Does Tennis Need Inspirational Speeches?
Growing up in Kentucky, I have had the chance to see two quite demonstrative and intense coaches in John Calipari and Rick Pitino. Each man can sell snake oil quite well. Pitino was even called “the exorcist” by a friend due to his animated court-side demeanor resembling some form of possession.
The Hyper-Intense Coach
In many team sports and in even more films, one often finds a hyper-intense coach inspiring his team to win via a pre-game talk.
There have been some good coaching speeches in real life and in film:
There have been some scary speeches:
- Last Play – uh … (see above)
- I am a champion – Rip the heart from my enemy and leave it bleeding on the ground … ’nuff said I guess (see below)
Is Tennis Lacking?
Even if the crazy/hyper-intense coach is a comedic figure and hyper-intense assistant coaches are even worse, it is striking that tennis does not have a history of these motivational speeches. Maybe Uncle Toni could give a speech that would leave Theoden, the Horse Lord, proud. Maybe Mirka pulled a Braveheart moment on Roger Federer during a rain delay at the 2008 Wimbledon final. Still, I have my doubts.
As a tennis player, I have to say there is something about these motivational speeches that is almost laughable. Jim Courier once roughly said that the hard thing about being a tennis coach is that most tennis players chose tennis because they did not want to constantly be told what to do. Football coach Howard Schnellenberger once said all of the benefit of pre-game hype and motivational speeches lasts less than 5 minutes during a game. As Greg Garber pointed out in this excellent column, coaching tennis is exceptionally complex and difficult.
Tennis and Self-Expression
Tennis should be proud that it is not bound by red-faced coaches micromanaging every moment of action. Tennis should be proud that it is not bound by uniforms. Tennis should be proud that more so than any sport of which I can think no single technique or style is brute. Tennis is not simply an exercise of who can most effectively mix athleticism with the proper execution of the tennis version of the Fosbury Flop technique. Tennis is probably the sport in which a player can most fully express him or herself honestly on the court (check from the 1:50 point forward). The greatest level of pride should be placed on that fact about tennis.