Tennis Coach #133: Carla McKenzie - Courageous Conversations

Season #5

Coach Carla McKenzie is one of the nicest and kindest people I know in the tennis world with a passion for helping others and a gift for coaching. She is the Director of Tennis at The Shore and Country Club which has an incredible membership base of passionate tennis players and Carla has been instrumental in growing the program by 300% since her arrival. She has had wonderful mentors along her journey (whom she credits in this episode). Carla is clear on her coaching philosophy, what makes a great coach and leader, and what she looks for when recruiting tennis coaches. She is a self-confessed "educational junkie" who was recognized as the Profesional Tennis Registry (PTR) Coach Developer of the Year in 2019. She believes that a great coach is passionate, a great listener, and can adapt especially when they are under pressure. As a leader, Carla would never ask her team to do something that she is not prepared to do herself. We hope you enjoy this episode.

 Some of the highlights include;

  • 2.13: Best coaching moment: Mentoring a young coach - build your empathy skills and find out what motivates and drives your coaches.  What can you learn from your students?
  • 4.21: Worst coaching moment: First coaching experience - "I need mentoring and coach education NOW!"
  • 6.12: Sliding Doors: Gradual steps where one job leads to another over time. 
  • 8.12: When a high school tennis school sees you pitching in a little league baseball game and you start playing tennis the next day!
  • 9.06: What makes a Great Coach? (Adapt, Listener, and Passionate) 
    • Can you adapt, tweak, adjust, and modify when you are under pressure
    • Some folks just want to be heard - turn the feedback into implementation
    • When people can tell that you love what you do, it becomes infectious and that's when you can thrive as a team
  • 11.55: What's working well? What situations are you facing? When you are reflecting on your coaching practice - ask these two simple questions:  
    • What went well?
    • What can we do better tomorrow?
  • 10.16: Conflict Resolution Formula - TFFI We Can Fly! The key is to get through the entire formula before the respondent is granted the right to reply.


    T – Topic 

    This is the issue. Assume positive intent and check-in first; is this a good time or block out a time to meet. What I want to talk to you about today is…

    F – Facts

    What I have observed is, the facts are…

    F – Feelings

    This is how I feel, or this made me feel upset, this made me feel really frustrated…

    I – Impact

    Here’s the impact on the team, organisation, the business…

    When you get through the first part of TFFI, briefly pause and take a deep breath. It’s not easy to have this type of conversation and this is not an opportunity for them to respond. Remember to assume positive intent, show that you care and continue to move through the entire formula before asking them for their reflections.

    We Can Fly

    WE: WANT – This is what I want, here are the options, provide some solutions, moving forwards…

    CAN: CONTRIBUTE – This is where I acknowledge how I have contributed to the situation, and take responsibility for my role in the issue. Note that this is how you take responsibility and acknowledge your contribution to the situation, to really open up some healthy dialogue.

    FLY: FORWARDS – So moving forwards, this is what I am proposing... I would love to hear your thoughts.

  • 19.58: Carla's high school coach had great morals, ethics, etc - shout out to: John Fry
  • 21.11: Becoming a Coach Developer
  • 25.36: What makes a great leader? Don't be afraid to take out the trash and go the extra mile for your staff/team.
    • Communication
    • Organization
    • Integrity
    • Honest 
  • 27.29: What forms part of your coaching philosophy?
    • What environment do we want to create?
    • What is our purpose? Why are you here?
    • What can I help you with? 
  • 29.30: The most impactful education: Master of Tennis (MOT) from the Professional Tennis Registry (PTR)
    • Record yourself coaching - what do you see, hear, feel, and think?
  • 30.35: What's next?
  • 32.08: Advice for coaches who are unsure about the profession? 'Get to know people.'
  • 32.53: What do you look for when recruiting coaches? (Referrals and word of mouth) plus these three qualities:
    • 1) Do you have a history of us working together? (Know the expectations)
    • 2) Are you a good person? Do you have a good personality?
    • 3) Do you have a growth mindset?

The Coaching Podcast is sponsored by The Sampson Agency - a talent entertainment and sports management company owned and operated by Tina Samara.

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About Carla McKenzie

Carla McKenzie is the Director of Tennis at the Shore and Country Club. She is a graduate of Methodist University where she is a three-time All-American, two-time National Doubles Champion and still holds the school record for the highest percentage of wins in doubles at 93.5%. She was ranked #1 in the country for three straight years with her doubles partner Elena Blanina. In 2010, she was inducted into Methodist’s Athletic Hall of Fame as an individual and again in 2016 as a Team of Distinction and was recently inducted into her high school Athletic Hall of Fame in 2022.

Carla is a PTR Master Professional and 2019 PTR Coach Developer of the year. She is certified by PTR with Professional standards in 10&U, 11-17, Adult, Senior and Performance development. She’s a USPTA Elite Professional, a certified RacquetFit professional and a Master Racquet Technician. She is a certified Master of Tennis Performance Specialist (MTPS) by the (International Tennis Performance Association), certified Mental Tough Specialist by the (Human Performance Institute), a Tennis Serve Specialist (Kovacs Institute,) Pickleball Certified and Coach Developer for PPR, a licensed Cardio Tennis Provider, USTA Sport Science Level 1 specialist, CPR/AED certified and has numerous leadership certificates from Harvard, Cornell and Open Door Coaching.

Connect with Carla below.