Jordan Belga blog: My philosophy on coaching

July 29, 2018 09:26 PM

Jordan Belga is a recent graduate of the University of Florida, where he received his B.S. in Sport Management along with a minor in Business Administration. Belga has been involved in tennis for 13 years and was a star junior player, with highlights that included being ranked No. 1 in the Boys' 12s and representing the U.S. in the World Junior Team Tennis competition in the Czech Republic. In college, he competed for the Florida Gators and helped lead the men's team to the SEC Tournament championship. Belga has received a coaching fellowship with USTA Player Development and is writing a blog from the USTA National Campus in Orlando, Fla., about his experiences this summer. In his latest entry, he discusses the philosophy he has developed as a coach.

By Jordan Belga

Hi guys!  Right now, I am finishing up a great week of the HPCP here in Carson. I’ve had a great time with the staff at the base, along with the other fellows and coaches who were here this week, as well. Next stop will be to Washington, D.C. for the Citi Open. I’ve decided to share a bit of my own philosophy that I developed while I’ve been here in Carson. Please take note that this is a basic foundation, and I will definitely be making adjustments as I gain new experiences.

For me, the elements of my philosophy are individuality, simplicity, character and balance of discipline and freedom. I believe as a coach it is important to have the ability to adapt and understand all aspects of the game both on and off the court. When working with young athletes, it is very important to get to know who they are as individuals. Once you understand a player’s personality and style, then you work, adjust and adapt to what you are given. It should be a balanced relationship between player and coach. For me, I would say I have a foundation of a cooperative style with a softer approach but can adapt when I need to. However, I also believe that it is important to stay true to your personality instead of being something that isn’t you. Carlos Benatzky once told me (and I’m paraphrasing), “As a coach, never be something that you are not. Players can sense when you are not authentic, so it is very important to work within your personality to develop.”

Have the ability to adapt without losing your foundation. When you go through the process, not only are you getting to know the player more but also yourself. “To know oneself is to study oneself in action with another person.” (Bruce Lee) In terms of knowledge of the sport of tennis, there should be an understanding and familiarity for every aspect both on and off the court. The thing about coaching is that your philosophy will always be adjusting and changing as you gain more experience and knowledge down the line.

Competition and winning are also essential to development. Competition should always be a constant, and winning is a goal that serves as something to aim for. You cannot always win, but you can always compete your hardest. The better you become at competing, the closer you come to winning consistently. Competing can be in many different forms and styles for every player. This ties back to my belief on individuality.    

I am a big believer in putting in the extra work and pushing your limits. I would definitely encourage athletes to go the extra mile because that is how you can separate yourself from the rest. However, I will only push an athlete if he/she wants it. I’d say the ideal training for a young athlete around ages 12-18 is about 2-4 hours a day, adding an hour of strength and conditioning for 5-6 days a week. The major factors for an athlete to go through this regime are discipline and desire.

Discipline should definitely be used with younger athletes, especially when it is about instilling an attitude. As players get older, the maturity needs to reach a point where they don’t need to be disciplined by a coach consistently. In the early stages, it is part of the coach’s job to use the discipline to instill values of character and hard work ethic. However, it should not be used unreasonably. You have to gauge the player and understand when it can be used for a long-term benefit.

In terms of long-term view of development, it will definitely be different for every player. It is important for a player to consistently gauge where they are throughout their career. At a young age, I’d say the focus should be geared towards the player learning how to establish their identity and embracing the process of developing for the long-term as the foundation. Ideally, every part of the game should be consistently developing. You can have your foundational style but be able to work on other dimensions to have a more complete game. “Ultimately, all types of knowledge mean self-knowledge. Adapt what is useful, discard what is useless and add what is specifically your own.” (Bruce Lee)  As they grow older, the coach needs to slowly guide the player without making him/her too dependent. Then the player can start to take ownership and be more aware of what he/she needs both on and off the court to be successful.

I would preach the fundamental sound of the hands and feet balanced with the discipline and creativity of the eyes and mind. To me, that is the ideal vision to work with a player. It would definitely range and shift with different parameters for every player, but that is the beauty of styles and individuality. “Obey the principles without being bound by them.” (Bruce Lee)

That is it for now. I am very excited to be heading to DC for my first Masters 500. Stay tuned for my next post!