Tennis Insider: Q&A with Coach Wayne Bryan
On the Baseline Tennis News
June 5, 2009
Wayne Bryan knows a little bit about coaching. In his seven seasons as head coach of the World Team Tennis Sacramento Capitals, his team took home the title in 2002 and 2007.
Wayne has also had the esteemed honor of being voted WTT Coach of the Year three years in a row (2004-2006). Few tennis coaches have had the opportunity to work with so many of the top players on the WTA and ATP tours.
Growing up in Southern California, Wayne has been the first to acknowledge that the influences on his coaching have come from the mentors of his youth. He took what he learned from them, and went on become a successful teaching pro, and even taught his own sons, Mike and Bob Bryan, to become champions in doubles, and in life. In fact, you won’t find a more ardent supporter of doubles. It’s a good thing he and his wife had twins.
Simply known as “Coach Bryan”, he works as an emcee for pro tournaments and exhibitions nationwide. He also teaches tennis clinics, and is a frequent speaker at coaches’ conventions. He’s on the road 180 days a year. Coach Bryan has many other titles, including lawyer, musician, husband, father, and author.
I recently caught up with Coach Bryan while he was at home in southern California, hoping to get a little insight into his world as a tennis coach.
OTB: Who were your mentors as a coach?
Coach Bryan: So many teachers and coaches have influenced me through the years, and of course, both of my parents. My high school football coach, Hal Chauncey, was probably my biggest influence ever. He was a very creative coach, a great leader and so motivational and inspirational. He was very funny and I still hear from him to this day.
Other important mentors to me were famed USC coach Dick Leach. He gave me such good advice as Mike and Bob were coming along in the juniors. Watching Stanford legend Dick Gould from afar and up close was so educational. What a leader and winner he is.
OTB: When did you first realize that coaching could be your life’s work?
Coach Bryan: I had taught tennis at a local park even while I was still in high school, and I also taught at Laguna Blanca School in Hope Ranch –beautiful area — when I was at UCSB. Working with all those rich kids whose parents had forced them to take lessons, helped me understand the importance of the kids actually having fun during our time together.
OTB: What career path did you take to become a tennis coach?
Coach Bryan: I actually went to law school, but when I finished, I took a pro job at a new club that was forming—the Cabrillo Racquet Club in Camarillo, California. I said I’d stay on until I passed the bar exam after law school. I passed the bar and said I’d stay on another year. That turned out to be 26 years.
OTB: You’ll be coaching the WTT Sacramento Capitals again this year, making it your eighth season. Olga Puchkova and Rennae Stubbs will be on your squad. Any insights into their game?
Coach Bryan: Olga has played a match or two for us in the past as a substitute. She is likeable and has huge “groundies”. We need to work on her serve a little and also on her doubles play. “Stubbsie” [Rennae Stubbs] has played mixed doubles a few times with the Bryan bros. and we’ve known her a long time. Certainly one of the all-time great doubles players and has been No. 1 and won slams. She definitely knows her way around the doubles court and she is also very adept at mixed doubles, because she can play off the big pace. And she is smart and has been on the tour for many years. She will be a great asset to our team and will help Olga with her doubles. She and Mark Knowles should be the best mixed team in the league.
OTB: What other players from the WTA tour have you coached during your tenure with the Sacramento Capitals?
Coach Bryan: I’ve been blessed to have lots of wonderful and talented women on my WTT squads. The great thing about WTT is that it’s two men and two women on each team. For the Caps, I’ve had a great relationship with Elena Likhovtseva, former No. 4 in the world in doubles and No.16 in singles. I also coached Ashley Harkleroad, and she helped us win the WTT Championship in 2002. I’ve also coached Nicole Vaidisova of the Czech Republic when she was in the 300’s and then, of course, she went up to the top 10. She was fun and is loaded with talent, guts and size. I’ve also had talented young juniors like Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, who is headed up the rankings and Michelle Larcher De Brito. I called her “the kid”. She was just 15.
OTB: How does women’s doubles differ from men’s doubles?
Coach Bryan: Not to be sexist, but in general, the women don’t serve as big as the men. Their second serves and kickers aren’t as nasty. Sad to say most women don’t volley as well. They are not taught to volley. It is not as important to them in singles so they don’t spend the time on it. I say when you are out there four or five hours a day with a young junior girl, take some time to work that volley in drills and games. Same with the second serve and first serve. And have all juniors play more doubles and mixed doubles!! So many life lessons are learned on the singles court, but there’s a whole ‘nother set of life lessons learned on the doubles court and mixed doubles court. It rounds out skills, and it gives them a second chance if they take a loss in their singles.
OTB: Who are some promising up-and-comers that you’ve seen on the WTA tour?
Coach Bryan: I like Caroline Wozniacki. Great girl and headed for the top. Same for Victoria Azarenka. In fact, Bob won the French Open mixed with her last May. We’ve got some young gals from the USA showing promise too: Melanie Oudin, Coco Vandeweghe, Alexa Glatch, and Christina McHale, just to name a few. Bethanie Mattek-Sands is having a great season and making great strides up the ranking…dynamic young lady and played a few WTT matches for us.
OTB: How can you tell if a player has top 10 potential?
Coach Bryan: Athletic ability, weapons, and guts. Most of all—a passion for the game. Players who are successful in tennis like to compete. And they have to love the lifestyle. It’s easy to predict as they get near the top 10, but tougher to pick out when they are just in the juniors and especially younger juniors.
OTB: What is your approach to coaching? Do you adjust your methods according to a player’s personality and age?
Coach Bryan: Each player is a unique individual and I do not treat each player the same. A great coach has his principles, but he has lots and lots of arrows in his quiver. Two huge keys for me are:
1) Making tennis and the tennis lifestyle fun for the player and making sure you attend lots and lots of motivational tennis events to create passion for the game.
2) Having my players practice with enthusiasm and keep them under pressure, with a small “p”. Lots of drills and games with points on ‘em.
I have written a book about it: Raising Your Child to Be a Champion in Athletics, Arts, and Academics. I also have my Coach Bryan’s Syllabus, and my Drills ‘n Games booklet.
For more information about the upcoming World Team Tennis season, visit the official website at http://www.wtt.com/.