Local tennis coach, Tony Polack, is now one of Australia’s highest qualified coaches, after recently completing a high performance course with Tennis Australia. He tells us more about his comeback to coaching.
What is your background as a tennis coach?
When I first came to Coffs Harbour in 1980, I coached for 12 years, full-time. In that time I coached 2 national top ten players and some state rank players, but after 12 years decided that I needed to spend more time with my family. So I stopped coaching full time, but I continued to coach the North Coast regional squad.
What do you love about coaching?
I love seeing kids improve. Whether they’re naturals or they have little or no ball sense, just getting them to the stage of playing comps gives me as much pleasure as taking good kids to a higher level.
You returned to full time coaching 12 months ago …
Yes, I started again in February last year, and I only had about 4 kids before that. They are older now (15 – 17), so I’m starting again with 50% of my juniors aged between 6 and 12. They are basically beginners and they have been coming for 3 terms, since I started coaching again.
We now have 120 juniors coming, and it is building nicely. My aim now is to group them into the ones who look like they are going to be good players and start running programs for them and then keep my Saturday morning juniors going as well.
You recently became qualified as a High Performance Coach through Tennis Australia?
Because I knew I was going back into coaching again full-time, and because I hadn’t done a lot of coaching in the last 10 years, I wanted to make sure that my knowledge was up to date. This High Performance Coaching Course with Tennis Australia is recognised internationally as one of the best coaching courses there is. So I signed up for the course and completed it last year in December.
There is no other higher qualification in Australia as far as coaching goes, so that allows me (if I want to) to actually take somebody on to the professional circuit if they want to make a living out of tennis. I didn’t want my level of knowledge to do with tennis to limit how far my students can go, so if I’ve got a kid who could go right through and become professional, I want them to have the opportunity to do it. With this new qualification under my belt, I know that I can teach them well enough.
Last year I think there were only 6 who finished the High Performance Coaching qualification in NSW. At the moment, there are 500 registered coaches in Australia, and only 25 of them have the High Performance Coaching Qualification. And of those 25 coaches, 95% would be in Sydney or Wollongong. I don’t know of any others in regional NSW, so I’m definitely in the vast minority of tennis coaches with this qualification.
The course was really full on – it was like being back at uni again! There was a lot of work involved, and I actually even spent some time with the Sydney FC in their Sports Physiology Unit learning about different coaching methods. It surprised me to learn that fitness coaching for soccer is very similar to tennis – they train their players to run in short sprints just like we do!
Were you much of a player yourself before you started coaching?
I did play. I actually got to a level where I went to uni and I probably played more tennis than study! When I finished my degree, I went overseas and played tennis for a couple of years, and I also did some coaching overseas for about 12 months.
When I was overseas seeing the world, it didn’t cost me a cent. I actually won enough money playing in that time to get me through, but I got bored at tournaments – and that’s when I came back here and started coaching.
Aside from your general coaching, you’ve actually launched a Cardio-Tennis fitness program. What does that involve?
We actually started Cardio-Tennis before Tennis Australia – they are just starting it now. We started about 6 months ago and called it Aerobics Tennis.
It was just a way for adults to have a fun fitness session, without going indoors to a gym. The sessions are held outdoors; we do it to music. I’ve got heart rate monitors that I give to every participant at each session, and I can tell if they are training in a safe zone for their own fitness level. While it’s a great fitness program, it’s also a social outing.
In the Cardio-Tennis program there’s a group of 6 to 8 ladies, men or mixed on a court having a great time playing tennis related games, but the activity is non-stop for an hour.
Do participants have to be any good at tennis to join in?
You don’t even have to have your own tennis racquet! It doesn’t matter if you haven’t picked up a racquet before at all – the sessions are run for all tennis abilities.
We use modified balls which are softer and much slower, so it doesn’t matter if we have a good player and someone who has never picked up a racquet before – they will get exactly the same benefit out of the sessions.
How can people find out more?
I can be contacted directly on
0428 454 928.