Tennis Industry magazine


The 7 Habits of Successful Teaching Pros

By Dr. Robert F. Heller

In my career as a psychologist, sports psychology consultant and tennis teaching professional, I have had the opportunity and good fortune to interact with a great many talented and successful tennis-teaching professionals. In numerous discussions, countless observations and some research, I have “distilled” what I believe are some of the key behaviors and attitudes that contributed to their success and will likely contribute to yours if you follow them.

While it is likely there are other “ingredients” that could be added to the “mix for success,” following these seven habits should put you on the right path toward a long and satisfying career as a tennis teaching professional.

1. Vision

Developing a clear vision as to what you want to do in the short term (one to three years), intermediate term (three to seven years) and long term (10 years and beyond) helps guide your choices and decisions at critical times in your career. It might be a life of teaching, becoming a director or owning your own club. Knowing where you want to end up will help you concentrate on the skills and experiences you need to develop and acquire to reach those goals.

2. Lifelong Learning

Competence is not stagnant. Successful teaching pros seek to constantly improve themselves, understand their clientele and develop techniques and methods that keep their students happy, motivated, coming back for lessons and clinics, and singing your praises to others. To stay current and fresh, they attend professional clinics, workshops and conferences, read professional publications and regularly review several favorite websites.

3. People Skills

Successful teaching pros are “likeable.” They are positive and encouraging in their lessons and clinics and have the ability to make the student feel “special” even when they are part of a group. They show interest in the personal lives of their students without “prying” or being overly intrusive. They are good communicators who listen carefully to the needs of their students and have excellent verbal skills both from a teaching standpoint and interpersonally.

4. Self-Care

Teaching tennis is very physical and can be hard on the body. Successful pros follow healthy practices to stay and remain fit and as injury-free as possible. Diet and nutrition, stretching, workouts, cross-training, sun protection and access to health providers prevent health problems and manage them quickly and effectively when they do occur.

5. Mentors

While tennis teachers often are the independent type, successful pros recognize the value in learning from others who are wiser and more experienced. They develop relationships with “senior” instructors and often help out at events, become active in the USPTA, PTR, USTA, TIA, and other professional organizations and are genuinely glad to devote their time and energy.

6. Economics

Successful pros recognize early on the danger in letting their “expenses rise to meet there income.” They work with accountants, financial advisors and related professionals to create a viable financial plan that takes into account growing financial needs like buying cars, houses, caring for a growing family and retirement.

7. Gratitude

Teaching pros are appreciative of the opportunity to share their love of tennis with others and to work in a job that allows them to be physical and not stuck in an office. This attitude of gratitude translates into even seasoned pros not taking their job or their students/members for granted. They continue to give 110 percent and teach with enthusiasm, energy and creativity even after many years in the profession.

We welcome your opinions. Please email comments to

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About the Author

Dr. Robert F. Heller  is a psychologist and consultant in the areas of performance enhancement and stress management. He is the author of Mental Skills for Match Play and Mental Toughness. For information on telephone consultation, products, and other services, contact,, or 561-451-2731. He is based in Boca Raton, Fla.



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