ASICS Tennis Academy team

A different type of academy: The ASICS Tennis Academy celebrates 3 years of helping tennis coaches grow

The much trodden path for aspiring tennis players is well documented. Head to a sun soaked tennis factory, play tennis under the watchful eye of a famous coach for 6 hours a day and hey presto! But for coaches themselves there was never the support program in place to help them learn their trade and achieve their career goals. That was until the ASICS Tennis Academy came along.

Launched in 2020, the ASICS Tennis Academy (ATA) aims to ’empower tennis coaches of all levels’. Existing virtually with regular online meet-ups and live events, the academy currently supports coaches from 6 European tennis playing nations with more being added. Coaches can apply to join or ASICS will use their team in each country to identify and invite prospective members.

Tennis coaching can be lonely with a lot of those working as coaches being self employed and having to stand on their own feet as they learn their trade and grow their businesses. Other tennis brands will offer coaches deals to help provide kit but no brand has ever put in place a support network that is focussed on helping coaches grow their knowledge and experience in this way.

We spoke to ASICS Tennis Academy manager Louis Rouach and also to ATA member Harrison Lombe about the history of the academy and their experience.


Why did you launch the ASICS Tennis Academy (ATA)?

Thomas Johansson is a member of the ATA

Louis Roach (LR): “The plan behind the ATA was to support tennis coaches both on and off court.

“Firstly, we researched tennis coaches from around Europe about their specific needs and to understand the support they received from other brands in terms of equipment, but also off court support. From the research we realised that existing coach-brand relationships are very contractual and based just around equipment.

“The ATA has done well in creating a European community of tennis coaches that is connected and shares knowledge. Tennis is very individualistic but we want to create links between coaches from many different countries and levels of coaching. The ATA is not just about elite coaching as we want to help coaches who teach from beginner right up to the likes of Thomas Johannson, Danilo Pizzorno, Ruben Hidalgo, Jordi Vilaro and Richard Ruckelhausen (formerly coach of Gael Monfils).

“We believe that if we can support the ‘everyday’ club tennis coach then we can help to grow the game and help coaches and players to improve.”


What are the benefits of being a coach with the ATA?

LR: “ATA is about being part of an international community with access to other tennis coaches who you can talk with a share thoughts, ideas but also players. We have coaches that we have helped to exchange players.

“We also have Facebook and WhatsApp groups within each country for the coaches to share knowledge and we’ve arranged events for the same reason, such as webinars. These training sessions involve sharing programs, tips and expertise on all areas of tennis coaching from mental, to physical, to social media and online understanding that can help the coach improve not only their on court work but also their off court lives and business.

“It’s a unique program that we haven’t seen anywhere else or even in other sports.”


What’s been the most interesting learnings since starting the ATA?

LR: “We’ve found it fascinating to see coaches within the ATA exchanging players. We know that and individual sport like tennis will always create rivalries but by having the ATA as an international group then you lose the concern over sharing secrets with your competitor coach or player.”


How have you recruited the ATA coaches?

LR: “We started small through our existing ASICS community managers in each country who had existing relationship with coaches. We needed coaches who were willing to give their time and expertise rather than just wanting to receive equipment from ASICS.

“The ATA has now grown and this increased visibility has meant coaches knocking on our door wanting to join our program. Now from January-March each year we are open to applications from any coach from France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Belgium or The Netherlands then we’ll launch in the UK in early 2024.”


What’s the profile of an ATA coach?

LR: “We have a diverse profile of coaches in our academy. A lot of coaches are from clubs who want to improve themselves so that they can be more effective in coaching club players. We are also trying to promote the interests of female tennis coaches around Europe as we see that as something which isn’t catered for particularly well at the moment.

“We also look to recruit coaches who are strong influencers on social media as this helps to get the message out about ATA to a wider cohort.

“We have high visibility coaches who are working with tour level players on the ATP and WTA Tours such as Thomas Johansson. We really like when we see these tour level coaches on the ATA chatting with club coaches about their work because it creates an unexpected level of community sharing.”


Have ASICS been using the ATA to learn about tennis shoes and other products which can help your main business requirements?

LR: “100% we have. ATA coaches are asked to help with feedback on our products by testing our new shoes and apparel. We need feedback not only from top level players but also from everyday club players as they are the ones that will be wearing our products, and the ATA coaches have been really helpful with this.

“We have a clearly defined feedback loop where the ATA coaches can talk to the community manager in their country who can then direct that feedback to ASICS own product development team. This might be for a one-off product issue or we might have a recurring occurrence that needs to be fixed by our designers in Japan, which all helps to give us an edge over our competition.”


Why are you now looking to launch the ATA in the UK and what about the USA?

LR: “We’ve been looking at the UK for quite a while. We now have the resources in the UK which means we are set up with the necessary manpower to get the ATA UK live in 2024.

“ATA has been launched as a European initiative but we are having discussions with all other regions such as Japan and the USA but we have to learn the best ways of working in those countries before we can extend the ATA outside of Europe.”


Harrison Lombe is an ATA coach member. He was a professional player himself then turned to coaching and is based at the Barcelona Total Tennis academy. He started by coaching the juniors at the club and then worked his way up to become a travelling coach working with the professional players linked to his Barcelona academy. He is now working exclusively as the coach for Rebeka Masarova who is currently ranked No.64 in the World.


Harrison Lombe ASICS Tennis AcademyWhat’s the main differences between coaching a top professional like Rebeka Masarova versus coaching at a tennis club with amateurs?

Harrison Lombe (HL): “With a top player it’s very different. They already know what they need to do and so there is much less screaming at them to motivate them, like I have to with the juniors I’ve worked with in the past!

“Pros have a lot of input in their own training so we can have a conversation about what they need to practise and learn. The relationship you have with a player is also a big part of the coaching so you can help them to be in the best mindset when they are competing. The mental side of the game at the top levels of tennis is so huge so as a coach it’s important that you give them the belief that they can win. A quote I love is that it’s ‘the one who believes more is the one who’s going to win’, so if your player has the right plan then they can come out the other side with a win whereas at the junior level of coaching it’s quite different.”


What’s the difference in your coaching style between being at a tournament with your player and being on the practise court

HL: “I like to take what I’ve learned from watching them play their tournament matches and apply that to the practise court. A pro player like Rebeka knows how to hit the ball. She’s No.64 in the world! So we work on finding her best mental space and working on the best tactics to push for that 1% improvement which, at her level, makes the difference between winning and losing.”


Why did you want to get involved with the ASICS Tennis Academy?

HL: “When we were approached by ASICS I was excited because I always wore ASICS shoes when I was a player. Now with the program that the ATA provides I’ve been able to get to know other coaches from around the World and I still talk to them and have made friends with them. I can use their insights to help my own work and push myself forward. And the ASICS brand mantra of ‘Sound Mind, Sound Body’ really resonates in my tennis work and also in my life, so it’s a perfect brand to represent.”


What does it involve when you engage with other ATA coaches?

HL: “I’ve attended a live event for the ATA in Paris which was interesting as I met coaches from different backgrounds. From the sessions we attended I noticed coaches using different techniques and in tennis you can always be learning. I’ve then connected on social media with the other coaches from the ATA.”


Coaching can be lonely so does the ATA help you feel part of a community?

HL: “The way ASICS has helped form this group of coaches means I have colleagues now that I can talk to about anything, right away. I like to learn something new so having other coaches that I can talk to online or at events is great.”


ASICS Gel-Resolution 9 women's Tennishead CLUB


How much impact do you believe equipment has on a tennis player’s game?

HL: “As a coach you definitely get involved in the equipment that your player uses. Players want everything to be perfect and with ASICS we’re lucky that they produce three different models of shoe to suit different playing styles. I think choosing the right equipment is hugely important and it definitely effects performance. You see many pro players are wearing ASICS shoes even if they aren’t sponsored to wear them because they feel they are the best tennis shoe available.”


What would you say are the benefits to club coaches of being part of the ASICS Tennis Academy?

HL: “Joining a community that you can call upon to help you become a better coach. I’m one a few coaches in the ATA that are coaching high level players, so for the other coaches to be able to draw upon our knowledge is a huge benefit. As a tennis coach you have to take any help you can to improve your own work. I love stealing ideas from other coaches so having the ATA really helps in providing ideas and tips and advice from all levels of coach.

“Making connections around the world is also great. If you ever need something as a coach in another country then you can find a coach through the ATA in that country who you can ask for help.”


If you are a coach or club that wants to get involved with the ASICS Tennis Academy then applications are open from January to March each year and you can be kept up to date by following @ASICStennis or by emailing Louis.


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Tim Farthing, Tennishead Editorial Director & Owner, has been a huge tennis fan his whole life. He's a tennis journalist and entrepreneur as well as playing tennis to a national standard. He also helps manage his local club and volunteers for his local tennis organisation. He's a specialist in content about the administration of professional tennis and tennis coaching for all levels.