Andy Brandi blog: Advice to young coaches

April 25, 2017 12:24 PM

Andy Brandi served as a partner of the Harold Solomon Tennis Institute since 2007 before joining the USTA staff in August 2010. From 2001-06, Brandi was Director of Tennis for IMG at the Evert Tennis Academy in Boca Raton, and from 1984-2001, he was the head coach of the University of Florida women’s team. During his career, Brandi has worked with top professionals, including Elena Dementieva, Shahar Peer, Maria Kirilenko, Lisa Raymond, Ryan Sweeting and Jesse Levine. While at the University of Florida, he led the Gators to three NCAA Division I Team titles and coached four NCAA women’s singles champions and four NCAA doubles champions. Brandi is writing a blog for for the next several weeks. In his latest entry, he offers advice to young coaches on a variety of topics, including finding their niche, studying the game, keeping open-minded and much more.

By Andy Brandi

I have been teaching tennis for about 40 years. I was very fortunate that I trained under Welby Van Horn, Nick Bollettieri and Harry Hopman. Years later, I worked under Nick and Hop, as well. When I joined PD, Jose Higueras was very helpful with giving me some further guidance and direction with my tennis knowledge. Brandi-with-BollettieriOne thing that has been constant in those 40 years is that you never stop learning and developing as a coach. At 32, when I started at the University of Florida, I thought I knew a lot about tennis. At 64, I am still learning!

As a young coach, it is important that you have a hunger and passion to learn and to get better at what you do and how you do it. You have to be open-minded and identify someone whom you trust to be your mentor. You have to constantly study the game and keep up with all the new developments, tendencies and how the game is changing. I watch tennis all the time. By watching, I can see how the game changes and how I can apply what I see to my students. You never stop learning! I learn from younger coaches whom I work with! A few weeks ago, I was talking to my son, who is a very good coach, and he made me aware of chunking. Chunking is when we work on multiple things with small rep counts so that the student stays aware, engaged and connects the dots on the things that you are working on.

Attend seminars. Go and shadow a coach you consider to be successful. Watch other peers coach. Go on YouTube and watch videos! There is a lot of good information out there. Learn from coaches of other sports. When I got to UF, I talked a lot to Randy Reese, who was the swim coach there. He coached Olympians and world-record holders. He was very innovative and helped me a ton. He made me think outside the box.

The one thing I came to realize over the years is that you have to be you! You cannot be someone else. You have to develop you own style, your own philosophy and your own system. You keep developing it as years go by, always trying to keep up with the times and refining it. You tweak it as time goes on.

Keep your teaching simple. We tend to talk too much! We do not get paid by the word! We over-coach! I have learned over the years that sometimes the drill or exercise fixes the problem without saying a word! Always keep it simple. The less you say the better. Give them the chance to fix it or figure it out. We need to make them independent thinkers!

The other important thing is to find your niche. Is it 10 and under, is it recreational level or is it high performance? Are you more of a technical coach? In what area do you consider yourself strong? That is your niche! You have to love what you do. You have to be passionate. Every day, when I come to work, I cannot wait to get on the court. For me, it is not work. I love what I do. I am constantly brain-storming about tennis. It consumes me.

I chose high-performance tennis from the get go. I have taught adults and little kids, but my passion has always been in high performance. My pathway has been one that took me from pro tennis to college tennis to junior tennis. On the way, I have been very fortunate to have worked with some great players and worked under some great coaches. I now work with boys 14 and under. I feel like I can help them and impact their games the most. My job is to develop their technical base so that there are no holes. That is my niche right now.

Be patient with your pathway. It takes time to figure it out. Along the way, you will have some doubts. For a while, my students were not having the success that I thought they would. I questioned myself as to whether I was doing things the right way. I was second-guessing myself. Like anything, you have your ups and downs. You have to stay strong and review everything that you are doing and how you are doing it. At times, a small tweak makes all the difference. High-performance tennis is about the details. A small detail could change the career of a player.

I hope this was helpful. Keep working hard. Remember that what seems impossible is possible if you have the will. Good luck in your journey!