Are female tennis coaches on the rise? In 2017 it certainly seems so…
It is often a talking point of women’s tennis just how few female coaches work with WTA tour players. According to the Women’s Tennis Coaching Association, only 8.5% of female players in the top 200 have a female coach and of course, the % of female coaches in the men’s ATP tour is even lower.
Over the last couple of years, we have interviewed a number of tennis coaches and asked their thoughts on these very low percentages and how if at all, they could be rectified:
“I think one of the things really lacking in professional women’s tennis coaching is lack of strong leadership by top female coaches. The number one thing any coach needs is a great mentor, somebody that continues to push them and help them grow. The WTCA is here to assist anybody who wants to further their coaching in women’s tennis. We have extensive resources and it doesn’t matter what level of coach you are we here welcome and help everybody.”
Sarah Stone – Founder of the WTCA
“The problems arises when a female player wants to use a male hitting partner, which means they then have to pay for a female coach and a male hitter, but they may also need someone else such as a physio or S&C coach. It’s just not possible to pay for all of these people. So very often they will chose a male hitting partner to double up as a coach. Another challenge is that the WTA tour is 46 weeks of the year on the road, that’s a lot of time! It’s a life style of hotels, the hours are brutal. You might be able to do this as a young coach, but it is not always sustainable due to lifestyle choices.”
Emma Doyle – International Coach
“I think it has become a self-fulfilling culture where the norm is a male coach and it becomes difficult for women to break that cycle or to see themselves in that role. Amelie Mauresmo has been a great role model for female coaches in elite tennis and Andy Murray has been brave in his outspoken clarity about his choice. We need more role models like these two, both coaches and athletes who show that women can and do make fantastic high performance coaches, as do some men, and we need to judge on merit not on gender.”
Hollie Bees – UK Tennis Coach
Extra Pressure on Female Coaches
From an outsiders point of view, it’s easy to see why so few women take on the role of coach on the tour. With increased media attention in all sports, criticism of coaching is at an all time high and female coaches seem to have heightened scrutiny.
In recent weeks, Andy Murray World number 1 men’s player has revealed the comments he received from his peers about his appointment of former Grand Slam Champion Amiele Mauresmo back in 2015. Interviewed in Elle Magazine (US) he said:
“When it first came out in the press that I may be working with a woman, I got a message from one of the players who is now coaching. He said to me, ‘I love this game that you’re playing with the press, maybe you should tell them tomorrow that you’re considering working with a dog.’ That’s the sort of stuff that was said when I was thinking about it.
When I came on the professional tour, there were no men coached by women. The amount of criticism she got in comparison to any other coach I’ve ever worked with, it’s not comparable at all. Now, when I lose a match, I get the blame. When I was working with her, it was always her fault.
Some argue, ‘Oh, well, she’s a woman, so she can’t understand the men’s game. But then how can a man understand the women’s game? I obviously grew up getting coached by my mum, so I didn’t see any issue.”
On The Way Up…
On a positive note for female coaches in tennis, this year has seen a number of very successful women coaches come out on top and a handful of women taking on the sporting world with a number of projects and programs aimed to increase the number of women coaching:
- In championship terms so far this year we have had 3 different grand slam champions – Serena Williams won the Australian Open in January (5 weeks pregnant!), Jelena Ostapenko won the French Open and Garbine Muguruza won Wimbledon…and the great news is that the last two mentioned champions were coached by female coaches – Jelena by Annabel Medina Garrigues and Garbine by Conchita Martinez.
- Judy Murray – former Scottish National Coach and of course Mother to tennis champions Andy and Jamie Murray has raised the profile of female coaches in tennis to a whole new level with the release of her autobiography “Knowing the Score” and the progression of her tennis programmes Miss Hits, Tennis on the Roads and She Rallies.
- The Women’s Tennis Coaching Association hosted their very first coaching conference just before the start of the US Open and showcased some incredible names in women’s tennis coaching including Lindsay Davenport, Judy Murray, Emma Doyle, Brenda Schultz McCarthy and co-founder of the WTCA, Sarah Stone.
The US Open 2017
This week has seen the start of the U.S Open Tournament, one of the 4 big tennis events of the year which sees the World’s best players fight it out to win a Grand Slam trophy. We were excited to learn of the number of female players in this tournament with female coaches:
- Aleksandra Krunic 🇷🇺 coached by Elise Tamaela
- Jelena Ostapenko 🇱🇻coached by Annabel Medina Garrigues
- Madison Keyes🇺🇸 coached by Lindsay Davenport
- Kaia Kanepi 🇪🇪 coached by Alina Jidkova
- Allie Kiick 🇺🇸 Coached by Kathy Rinaldi
- Daria Gavrilova 🇦🇺 Coached by Bilijana Veselinovic
- Francesca Di Lorenzo 🇺🇸 coached by Ann Grossman
- Donna Vekic 🇭🇷 coached by Iva Majoli
Thanks to WTCA co-founder Sarah Stone for providing us with these names!
One of the more high profile players at the tournament with a female coach is the U.S player Madison Keyes who is back working with former player and Grand Slam Champion Lindsay Davenport after their split in 2016
When they first began working together in 2015, Lindsay admitted it was always going to be a part-time arrangement due to her media and family commitments. It proved to be a successful partnership however as Madison rose up the rankings to the top 10 for the first time and qualified for the end of season tournament the WTA Finals.
Wanting a more permendent coach, they parted ways, but after a partnship with male coach Jesse Levine didn’t last, Lindsay agreed at the start of 2017 to being work with Madison once again.
Speaking on the Sports Illustrated Tennis Podcast “Beyond the Baseline”… Lindsay said this about her coaching arrangement with Madison.
“There are so many people in this sport who know so much and so many people I get advice from, but many don’t go down the career path of coaching. The lifestyle can be difficult, all the traveling etc and having to commit so much to one player is difficult. Job security comes into a lot of people minds i.e. Is it better to be a college coach, or another type of role in tennis?
Some people love the challenge of trying to get one player to be the best possible version of themselves, but there isn’t that many of them.
I am fortunate that I don’t do anything that I don’t want to do. I am a little selfish in that regard! I have a huge place in my heart for Madison and think the World of her, not only her potential but I relate so much to her and her personality that I am always happy to help her. And she knows that is always the case. I am happy to help her as long she feels it’s helping her and she needs me to. I don’t want to coach anybody else. I have gone through my life developing a very small number of close relationships, and I have done this with Madison. So I enjoy helping her. There is a lot of pressure on her from recovering from her surgery and mental pressure etc, so I want to help her get through that period.”
Keep an eye out over the next few days as we profile more female coaches on the FCN website and FCN social media!