that we just worked on so EVERYONE gets many opportunities Here is an example: 1 champ/4 challengers and you have just worked on app. Shots all day, and you are feeding the champ the approach shot (the other 4 are NOT working on it, so get at least the 80% hitting the shot you just worked on all day (If he/she stays champ the WHOLE TIME) OK, so now that the champs know that the challengers will be hitting a short ball to them (not fair), move them back to a cone, or the back curtain or whatever, but don’t let them move forward until contact is made by the other team. (or they lose the point ) This will probably be pretty close to the proper timing when the opposing team is NOT expecting it, plus it gives the players a bit more success and will be more willing to keep trying, once they see the benefits. Then finish with some regular points and have each team try to throw that shot in at least once a game or something to that effect. And Finally bring them in and TELL THEM what they just learned and why they want to continue to work on it. What I would do is keep track and especially if it worked in my favor would say, after the points. Every time you brought the team up to the net, you won the point XX% of the time, and you are just starting out. You might even explain ow this shot is good for other situations, like giving your opponent’s overheads (usually weaker than you think(, to keep them fired up to learn the shot. Give them some incentive, or homework, to try it out away from the class and don’t just drop it. Continue to ask how it is going, during the week and during class. Bottom Line: Let your students know what to expect BEFORE the lesson starts.  It may be something simple or you may have to go the sales page route with those stubborn players. Good Luck,  Coach Mick, USPTA
Aug 7, 2018
9 min
028 - Jorge Capestany - The 5 Types of People
Today I interview USPTA/PTR Master Professional Jorge Capestany. Jorge is a highly regarded tennis professional all around the world and has arguably the best tennis drills site on the internet. So Jorge , through his own experience has put people/coaches into one of 5 different levels 1. The Encourager - They look for the good in others and take the extra steps to tell them 2. They look for the good, but don’t tell them 3. Generally wired to look for the bad in others 4. Look for the bad in others and then DO tell THEM.  These people are kind of mean. 5. The Gossiper - Look for the bad in others but tell OTHER PEOPLE  If you see a flaw, it is OK, but make sure your spirit is looking for the good stuff as well.  This will make the negative things easier to accept. Big Question: Where do you think you fit? The people that succeed in general tend to be more like the Level 1 and Level 2 people. Even Bigger Question: Where would your co-workers place you on this scale What a great conversation with Jorge. Now I can honestly say that I have been in each of those situations in my life at one point, even in my career. It is easy to get caught up in a conversation and find yourself going down the wrong path, just not to rock the boat with a person who you may look up to. But as most wise people will tell you, …….. Surround yourself with the people you want to be the most like, and hopefully is the level 1 or level 2 type of person hat Jorge was discussing. As a coach, it can sometimes be easier to look for the flaws in a stroke and focus on what is wrong (like the ambulance coach in episode 025), but look for the good as well and make sure your students hear what you like about their game. Do the same with even your co-workers.  I am sure some extra lessons will probably be going to the pro that the desk staff respects and admires, more than the pro who is a glass half-empty person all the time. And even better, do the same when nobody is looking – This defines your character. Bottom Line: If I had to summarize this I would say, Nurture and pay close attention to your character more than your reputation and you will most likely achieve more success plus have a lot of great relationships on and off the court. Good Luck, Coach Mick, USPTA
Aug 2, 2018
10 min
027 - Successful Progressions - My Foolproof Plan For Beginners
027 – Successful Progressions – My Foolproof Plan for Beginners So today’s quick tip is:  Start with contact and progress backwards when working with a NEW player,  So why do people say that tennis is HARD? I’m going to tell you how I achieved 100%, yes I said 100% success, with getting every new player I have ever worked with to hit a 20 ball rally over the net on their 1st day with me. There are two secrets here and one of them is you So come on, make it easy for them. This way you can increase the chances of them being successful and coming back for more!  Now you need to know your progressions, which are the step you might take from start to finish to hit the ball over the net. Here is a little trick I like and if you remember anything, remember this if you are working with a NEW Player especially and they will be successful each week and can back off to stay successful if need be. If you read the progressions of any stroke they will go something like this:  1. GRIP 2. READY POSITION 3. STANCE 4. FOOTWORK 5. BACKSWING  6, FORWARD SWING  7. CONTACT 8. FOLLOW-THROUGH  9. FINISH If you look at this list, there are 6 things to do BEFORE the student makes contact. Good luck with that. What does the student really care about, hitting the little  ball over the net into the HUGE court, that is it How easy should this be?  Think about it if this were an attraction at the fair I was at Cherry Festival in Traverse City Michigan and was walking by the booths where everyone tries to call you over to shoot the balloons, knock over the bowling pins or sink the basketball in a hoop that is probably only ½ wider than the ball itself, What if there was a booth like this……………………………….. OK Step right up. Step right up and hit this 2.7 inch diameter ball into this HUGE 1404 square foot hole and win a prize. Just hold it and hit it. Who has the guts to try………..  I bet if this was a booth, it would have a huge line right? Well, this is exactly what tennis is  And when you say it this way, does it sound like tennis should be hard? My first house (2 bedroom 1 bath) was only 863 square feet. So come on,  make it easy for them. If they are successful, they will want to do it again and if they are not, they might have 2nd thoughts. With Scott, I had lunch as a backup, but not so easy on the tennis court. How about trying it in this order:  GRIP, CONTACT, FINISH (maybe) I bet if you explained where they need to hit the ball (Contact), have them start exactly there and then lift up to the finish. If you think about it, as tennis coaches we find ourselves telling our students how to SEND the ball over the net all the time yet, the key to being successful starts with how we receive the ball. Think about my carnival example. If you have the ball in your hand you’re in total control of how to start, but when you’re playing tennis you have an opponent sending the ball over the net to you, so you want to make sure you are receiving the ball as similarly as you were when you were holding it just to drop it over the net. So, Try to visualize this. What I mean by this is that when I talk to students about this,  the first thing I have them do is turn somewhat sideways and just catch a ball in their hands that I feed over the net to them. You will see that when we do this, they do not take their hand back first, They will usually just put their hand behind where they think the ball is going to be when they catch it. This means if I feed them a high ball they put their hand up high to catch it. If I feed them a lowball, they put their hand down load to catch it. If I feed them and medium ball they put their hand at a medium level to catch it.  The closer they’re hand is to the ball, the more successful they are going to have to catching it. The more they have to move their hand to go catch it, it will be more difficult to catch because of the timing. The next step I take is to have the student to hold the racquet, with the proper grip and have them just stop the ball on their strings, just like they did with their hand. I usually say if they hit the ball over the net successfully in the court, they have 100 push-ups, ha ha!,  This works on The proper grip and how to track a ball as it’s approaching them. The next step is to do the same exact thing but instead of letting the ball drop off the racquet, just  lift the ball up over the net and finish period If you want to get technical on the finish you can, but there’s no need to here.  What you will find, is that the player does not take the racket back but just waits for the ball to come to them which is important when it comes to balance.  The racquet in the ball stay close and there’s limited distance between the racket and the tennis ball prior to contact. Think about a player that takes the racket way back, They have to move their racket forward, commit to their swing, and hopefully that swing is going to run in direct line to wear the balls going to be at that precise point they want to make contact.  Now I said earlier that one of the secrets is you. And it is. To make that 20 balls you are going to have to make sure you hit that orange ball or green ball or even a foam ball back to them in a manner to which they can receive it as easily as possible. If you put a heavy topspin on the ball is going to be more difficult for them. They don’t have to do a whole lot to hit the ball over the net, I promise you.  Go stand in front of any wall and hit a ball at the wall. The wall does nothing. But I bet the balls going to come back at you because the wall is making perfect contact every time with your shot, In a way anyway. Too many players think they have to take a huge stroke to make the ball go over the net. They do not have to do this at all. Now once they understand this concept you can start adding in the other progressions but the great thing about it here is if they are having issues they can always regress back to where they know they can be confident.  Even more so on the serve.  Start with contact, add in some wrist, hen some forearm, then some shoulder, then some trunk, then some legs  and so on. The great part is that, like we talked about in episode 26, they can go until they find it difficult.  That is where they need to train or back off one more step, to just ensure success. And they will probably be coming back for more! Bottom Line: With NEW Payers start your progressions with contact and work your way to a complete stroke.  OR you may be losing a lot of potential players. Good Luck, Coach Mick, USPTA
Jul 31, 2018
10 min
026 - The Ocean Liner Coach
Today’s Quick Tip Is: Become the Ocean Liner Coach if you are in the business in taking a player from one point to another. I have been on one cruise.  I thought I would never like them, but I really do.   The cool part, other than the free drinks and ice cream, it that even though there is a final destination, we make a lot of successful stops along the way. For example: My in-laws come to Florida every year to hang out with us for a few months.  Now when I make the drive, it takes me about 21 hours to get here from Michigan. When they drive it takes about 4 days, because they like to stop at some really cool places and soak in different parts of the country,  Kind of like the movie Vacation, when Chevy Chase, I forget his character’s name, would make all of those different stops on the way to Wally World, like biggest ball of yarn, mall of America, biggest hunk of cheese, something to that effect. Where this applies to coaching is that, even though you may have a destination, there should be a lot of successes along the way not only to keep the LEARNING in check, but your players motivation going, because they are seeing success after success along the way. This may be called “Chunking” which refers to breaking down a process into pieces that are more manageable and will help keep the student inspired along the way. For example: It is hard to work on the serve and volley for the first time and then go use it in a tournament for the first time 2 days later. You have to break it down into parts and maybe even those parts into smaller pats. So let’s go back to my player who I said NO too. She was surprised and her dad was too when I said that I would not give her another lesson , but what they didn’t realize was that when she hit with me in a controlled environment, she was a steady hitter. But in a match, her opponents were not trying to work with her, they were trying to make her life miserable, which was accomplished that day. What I told her dad was that she needed to go out and hit with someone.  A steady hitter.   A bunch of crosscourt rallies, no pressure. See if the two of them can get 20 in a row, counting down.  Cooperative hitting. (Counting down adds a small  element of pressure). SUCCESS Now if she can’t handle it when someone is trying to work with her and be nice, how is she going to handle it when someone is trying to be mean, right. Now start counting up and lets say whatever number either player misses on, that is how many jumps they have over their racquet ( I would say crunches, but I do not want to get emails saying that I punish with conditioning). Still got past 20 70% of the time. SUCCESS Now the point element Now let’s play a groundstroke game to 100.  The rule is that you play one point on the deuce side and then the next on the add side.  No serving. Count the number of times the ball goes over the net on the rally.  Whoever wins the point, get the same number of points as the ball was rallied over the net. ( 15, 3, 42) until someone gets to 100 points More pressure each time a ball is hit back to you. NOT SUCCESSFUL OK we just pinpointed out the stop that needs to be made and focused on until success can be achieved. Playing out pressure points crosscourt with someone other than me. I mean she knows where the ball is going, so the recovery element isn’t even an issue. Now you might think that as a pro, you can fill the shoes of the other player and make $30 bucks, but it is tough. You want to see them successful and if you start crushing them, your instinct will be to lay off a bit so they can achieve something. So stay in that arena, until you start seeing some success. You just defined where the TRAINING focus should be Kind of like when I am teaching a 3.0 player how to hit a slice for the first time. 1. Hand feed up close 2. Racquet feed from the other side of the net  And now they think they are ready for prime time. And that’s Very unlikely. So remember what Marc Gelina said in episode 022, an inch is a cinch and a yard is hard OK, so the final destination (The yard) is to hit these in match play successfully. Where might the stops (inches) be: Lesson with me: SUCCESS – Perfect feed and me teaching them  Try it on the ball machine - SUCCESS, still the perfect feed, no help from the coach and start thinking on their own Rally with a partner (20 in row, cooperative) – Varied balls (High, low, short deep…) , thinking on own –  NOT SUCCESSFUL OK, spend some time there on that island training. Then move to: Play out points with defined areas Play out pattern points that include that shot Play out normal points. At least they will be able to connect the dots a lot easier now. Wherever the breakdown is, that is where they should be training. I think you get the point now, but here is my challenge to you: Email me a suggested journey to learning how to serve and volley and what the stops along the way might be. ( I will walk through one of the pathways in a future episode. Whichever one I use, I will send you a PTM promo package in the mail. Bottom Line: No matter if it is a stroke, a strategy, try to start piecing the pathway that you would teach to reach the final destination, including all of the steps in between.   When students experience small successes, that keeps them motivated to reach the long-term goal.  As a coach, it’s our job to put the (steps) or inches in order. Each lesson (or more) is an inch.  Each lesson is a success where they’ve learned something which keeps them interested and wanting  to stay on board.  Even though you have a destination, there are many mini stops ( successes along the way)  It will be different for every player, that is why I love teaching (AND COACHING) tennis. Good Luck, Coach Mick, USPTA  
Jul 26, 2018
9 min
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