GPTCA Elite Tennis: Getting Paid – How, When and Why (part II)

GP2
2015-Mar-31

Understanding what it means to invest in your craft as a coach or tennis teacher by recognizing opportunities that might pay less in the present; albeit pay greater dividends in the future is a fundamental ingredient for financial success.

In Getting Paid: Part I, we discussed the basic elements of the contract which are the keys to avoiding conflict and tension. But what about those coaches who do not have leverage for a strong contract; or those who are just hoping for an opportunity?

Many a coach knows where he wants to be working – Grand Slams, ATP World Tour and ATP Challenger Tour; but is he able to judge his worth to the player without bias? Human nature is such that evaluating yourself is tricky at best. Very few coaches on Tour have an agent who does deals for them. Getting good advice on what to charge, and just as important – what you are worth is crucial. Unfortunately, in many situations like Futures and Challengers, “it is not what the coach thinks he should get, but what the player can afford.”

Coach Chuck Kriese has had over thirty-five years of training players and assistant coaches, many of whom have gone on to coach on the ATP World Tour, national associations and US colleges. “I did my apprenticeship under Mr. Harry Hopman,” Kriese says. “And the joke among all the assistants at the time was that we got paid in room, board and experience. Except the joke was on us, because what we learned and experienced under Mr. Hopman was priceless.”

“There is a process that has served many a coach well,” Kriese continues. “In your 20’s-work for knowledge and experience, in your 30’s- invest your learning, and in your 40’s you will reap benefits on many fronts and one of them may or may not be money. This is the biggest mistake that so many young coaches make today, they want to start at the top and work down instead of starting at the bottom and working up. I can usually tell within a few minutes of the interview if the coach is more interested in money and lifestyle, or doing a great job and advancing.

Juan Manual Esparcia, GPTCA A-level coach, ATP Member coach, believes that many young coaches get started on the tour because of friendship with the player. And that many young coaches get a false sense of belonging on the Tour without actually learning the trade. “Oftentimes, a young coach will get a job because of friendship and just tours around without any expenses while making small money and enjoying the tour. For whatever reason, he might begin to feel that he has all the right answers. He may or may not, but the reality is that coaching is a profession that has to be learned and experienced. And the know-how of developing players takes years to acquire the experience to do it well. I feel it would be much better for his career and future earnings if he could work with an older coach and learn the coaching business first. He can pick the things from the experienced coach and manage the player and you get some exposure and then make the jump to head coach.”

A good example of what Esparcia is talking about is Dani Vallverdu. Vallverdu was with Andy Murray for more than five years as friend, hitting partner and coach. Sometimes the head coach and sometimes the assistant coach. Though the public never appreciated Vallverdu’s value to Murray, the young Venezuelan coach shined where others have failed. When Murray appointed Ivan Lendl as head coach, Vallverdu did not get jealous or angry, rather the opposite, he was excited for the team. For he recognized it as an even better opportunity. With Lendl and Murray he was getting the best of both coach and player. He had a front row seat during grand slam finals and Olympic gold medal matches. He was able to ask Lendl questions and hear Lendl’s wise council to Murray during tough times. Ivan Lendl has been often quoted singing the praises of Vallverdu’s importance to Team Murray. And when Murray and Vallverdu agreed it was time to move on, Dani Vallverdu had earned himself another prime job, this time as the head coach with Tomas Berdych.

“I remember the legendary tennis teacher, Bill Tym, who once told me,” Kriese says, ‘Most people know the price for everything, but the value of very little’.”

Another young coach who was able to recognize the value of learning from a legend is Braen Aneiros, GPTCA B-Level coach (Cambodia). Aneiros traveled to San Remo to work as an apprentice under Bob Brett back in 2012. Under Brett, Aneiros learned the importance of non-negotiable training habits; how to organize a practice depending on the player’s schedule and also, he got to observe an ATP top 20 player, Marin Cilic, train. Aneiros got something else he did not bargain for – an opportunity to travel on the ATP Challenger Tour. Brett arranged for Aneiros to travel some weeks with Yuichi Sugita who was in San Remo for pre-season. That was three years ago, and though Brett remains the man in charge, Aneiros continues to travel with Sugita. He is also learning what it takes to help a player from ATP no. 200 to inside the top 100 singles ranking.

“I think I got free meals and a shared room during those three weeks working for Bob,” says Aneiros, “but I have earned so much more because of my time with him that I am not about to complain. Actually, the opposite, I am very grateful to Bob (Brett).”

One thing that both Vallverdu and Aneiros would have learned from working with top players and legendary coaches is that injuries and personal issues often cause last minute cancellations of tournaments.

“If you have a fixed schedule,” says Juan Manual Esparcia, “then the player cannot change at the last minute and expect you sit at home without getting paid. Injuries are a part of the business, and I always ask my players to buy insurance so when they get injured they have the resources to take care of their responsibilities. I use the example of when you buy a house with a mortgage. If you get injured you don’t call the bank and say, ‘listen I cannot pay my mortgage this month, because I got injured. The coach should define a cancellation clause in his contract or he is at the player’s mercy.”

Much of getting paid as a professional tennis coach is based on the particular needs of the coach at various stages of his life and career. Whether it is a large financial compensation to lure him away from the comforts of home and family for which he justifies by the value he can offer to the player. Or for the less experienced coach who gets paid in ‘room, board and experience’ which can effectively be parlayed into a greater career in the future. Learning your self-worth and learning the ropes of the tennis tour are equally important to a happy and financially healthy career as a tennis coach.