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Should Coaching From the Stands be Allowed, Or Does it Feel Like Cheating?

Kendra Tomala

Novak Djokovic at the 2023 Australian Open as Goran Ivanisevic, his coach, watches from the stands (second from the right).

Traditionally, coaching from the sidelines in Grand Slams has not been allowed, at least not without penalty. However, just this year, following the trial that the US Open held in 2022, the rest of the Grand Slams — Wimbledon, the French Open, and the Australian Open — have also permitted coaching, but only from the player and coach box in the form of hand signals and short spoken phrases. Previously, women were able to receive coaching in most non-Grand Slam tournaments, including the Fed Cup, while men were only allowed coaching in the Davis Cup.

Players have shown support for both sides, in favor of and against coaching during tournament matches. Some, who have been notorious for receiving illegal coaching, can finally play with a clear conscience, as nothing much will change for them. Others, on the other hand, view this change in rules as cheating and believe that players should not have any outside help during matches. Tennis is known for being a very mentally challenging sport, and with the help of coaches during matches, will the sport continue to be respected at the same level?

Ultimately, coaching should not be allowed during any individual matches. During team tournaments, coaching can be more or less justified, as the players rely on one another, and coaches should be able to provide their support when there could be some added pressure from fellow teammates. Other than the Davis Cup and the Fed Cup, individual tournaments should be a test for players to measure how well they do in a match by themselves.

Moreover, some, especially more novice players, may not even be able to afford their coaches to travel with them to tournaments, giving the more affluent an even greater advantage. This would create barriers among different groups of players, potentially creating more conflict. Players could feel pressure to bring their coaches in an effort to hide their financial status or to gain an extra edge.

Therefore, I believe that coaching from the sidelines should not be allowed for a multitude of reasons. Part of the respect for the sport of tennis is the mental toughness that players have because they are not coached on the court. They would not have to endure as much of a mental challenge with help from their coaches. With tennis already being seen as a sport for the rich, further highlighting a financial divide would make tennis seem even less accessible. Lastly, tournaments should be seen as an evaluation of what players have accomplished up to their matches, and coaching from the stands essentially would eliminate that aspect. As all of the Grand Slams have now approved coaching from the stands, I wonder if all tennis tournaments, including juniors, will also allow coaching during matches, fundamentally changing the sport of tennis altogether.


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