How the GPTCA Will Change Coaching and Pro Tennis
You may not have heard of the Global Professional Tennis Coach Association, but sooner or later this new organization will come to an academy, club or tournament near you. The GPTCA is filling an important niche in the tennis world. In 2012, its experienced ATP and WTA tour coaches began teaching other coaches the fine points and subtleties of their profession. With their new expertise, this growing corps of coaches will improve aspiring pro players and help take world-class tennis to a higher, even more exciting level.
In this comprehensive interview, 2003 Australian Open finalist Rainer Schuettler, who retired from the pro tour last year, explains everything you need to know about the GPTCA and how it will advance tennis near you.
Who founded the Global Professional Tennis Coach Association, and when and where did they meet to start it?
The idea came from Dirk Hordorff and Alberto Castellani. They had talked about it for a long time. The Association was founded at the US Open in New York in 2011. At the grand opening we had a celebration and invited some coaches to talk about it.
The idea was to create a new Association that could help the coaches of the world to get a more complete perspective of what modern Professional Tennis is about. All coaches attending the meeting understood immediately the importance of these ideas and of the purpose of the Association.
Jose Perlas, Marcos Gorriz, Larri Passos, Jean-Philippe Fleurian, Claudio Pistolesi, Boris Sobkin, and Alexander Waske are names all tennis fans know well, and their enthusiasm, knowledge and experience are clear and need no introduction. The GPTCA Board puts a tremendous value in having these National Presidents inside the Association, and they are all committed to disseminating their experience to all the coaches-members of the GPTCA.
The meeting exploded with ideas, proposals, commitments and all the details that the GPTCA is based on and hopes to get more and more developed in the upcoming years. The idea to go to the ATP and ask for their certification came straightaway, and that was one of the many brilliant ideas the meeting generated.
Why was the GPTCA founded?
The purpose is to give all the coaches around the world who are interested in tennis the chance to learn from the coaches on the pro tours. Most of our national presidents are coaches on tour and are really involved in professional tennis. For example, the German tennis federation has their courses, but we are not at all concurrent with them. They teach the base, and we specialize in explaining about life on tour and training on tour.
We want to give coaches who are interested in this professional approach the chance to learn about it. We are focusing on teenagers and also young kids. But with young kids, you have to be more careful. Mostly we are concentrating on juniors who are going to the ITF (International Tennis Federation) satellite level and then the challenger level.
How does the GPTCA plan to accomplish the mission its president Alberto Castellani described as “to unify all world-class coaches in one association for the first time in history and to foster higher standards of professionalism and ethics”?
The courses have some guidelines about professionalism and ethics. They explain how you have to work and to behave with discipline. The coaches who have been on tour the last 10 years understand modern pro tennis. This is the basis of all the courses. For example, the way Rafa [Rafael Nadal] plays is completely modern, completely new, compared to 15 years ago.
The leaders of the GPTCA are Toni Nadal, Alberto Castellani, Dirk Hordorff and you. What are the greatest assets of each of these board members?
Everybody knows Toni Nadal, and the experience he has coaching Rafa is priceless and unique. Toni has been with Rafa all the time—from when he was a little boy to now. His knowledge is unbelievable. Alberto Castellani comes from a different side of tennis. Alberto wrote a book about mental practice. I travelled with him on tour for a couple of weeks. He was also a very good player and on tour for a long time, so he has a lot of expertise.
Dirk coached me for 20 years, and now he coaches Janko Tipsarevic [who reached a career-high No. 8 in 2012]. I played on tour for many years until I retired last October, and I know how tennis has developed from when I turned pro in 1995. To have a group like this is great because we can give our knowledge and experience to other coaches around the world.
Would you please explain the GPTCA’s partnership with the ATP World Tour. How does it benefit both the GPTCA and the ATP?
We want to advance professional tennis, and since the professional organization is the ATP, we talked to the ATP about a partnership. They liked the idea. It is a natural and mutually beneficial partnership. Both parties are very happy so far with the partnership. I hope both parties can benefit from it for many years.
The fact that our association has the prestige and certification of the ATP behind it helps a lot. Their support shows our association’s work is at a high level and that we have a great cause and a great structure. We’re trying to give our knowledge to other coaches throughout the world.
Do you think the benefits of the GPTCA’s coaching will start showing among new, young ATP players in the next two, three or four years?
That’s a good question. I can use myself as an example to answer this. I started playing tennis when I was 10. My father tried to teach me the technique of tennis, but he had no help from an organization like the GPTCA. So he had to do everything alone. He would have been happy to have an organization like the GPTCA help him.
Now, if you have a son or daughter who is playing well and really interested in becoming a professional, you can get a few tips in our courses from professionals. Then young players can avoid mistakes that they would make if they didn’t have coaches who learned from these courses.
The GPTCA is the only association in the world which offers ATP-Certified courses. Please tell me about these courses and the various levels of certification granted by the GPTCA.
We have three different courses—A Level, B Level and C Level. It depends on what your Tour experience was. Because we are just starting, now we are just doing B Level and C Level. The A Level will come in the future. In the C Level we are targeting [coaches working at] junior and Future tournaments. The B Level is for Challengers and the start of ATP tournaments. And the A Level is for ATP Tournaments for coaches who are on the Tour.
When will the A Level start?
The GPTCA is a really new organization, and we had courses in five countries in 2012. So we hope we will start the A Level soon. At the end of 2013, we will know more about our timetable.
What are the major differences between the GPTCA and the United States Professional Tennis Association (USPTA) and the Professional Tennis Registry (PTR)? And how will the fast-growing GPTCA affect these two longtime and respected international coaching and teaching pro associations?
I don’t know much about the structure of the USPTA, but I know a little bit about the PTR. The German tennis federation, like the USPTA and PTR, also has courses that target coaching the [amateur] base. The GPTCA has courses for professional tennis. That’s our target, not the base, which the USPTA and PTR focus on mostly.
We had talks with the PTR about possible cooperation because our missions are different. Our coaches could talk to their coaches about the GPTCA, and their coaches could talk to our coaches about the PTR because some of our coaches may be interested in the base and some of their coaches maybe interested in professional tennis coaching. These talks are just starting and nothing has been decided yet.
The GPTCA is represented in 31 countries through national presidents who are well-known and respected in the tennis coaching profession. Who are the most well-known and respected national presidents? And how many countries do you want the GPTCA to be represented in by the end of 2013?
We don’t have an exact number of countries we want to target. We are happy with the way the GPTCA has started. Jose Perlas is in Spain, Boris Sobkin, the coach of Mikhail Youzhny, in Russia, Larri Passos, Gustavo Kuerten’s former coach, in Brazil, Jean Philippe Fleurian in the United States, and Alexander Waske in Germany. So a lot of highly qualified coaches are national presidents. We are designing courses with the highest professional standards.
We are trying to get more countries involved so we can spread our knowledge as much as possible. By the end of this decade, our goal is to be represented in every member country in the International Tennis Federation. But we don’t have anyone in Australia yet. We would be happy to be in Australia. This takes time. But in other major countries like France, Germany, Italy, the United States, where tennis is big, we want to be there.
A complete list of the presidents and members, plus other important information appears on our website and Facebook. (www.gptcatennis.org and https://www.facebook.com/home.php#!/gptca)
Does the GPTCA try to recruit top coaches and teaching pros and former world-class players who might excel as coaches?
Yes. The national presidents would do that. They are responsible for the courses they conduct, and they are eager to attract top coaches.
What do you envision the relationship will be between the GPTCA and tennis academies and tennis clubs around the world? Specifically, do you want to supply tennis academies and clubs with your coaches?
One goal is to have a GPTCA relationship with tennis academies. That would be great. We would like to have courses at the academies, to have clinics there. Right now we don’t plan to name a GPTCA academy, but who knows in the future. It’s for sure an interesting idea and an interesting subject. If we do have a GPTCA academy, it doesn’t have to be in Europe. We’re a global organization. If the concept fits, it doesn’t really matter where it’s located.
Your mission statement mentions ethics. What have been the most serious breaches of ethics in the coaching profession? And how will the GPTCA help in this area? Does the GPTCA have a Code of Conduct?
Sportsmanship is very important for us and for sports in general. You must have respect for your opponents and umpires, fair play, and ethical behavior. That’s our code of conduct. Also, you really have to promote the positive values of sports.
On Tour, there aren’t many problems because you have umpires. You can’t really cheat on line calls because umpires make the calls. You can argue, but you should do it in a fair, sportsmanlike way. Don’t cross the line. Also, you have to accept it when your opponent is better than you. You have the challenge to beat the player on the other side of the net, but do it in a fair way.
Stalling and illegal coaching are two major problems in pro tennis. At times Nadal has been guilty of both rule violations.
Maybe because Rafa is so good, a lot of umpires don’t see that. If I stalled or got illegal coaching, after three times, umpires would call it on me. The enforcement of the rules should be the same for everyone. I don’t think Rafa takes too much time on purpose. When he’s on the court, he’s so focused. I don’t think he uses this as intentional unsportsmanlike behavior. I think he’s in his world, and he doesn’t realize what he’s doing.
I would not have a problem if the ATP Tour legalized on-court coaching like the WTA Tour. I also don’t have a problem with coaches giving signals to players, because you can never really control it. The umpires don’t know the signals. So this is a very difficult subject. Coaching is illegal under the rules, so it shouldn’t happen. But in the future, if it were more open, maybe coaching would be okay.
What problems has your new and exciting venture encountered so far?
We are very convinced about the merits of what we are doing. So far we don’t have a lot of problems. We have challenges and goals. We have to put a lot of work into giving something [substantial] to our members. We are creating a website where every coach will have a profile and can interact with other coaches. We want to give benefits to the coaches. For example, we want them to have videos and written materials. We want them to get a lot of information they are looking for. We will create a question-and-answer section where they can ask us important questions. We’re working very hard to provide this very soon.
Does the GPTCA plan to form alliances with other associations such as the WTA Tour, the ITF and its national associations, and the IOC?
For sure, we would like to have a lot of different partners. If we are partnering the ATP, then why not also partner the WTA and the ITF? It would make sense because they are also involved in professional tennis.
We’ve been talking to various national tennis federations and explaining our concept and also making sure they know that we don’t want to compete against them and take away their members or work in the same field as them. Instead, we want to add some value for them.
We have talked with the federation in Morocco. There will be a GPTCA course there in 2013. We talked with the German federation. We had a course there in Munich in 2012, and people from the German federation came to see the course and get to know what we plan to do in 2013. It looks like we will have at least three courses in different states in Germany so people from all parts of Germany will be close enough to drive there.
What have been the reactions of these federations to your overtures?
Morocco was very open because they like tennis and they have a pro tournament in Casablanca. It was not so easy with the German federation because their reaction was more like, “You have a new organization, so we have to be careful. We don’t really know what you are doing.” But when they heard the names of the people involved in the GPTCA, they were a little more receptive. Then they said, “This sounds interesting.” Then the ATP got involved. Then the German federation came to the first course and said, “Wow! That’s really great. That’s a great idea.”
Always when something new arrives and it just starts, other organizations first want to see if it’s good quality and if it’s a good organization that is trying to do something good for tennis.
Does the GPTCA have any sponsors or endorsees?
Not right now. The GPTCA just started. We haven’t contacted any companies yet. We gave courses in five countries in 2012, but when we get bigger and give courses in 30 countries or even more, then we would like to find partnerships with companies to help us grow really fast. For example, in the United States, there is Tennis Warehouse so coaches and players can say, “I need some clothes or some equipment, and they can provide a good deal.” We have this also in Europe.
We would like companies to say, “Hey, I think the GPTCA and your concept are a great idea, and we want to get involved to help us financially.” We hope a lot of companies will be interested in us in the near future.
In Germany, the national presidents have some partners already — tennis rackets and strings. In Italy, in the city of Bettona, where they held the course, a company helped organize the course a little bit. In China, the tennis association helped us. So there are people who are helping, but it’s not really endorsements or sponsorships yet.
Does the GPTCA have any advertisements in magazines or websites to tell the world that the GPTCA exists?
Not yet. For us, it was important for us to have a trial year in 2012 to start the courses, to see what works, to see what we can do better. But in 2013, we really want to start advertising. We want readers of tennis magazines to know that we exist. So far we have been very quiet, and we haven’t done much publicity or advertising. We do have some press releases. And we will do many more in 2013.
Does the GPTCA plan to have a monthly print publication? And if so, what will it include?
Right now we are not planning to have a monthly print publication. We are planning on publishing some GPTCA books that will include the expertise and experience of great coaches to educate our members and add value to their membership.
A lot of coaches will write articles on their specialties in these books. The articles will cover the mental game, training methods, stroke technique, footwork, fitness, nutrition and everything you need to learn in order to succeed in professional tennis. The writers will include Toni Nadal, Claudio Pistolesi Alberto Castellani, Jose Perlas, Boris Sobkin, Jean-Philippe Fleurian, Dirk Hordorff, myself, and ATP Board Representative Giorgio Di Palermo.
Africa has been virtually a lost continent for tennis in the sense that very few of its many great athletes have become pro tennis players. Why has that been the case? How does the GPTCA plan to discover and train Africa’s great athletes to become great tennis players instead of great football or basketball players?
Morocco, for example, had a lot of excellent tennis players before. Right now it’s quiet in Morocco. Alberto Castellani, who was involved with [Hicham]Arazi and [Karim] Alami, knows about Africa and how it’s doing in tennis. I haven’t been involved in African tennis in the past. Castellani was in Morocco two weeks ago, and he will also conduct the course in Morocco during the Casablanca tournament in April.
Tennis is not big in sub-Saharan Africa. It would be interesting to go there because they have great athletes and the potential is so high. They are so strong physically. Right now we don’t have anyone to do national courses in central Africa. This area would have to come later.
Because tennis is not big in sub-Saharan Africa, the GPTCA could be the big catalyst and developer of champions there.
It’s a very interesting idea. When everything in the GPTCA is going the right way, then venturing into this area would be very interesting, I agree.
So far, anyway, the GPTCA has very few women coaches. Why is that? Do you plan to encourage women coaches to become members?
Yes, we would be happy if they become members. I don’t know why so few women are members now. Maybe it is because of the ATP cooperation. Maybe it’s because we are a new organization. We haven’t contacted leading women coaches because we are cooperating with the ATP. Also, a lot of leading women players have men coaches. Unfortunately, we don’t have a woman coach now as a national president, but we would be happy to have women presidents.
Does the GPTCA plan to take positions on important pro tennis issues, such as on-court coaching, scoring system rule change proposals, the service let rule, etc.?
Not really. We would like to inform coaches about the rules when we are conducting courses. We want coaches to have their own informed opinions. We don’t want to impose our opinions on them.
Does the GPTCA have any experts in the physics, biomechanics and technology of tennis? Does the GPTCA plan to collaborate with any universities that have experts or specialists in these fields?
We have a new cooperation with the University of Newport in Wales. Alberto Castellani has been in touch with them. They are very happy to cooperate. It’s a good start as we enlist experts in different tennis-related fields. In the future we hope to work with more universities and more experts.
Every national president is well-connected in his country. They know a lot of experts in the fields you mentioned. For example, Alexander Waske has contacts with specialists from the sports university in Frankfurt, and these experts can impart their knowledge in our courses.
What are the “new frontiers” of tennis coaching that the GPTCA will address?
We are focusing on the three most important areas in professional tennis: mental strength, physical skills, and technique. Of course, there is also nutrition.
In the next ten years, every stroke will become better because everyone will work to make strokes even more sound and efficient. Ten or 15 years ago, there were only a few players serving more than 200 kilometers per hour [124.3 miles per hour]. Now almost everyone is serving over 200. For example, Philipp Kohlschreiber, who is only 1.78 meters [5’10”] tall and weighs only 70 kilograms [154 pounds], hit the most aces  for a man during Wimbledon, and he reached only the quarterfinals.
The technique of almost everyone has gotten much better. So I’m convinced the level of tennis will be much higher in the next ten years by improving technique, physical skills, mental strength and nutrition. Tennis always evolves and improves.
Please give me another example of that improvement this century.
Another great example is how Roger Federer moves so smoothly. His footwork is extraordinary. In the past, players have looked at how he moves. Now at the Schuettler-Waske Tennis University, we are including the Federer style of running in our practices. How can players improve their footwork? How can they save time running? These are important questions.
For example, 10 years ago when you ran to the corner to hit a forehand, you did a side step back to change direction and recover your position. Roger doesn’t do this. Roger normally makes a crossover step. As a result, he is two steps faster, going back to the middle. Five years ago no one was teaching this Federer method to recover from the corners [of the court]. But people are analyzing by video all the players—their strengths and the weaknesses they can improve. That’s why I think tennis will always advance.
Are there any ways in which the GPTCA will revolutionize coaching?
Revolutionize is a big word. But one area in which everyone, except for maybe Novak Djokovic, can improve is nutrition. In the last couple years, a lot of players realized they’re not eating the right foods. But they are starting to change. I see that in Janko Tipsarevic. Now he takes so much care about what he eats because of Novak [Djokovic, his Serbian friend and Davis Cup teammate]. Novak is eating glutin-free foods and avoiding junk food. His nutrition is excellent, and that’s one reason he’s so fit, and he gets 100 percent out of his body.
A lot of professional players are not taking such good care of themselves. I took tests to find out what I’m allergic to, what I should eat, what brings my body and energy down. So I think nutrition is very individual and difficult to generalize about. Many players are taking these tests now to find out what is best for them. Our coaches advise players to take these tests.
Specifically, how will the GPTCA benefit tennis coaches and players in the U.S., which already has more coaches and teaching pros than any country in the world but is failing to produce new champions or even top 10 players?
Coaches and players can benefit in every country with expert, experienced GPTCA coaches through the courses we provide them. In the States, Jean Philippe Fleurian is the national president. He is originally French but he has lived in Florida a long time. I’ve known Jean Philippe for a long time, and he’s been interested in participating in this organization in the States and in Canada. He has a good tennis network because he was on the pro tour for a long time, and he’s still involved with the tour. He also created a great concept for kids, starting as young as 3 years old. The program is called Le Petite Tennis. I’m sure he will do a great job in the States.
For sure, we have to get American coaches involved. It would be great and a big value for the GPTCA to get some former leading players involved. I hope Tim Mayotte, Todd Martin, Gene Mayer, MaliVai Washington and many more will be interested in joining the GPTCA.